Secrets of the Palace Revolutions. Russia, XVIII Century

“Secrets of the Palace Revolutions” is a big historical project, directed by Svetlana Druzhinina – an acknowledged Russian director, best known for the trilogy “Gardemariny”.

After Emperor Peter I killed his only heir prince Alexey and issued the Decree of Succession, which provided that the Tsar would choose his own successor. But Peter I himself  failed to do so before his death in 1725.

In the decades that followed, the absence of clear rules of succession left the monarchy open to intrigues, plots, coups, and countercoups.

The series has 10 Films, and follows the reign of Romanov dynasty during the Era of The era of Palace Revolutions.

Production: Russia, 2001-2016
Duration: 10 films
Director: Svetlana Druzhinina

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#1 «Emperor’s will»

Duration: 83 min.
Director: Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Natalia Egorova, Sergei Shakurov, Nicholas Karachentsov, Alexei Zharkov, Vladimir Ilyin

The initial scene – the interrogation and death of the Tsarevich Alexei – is a prologue for the hole of this tale of the Romanov dynasty. A father kills his own son…

This bloody curse was to rebound on all the Romanovs for most of the century.

Russia. The night of 25th January, 1725.

Peter the Great is on his deathbed. Meanwhile the intrigues of a court revolution are beginning to take shape.

Members of the various political groupings have come together at the palace. Everyone is waiting anxiously for the will. Who will succeed to the throne after Peter II’s death?

But the only sound that come from the Tzar’s boudoir are the awful waling and moaning of the dying king/ While the Tzar continues in his death agonies, those opposed of Peter II’s reforms secretly prepare to put the Tzar’s  9 year old grandson on the throne. They are sure that the boy king Peter III will be a puppet in their hand and will help them to return Russia to the old ways…

Catherine I’s lover and Peter II’s clothest aide, Prince Menshikov, suddenly breaks in on the conspiracy against the dying Emperor, Peter I.

Using all his cunning and bravery, flattery and deceit and with the help of a mere handful of faithful guardsmen, he overturns the conspiracy. As the result the Emperor’s blue ribbon is taken from the childish breast of Peter the Great’s grandson, Peter II and hung on the ample bosom of Catherine I, a former washerwoman to the Prussian army.

That day would see the start of the era of the female rulers in Russia; the era which was to last most of a century.

 

#2 «Empress’s will»

Duration: 85 min.
Director: Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Natalya Egorova, Sergey Shakurov, Ekaterina Nikitina, Irina Lachina, Nina Ruslanova, Alexander Lazarev

Having placed his lover, Catherine I, on Peter the Great’s throne,

Prince Menshikov obtains unlimited power and has no desire to share it with any of his allies, thereby turning them all against him.

Taking advantage of Prince Menshikov’s absence, his for­mer allies prepare a conspiracy against him. But once again, luck is on the side of Fortune’s favourite. Prince Menshikov receives a warning of mortal danger, avoids arrest and insinu­ates himself into the Empress’ boudoir.

Having separated the Empress from even her daughters Anna and Elizabeth (herself a future Empress of Russia), Prince Menshikov manages to persuade Catherine I to re-write her will in his favour. In order to retain power after the Empress’ death, he introduces a clause in the will about the marriage of the 11 year old Peter II to his own daughter Maria, who was 6 years older than the Emperor. Now no-one would dare touch the Tsar’s own close relative.

In order to strengthen his hold on power, Prince Men­shikov starts to execute his enemies.

The subtle psychological intrigue holds the viewer in sus­pense, keeping him guessing to the end. Will that master of intrigues, Prince Menshikov, end up the victor yet again and if so – how?

#3 «I’m Emperor»

Duration: 80 min.
Director:
 Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Sergey Shakurov, Dmitry Verkeenko, Ekaterina Nikitina, Dmitry Kharatyan, Vladimir Ilyin, Alexey Zharkov

Having betrothed the 11-year old Tsar to his daughter Maria, Prince Menshikov shuts Peter II up in his own palace, fearing that otherwise Peter will fall under the evil influence of Menshikov’s ene­mies.

His idea is to keep Peter II in isolation until his majority, all the while consolidating his influence over him, until he can marry Peter off to his daughter. However, this dream is suddenly shattered. A seemingly fatal illness forces the Prince to make his final farewells to his family, write a will and hand over the guardianship of Peter II to Prince Ivan Dolgoruky, a young good-for-nothing and wastrel, but a representative of one of the most respected families in Russia.

Having given his final instructions to Peter II and his daughter Maria, Prince Menshikov prepares to die.

At last, Peter II is free from the iron hand of his guardian Men­shikov. His new gentleman-in-waiting, Ivan Dolgoruky takes Peter II away to Petertiof.

Constant hunting, drinking, balls, ‘secret pleasures’, cards and the rot begins to set into the young Emperor. Count Osterman, a courtier and no new hand to intrigue, starts to weave a new conspir­acy along with the Dolgorukys, which should put an end once and for all to the dying Menshikov’s secret rule. The conspirators tell Peter II about the part Prince Menshikov played in the torture of his father, the Tsarevich Alexei…

But a miracle happens – Menshikov recovers.

In gratitude for his recovery, he builds a church and invites the young Tsar to its consecration. Instead of his usual obedience, Peter II answers Menshikov with a public snub at a ball – a slap in the face for Peter’s murdered father.

Menshikov understands that his absence has wrought a sharp change on the political landscape. He collects his thoughts and pre­pares to fight back.

