Russian Royalty: Michael/Mikhail Romanov (1613-45)


Figure 1.--Here is a dramatic depiction of a boyar delegation summoning the young Mikhail Feodorovich to the Russian throne (March 14, 1613). It was painting by Grigory Ivanovich Ugryumov (1764-1823) during 1800.

The Romanov dynasty was founded by Mikhail Feodorovitch Romanov (1596-1645), a relative of the Rurik Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible). The Time of Troubles folloing the death of Ivan IV had brought Russia to its knees. His parents were Filaret Romanov and of Xenia Ivanova Chestova. Russia was invaded by foreign powers. The Poles had even occupied Moscow. The Russian Boyars on elected him Tsar (1613). Michael at first did not want the crown. Michael was chosen because oif his hereditary link to Ivan and his father's position as Patriarch of Russia. Michael married Evdokia Stryeshneva (1608-45). Their son was Aleksey (1629-78). Michael although reluctant to rule, restored stability to Russia. The economy was a shambles and mobs if serfs roamed the country side. It was at this time that the serfs were permanently tied to the land. The Tsar's police was increasingly used to track down and return serfs who tried to escape the great estates.

Time of Troubles (1598-1613)

The death of Fedor left Russia without any legitimate heirs to the crown (1598). The result was what has become known as "The Time of Rouvles" which brought Russia to its knees. Several powerful princes and boyars attempted to seize the crown. The resulting wars devestated the countryside bringing famine to Russia. Ivan IV's reign had weakened Russian institutions. Many weak rulers after Feodor's death attempted to govern, but with little succcess. The best known is Boris Godunov, a boyar who had gained power during Feodor's reign. He had, however, no blood connection to the ruling family. Godunov was elected tsar by a zemskii sobor. His reign proved short (1598-1605). His reign was beset with both Church and boyar opposition--a powerful combination in Russia. Serfs fleed the great estates and the Cossacks in the south rebelled. After Boris Godunov died, a pretender to the crown claiming to be Dmitrii (a younger son of Ivan IV who died mysteriously), seized control of the crown. He was soon murdered by dissatisfied boyars. Prince Vasilii Shuiskii reigned from 1606-10 as Vasilii IV, but he was unable to prevent either domestic strife or foreign invasion. Moscow was threatened by a Cossack rebellion. There was another rebellion by a second fale Dmitrii. This was followed by 2 years of debilitating civil war. The Poles occupied Moscow (1610). They occupied the city for 2 years. Two Russian fighters become prominent--Minin and Prince Pozharsky. They led an army that retook the Kremlin in (1612). It is after this that the boyars conclude that they had to put asided constant infighting and support a new tsar.

Parents

The Romanov dynasty was founded by Mikhail Feodorovitch Romanov (1596-1645), a relative of the Rurik Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible). Michael's parents were Filaret Romanov and of Xenia Ivanova Chestova. Xenia was of disputed family. She became the great nun Martha.

Childhood

Michael was born in the family home (1596). His birth place still exists and has been a museum since 1859. The Romanov estate is a 5-minute walk from the Kremlin. The museum is a fine example of what a boyarís house was like in the 16th century. We do not know much about Michael's childhood. The Hostess Room in the Romanov home is where Michael presumably spent his childhood. There was a Persian rug on the floor. There were several wooden toys on it. Evidence that small children lived in this part of the house. Indeed it was so. Mikhail would have played here perhaps with these wooden toys. He would have spent the first 6 years of his life in this part of the house. As was the rule boys lived here until they were 6. Mikhail would then have gone to another part of the house to be brought up with a tutor from a European country. Girls lived here until they were aged between 12 or 15. A suitable husband would be found and they would be married. A large chest contained the dower given to each girl upon marriage. It contained clothes, fabrics and headwear. It must have been great fun being a 16 year old teenager from a well-to-do and respected boyar (nobel) family. It is an exciting time and the beginning of adulthood.

Education

A room to visit in the Romanov house is the room for the elder sons. Here 6-year old Mikhail began his education by European tutors. On his desk is a map, a pair of compasses, a white feathered quill. To the side are mathematic text books. This is indicative of the lessons his tutors provided. The lesson in progress was a geography one. The previous lesson had been mathematics. To the left of Mikhailís desk is a chest containing his other text books. These are the first printed Russian ABC book. The author was Karion Istomin. The engravings were done by Ivan Bunin. There is also a rhymed grammar book by Milenty Smotritsky. The third large book is about Russian History. The smaller book is a book containing religious quotations. The home education provided by the tutor prepared boyar boys for state service. Mikhail had gone on to a monastery between the ages of 12 to 15. It came as a shock to him that the state service he was to do was that of Tsar of all Russia. The 16 year old Mikhail had not been expecting that!

Election (1613)

The Russian boyars were rich nobles and had been a powerful but after the reforms of Ivan IV there power base had been weakened. They were not a group renowned for culture and intellectual pursuits. They were wealthy but uncultured lot. The Romanovs seem to have been a cut above them as their home shows a love of culture and learning. A national assembly of boyars unanimously elected Michael tsar of Russia (February 21, 1613). It took a month for a delegates of the council to find Michael and his mother (March 24). They were at the Ipatiev Monastery near Kostroma. Neither wwee elated at the news. Xenia protested that her son was far too young and inexperienced for so demanding an office in such troubled times. Michael finally consented, but only after the pleading delegation solemnly declared that if he refused they would hold him responsible to God for the destruction of Russia. Michael was chosen because of his hereditary link to Ivan and his father's position as Patriarch of Russia. The Moscow boyars had come to ask him to be Tsar. This was like offering him a poisoned chalice. They had had the previous Tsar murdered, but he was a pretender so that might not count. Michael was frightened. The young lad with filled with terror and fear. In the end, reassured by his mother and the nobles, Mikhail accepted. He started the Romanov dynasty. It was born in troubled times and it ended 300 years later in troubled times. A cycle of catastrophe!

Marriage

Michael married Evdokia Stryeshneva (1608-45).

Reign (1613-45)

The Romanov family moved to the Kremlin after Mikhailís coronation (1613). Michael although reluctant to rule and very young proved a success in restoring stability to Russia. He ruled with moderation and wisdom. The boyars turn against him and have him murdered as was their remedy for those that displeased them. The economy was a shambles and mobs if serfs roamed the country side. It was at this time that the serfs were permanently tied to the land. The Tsar's police was increasingly used to track down and return serfs who tried to escape the great estates. He and his immediate successors, however, did not move move to move Russia into the mainstream of rapidly modernizing Europe under the influence of the Renaissance and Reformation.

Successor

Tsar Michael and Eudoxia Streshneva had 10 children. Their third child and eldest boy was Alexi (1629-76) who ruled as Alexi I.





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Created: 4:15 PM 3/20/2009
Last updated: 4:15 PM 3/20/2009