Russia’s Romanov Czars Might Not Have Been Romanovs

by | Sep 12, 2014 | The Recent Modern Age

Paul I of Russia: the first pseudo-Romanov?

Czar Paul I of Russia: the first pseudo-Romanov?

It’s possible Russia’s 19th and 20th Century czars didn’t really belong to the imperial family. They were called Romanovs, members of the dynasty that had built the Russian Empire, but for some the name rang false. The last undoubted Romanov, Czar Peter III, married a German princess in 1745. History remembers her as Catherine the Great. History also remembers Catherine’s extramarital affairs. The czar was sexually uninterested or even incapable, so Catherine enjoyed serial monogamy with a long list of lovers, starting with an officer named Sergei Saltykov. In her memoirs, she suggested that Saltykov fathered Paul I, the next czar, and some historians believe her.

Paul inherited the throne in 1796 — from Catherine, who’d seized it from her husband  — and the remaining czars descended from him. If Saltykov fathered Paul, none of them was a Romanov.

Incidentally, after Catherine’s husband died and she ruled alone, “empress’ lover” became a more or less official position at court, with a reliable income. (But the legend that Catherine had sex with a horse is rubbish.)



© 2014 by David W. Tollen. All rights reserved.


    • David Tollen

      Good question, Laura! We’ve got DNA for the latter-day (questionable) Romanovs, but so far as I know, none for the originals (Peter the Great, Peter III, and the other undoubted members of the family).

      • ReaderWoman

        I love your blog I learn so much!

  1. Douglas Mackinnon

    David Tollen, the latest DNA evidence suggests that you are wrong: The Society for Medieval Genealogy has a lengthy discussion of the DNA results of murdered Emperor Nicholas II. His DNA haplotype is R1b1b. This is only found in Western Europe, the Atlantic coast, Frisia, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. All of Catherine’s lovers were of either Russian or Baltic heritage, so none of them could have been the father of Emperor Paul. On the other hand, the House of Oldenburg, Peter III’s father’s family, were of West German or Frisian heritage, so Peter is almost certainly the father of Paul. Paul also had the same temperament as Peter, and was hated by his mother Catherine who lavished affection on her daughter by Saltykov. She was at Court at the time of conception of Paul, not with Saltykov, or Orlov.


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