25th October 1759
BIRTH OF MARIA FEODOROVNA
Sophie Marie Dorothea Auguste Luise, was born on 25th October 1759 in Stettin, Kingdom of Prussia~now Poland.
She was the eldest daughter of the eight children, born from Frederick II and Princess Frederike.
By the age of 16, she excelled in mathematics, architecture, was fluent in German, French, Italian and Latin.
In 1773, Sophie Dorothea was among the group of German princesses, considered as possible wives of the heir to the Russian throne, the future Tsar Paul I.
However, Sophie wasn't yet 14 years old at the time, and a princess of a more appropriate age, was chosen instead.
At the age of 16, Sophie Dorothea became tall, buxom and rosy-cheeked, with a sunny disposition, although extremely shortsighted, and slightly plump.
After the Tsarevich, Paul I, became a widower in 1776, Sophie Dorothea was chosen as his second wife.
Sophie and Paul met for the first time, at a state dinner given in honour of his arrival in Berlin.
By early fall, Sophie fell in love with her future husband.
"I cannot go to bed, my dear and adored Prince, without telling you once again that I love and adore you madly," she wrote to Paul.
Soon after arriving at St Petersburg, she converted to the Russian Orthodox Church, and took the name Maria Feodorovna.
The wedding took place on 26th September 1776.
Despite Paul's difficult and often tyrannical character, Maria Feodorovna's feelings never changed for him.
She wrote to a friend:
"My dear husband is a perfect angel and I love him to distraction."
At the beginning, Catherine II was enchanted with her daughter-in-law, about whom she wrote to a friend:
"I confess to you that I am infatuated with this charming Princess, but literally infatuated.
She is precisely what one would have wished: the figure of a nymph, a lily and rose complexion, the loveliest skin in the world, tall and well built; she is grateful; sweetness, kindnesses and innocence are reflected in her face."
However, the relationship between the two women, quickly turned sour....
In December 1777, she gave birth to the first of her ten children, the future Tsar Alexander I.
Just three months later, Catherine II took the newborn to raise him without interference from his parents.
When a second son was born in April 1779, she did the same thing.
This caused bitter animosity with Maria, who was only allowed weekly visits with her children.
For the next four years, the couple didn't have any more children.
During a visit to Italy, the couple proved to be very much in love, since Paul couldn't stop giving kisses in public to his wife.
At the end of 1782, the couple returned to Russia, where Maria gave birth to Alexandra Pavlovna, the first of six daughters she would bear during the next twelve years.
This time, Catherine let the parents raise their daughters, and younger sons.
During the long years of Catherine's reign, Maria and Paul lived in relative isolation in Gatchina, with a tight income.
After twenty years in the shadows, the death of Catherine II in 1796 allowed Maria Feodorovna, to have a prominent role as Empress consort.
During Catherine's lifetime, Maria had no chance of interfering in affairs of state, as Paul himself was excluded, but after her husband's accession to the throne, she took to politics, at first timidly, but increasingly resolutely afterwards.
Her influence over her husband was great, and in general beneficial.
After Maria gave birth to her tenth and last child in 1798, Paul became infatuated with 19-year-old Anna Lopukhina.
Paul lied to his devastated wife, stating that the relationship was of a paternal nature.
Paul was Emperor for exactly four years, four months, and four days.
He was murdered on 12th March 1801.
On the night of her husband's assassination, Maria Feodorovna tried to seize power to become empress regnant, on the grounds that she had been crowned with Paul.
It took her son Alexander, several days to persuade her to relinquish her reckless claim.
Whenever her son came to visit, the Dowager Empress would place a casket between them, containing the bloodstained nightshirt that his father was wearing on the day of the murder.
The strained relationship between mother and son, improved though, and 42-year-old Maria Feodorovna, kept the highest female position at court.
This caused resentment with her eldest daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Alexeievna.
Even after her husband's death, Maria Feodorovna continued to manage all the empire's charitable establishments, and control the bank for loans.
Maria Feodorovna enjoyed a considerable income, which made it possible for her to live in grand style.
She gave elegant receptions, where she appeared sumptuously dressed and was surrounded by courtiers,
Even past age 50, Maria Feodorovna retained traces of her youthful freshness.
Maria outlived five of her ten children, including her eldest son and his wife, and saw the ascension to the throne of her third son, Nicholas I.
On 5th November 1828, at the age of 69, Maria Feodorovna died in the Winter Palace, St Petersburg.
Her tomb is at The Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg.