Tsar Alexander I, also known as Alexander the Blessed was born on December 23, 1777. His rule of Russia from March 24, 1801 following the assassination of his father Paul I, was a tumultuous one. The crowning glory of his reign of course was the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte during the Napoleonic Wars.
Born to Paul Petrovich Romanov and Maria Feodorovna née Sophie Dorothea, he was raised primarily by his grandmother, Catherine the Great. She had little faith in his father Paul which caused Alexander a great deal of difficulty later in his life. He tried to appease both his grandmother and his father which led to his doing the same when he became Tsar in 1801. Throughout his reign, Alexander tried to make everyone happy but he was also a master manipulator as well.
After the murder of his father Paul in March of 1801, Alexander assumed the mantle of the Russian Empire with a great deal of guilt. Some say he knew that the conspirators led by Counts Peter Ludwig von der Pahlen and Nikita Petrovich Panin were planning the murder, others thought not. It is clear that he knew of the plot to remove his unpopular father from the throne. It is equally clear that they did not tell him of their nefarious plans. Nonetheless, Alexander did take over (Episode 53) for his father at the age of 23 with the admonition “Time to grow up! Go and rule!” by General Nicholas Zubov.
Early on in his reign, Alexander began to try to reform the country especially the government. Led by the liberal Mikhail Speransky reforms were drawn up and ready for action. Some of the reforms came to be, but for the whole, not a lot was done partly due to a problem that was cropping up in Europe; the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte to the world stage.
It was his battles with Napoleon (Episode 54) that made Alexander I the hero that he became to his people. Starting in 1807 and finishing in 1814, the war against Napoleon had its ups and downs but eventually, Alexander and his Russian army prevailed. After this though, the Tsar’s personality took a conservative and somewhat mystic turn.
In 1825, in the town of Taganrog Alexander supposedly died after a short illness. Rumor though has it that he did not die that he became the monk Feodor Kuzmich. Some in the Romanov family were told that the two men were one and the same and there is actually a book called Imperial Legend: The Mysterious Disappearance of Tsar Alexander I by Troubetzkoy that claims the same thing. Whatever the truth, his brother Nicholas I takes over for him and begins the slide that the Romanov’s never recovered from.