Ivan V

Born: 1666, Moscow
Died: 1696, Moscow

Ivan V was the twelfth child and fifth son of Alexis Mikhailovich and Maria Miloslavskaya. He was born in Moscow on 27 August 1666. All his life, he had poor health. He suffered from scurvy, dizzy attacks, poor sight and a speech impediment.

When Feodor III died, Patriarch Joachim and the boyars decided that the throne should pass to Peter I and led the courtiers, civil servants, army and the people of Moscow in swearing an oath to the ten-year-old boy. The Miloslavsky clan, however, began to spread rumours that the Naryshkin family had murdered Peter’s brother, Ivan. Rioting broke out in Moscow on 23 May 1682, during which the Streltsy guards killed several relatives and friends of Natalia Naryshkina, including Artamon Matveyev and Prince Dolgorukov.

In an attempt to quell the rebellion, Ivan was shown to the guards, who demanded that he too be crowned tsar. A council of the upper clergy and government met in urgent session and decided that there would be two tsars. On 26 May, the duma of boyars announced that Ivan and Peter would both be tsar, with their elder sister Sophia as regent.

The two boys were crowned at the Dormition Cathedral on 25 June 1682. A second cap of Monomachus was specially made for Peter, who sat alongside his half-brother on a double throne, with a separate bench for Sophia.

After Peter managed to remove Sophia from power in 1689, Ivan continued to be regarded as co-tsar. Although they signed all official documents together, Ivan played little role in the running of the state, spending his time “in constant prayer and fasting.” He was, in the words of historian Vasily Klyuchevsky, “a mere figurehead, brought out on special occasions.” He nevertheless managed to maintain good relations with both Sophia and Peter.

When Ivan reached seventeen, Sophia chose a bride for him. This was Praskovia Saltykova, who was related to the Romanovs and other aristocratic families. Tall and beautiful, she was the daughter of the steward and waywode Fyodor Saltykov. Her sister Anastasia later married Prince Fyodor Romodanovsky.

When she learnt of Sophia’s plans, the lovely Praskovia was horrified, declaring that she would die rather than marry the weak and sickly Ivan. Sophia was not interested in her opinion, however, and the couple were married in January 1684. Between them, they had five daughters.

Ivan was paralysed at the age of twenty-seven and died two years later, on 29 January 1696, in Moscow. He was buried in the Archangel Cathedral.

Praskovia survived her husband by twenty-seven years. As the years passed, she lost her former good looks. She grew flabby, suffered from dropsy and was confined to a wheelchair. With her calm and unruffled nature, she managed to maintain good relations with both sides of the royal family.

After Ivan’s death, Praskovia and her daughters settled in Izmailovo. In 1708, to please Peter the Great, she moved to St Petersburg, living in a house near the Peter and Paul Fortress. She filled her home with fortune-tellers, jugglers, beggars, sorcerers, jesters, dwarves and other exotic people. Peter called her court a “hospital of freaks and sanctimonious hypocrites.”

Towards the end of her life, Praskovia quarrelled with her daughters, only forgiving Anna on her death bed. She died in St Petersburg in 1723 and was buried at the St Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

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