#4 «Fall of Goliath»

Duration: 80 min.
Director: Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Sergey Shakurov, Dmitry Verkeenko, Dmitry Kharatyan, Alexander Peskov, Fedor Dobronravov, Vladimir Ilyin, Alexey Zharkov

The eternal struggle for power. Given that the struggle is for the Russian throne, then the winner will gain not just riches, but power over all Europe. Playing on the Tsar’s minority, Prince Menshikov single-handedly dismisses the guardianship council, thereby making himself the effective ruler of Russia.

A huge struggle ensues amongst the leading noble families in Russia to obtain influence over the boy-king, Peter the Great’s grandson.

The grey cardinal in this affair is Baron Osterman, who is so skilful at weaving a web of conspiracy that he manages to persuade Prince Menshikov to lower his guard. One dark night, the Tsar flees from under the noses of the Prinde’s agents. He is helped in this by young favourite, Ivan Dolgoruky.

When he hears about the conspiracy, Prince Menshikov tries to whisk the truant peter II away from the clutches of the conspirators.

An unseen battle ensues. Time is of the essence. There is a frenzied chase. Menshikov races after the abductors.

Knowing full well that Menshikov races after the abductors.

Knowing full well that Menshikov’s wrath is terrible – he had been known to cut the enemies’ heads off with his own sword – the conspiration rush Peter II into signing papers that they have already drawn up and with these documents they flee along with the Tsar.

The speedy denouement, which brings to a conclusion several years of intrigue, sees the arrest and exile to Siberia of the once all-powerful ruler, Prince Menshikov, Peter the Great’s right hand man. He was exiled without trial or inquiry by an 11 year old boy-king.

#5 «Emperor’s second bride»

Duration: 110 min.
Director: Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Dmitry Verkeenko, Maryana Tsaregradskaya, Alexey Zharkov, Dmitry Kharatyan, Alexander Belyavsky, Larisa Luzhina, Marina Yakovleva, Vladimir Ilyin

As the result of the successful conspiracy which ended in the exile to Siberia of the all – powerful Prince Menshikov, the Dolgoruky’s attempt to arrange the betrothal of one of their relatives, Catherine, to the young Peter II and thereby obtain access to the Russian throne.

Peter II is taken to Moscow for his coronation, as a tradition. The Dolgoruky brothers all come together for the festivities. These are the eight most powerful and influential members of this ancient and noble Russian family. One of their members was the beautiful Catherine.

Her part was the hardest to play in the latest conspiracy, since she had the flatter the boy-king, who was now completely alone in the world after the death of his beloved sister Natalia, and persuade him to marry her.

The whole situation is made even more difficult by the fact that Catherine herself is in love with a head – strong Italian nobleman, Millesimo, a secretary in Cesare’s Embassy who has offered her his hand and his heart, but who has naturally been turned down emphatically by her family.

The Dolgorukys throw an extravagant name – day party at their estates at Gorenki, get theTzar drunk and the next morning “unexpectedly” find him in bed with the naked Catherine.

In the face of the Dolgorukys heavy silence, Peter II agrees to the betrothal with Catherine, who shortly afterwards become his second fiancée.

#6 «Death of the young Emperor»

Duration: 118 min.
Director: Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Dmitry Verkeenko, Maryana Tsaregradskaya, Alexey Zharkov, Dmitry Kharatyan, Alexander Belyavsky, Larisa Luzhina, Marina Yakovleva, Vladimir Ilyin

The whole of Moscow is astounded by the turn of the events – the betrothal of the Emperor and Catherine Dolgorukaya.

The unhappy Catherine tries to flee Russia with her beloved Millesimo, but their plot is discovered. Millesimo is brutally beaten when out hunting and then locked up.

The injured Millesimo comes to the church for the betrothal ceremony. Overwhelmed by emotion, Catherine drops the ring. All the onlookers see this as an omen of the approaching doom; and indeed they are right. Worn out by endless hunting, drunken parties and nervous strain, Peter II falls ill. The Dolgorukys are forced to show Peter II at the Epiphany parade in the Kremlin, but although the Tzar manages with difficulty to make it to the triumphal entrance, he collapses down the icy steps.

The physician makes a terrible diagnosis: the pox.

Terrified the Dolgoruky’s attempt to marry Catherine to the dying Peter II and even draw up a fake will in favour of Catherine and the heir, which they claim she is carrying.  Ivan Dolgoruky, the Tzar’s favourite, forges his signature on the will. Peter II is unable to speak and loses consciousness. He comes round only for a few moments, when his beloved aunt Elizabeth is leaning over him. His final words are: “Harness and the horses… I want to go and see my sister”.

And so, the young Tzar died on 28th January 1730, aged only 14 years and 2 months, His tragic fate was a clear example of how fragile, unpredictable and how lawless power was in Russia.

#7 «Vivat, Anna!»

Duration: 180 min.
Director: Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Inna Churikova, Alexey Petrenko, Vladimir Korenev, Alexander Lazarev, Alsou

Not only Russia but all Europe was shaken by unexpected death of the youngest emperor!

Peter II died intestate and didn’t leave an heir to the throne. Who would get the Russian Crown? The war for power full of violence began.

Eight members of Secret Supreme Soviet whose members were ancient and famous families of Princes Dolgoruky and Golicin made the decision: to limit emperor’s power by Parliament. As the Parliament they called themselves. Raised a great clamor! The representatives of all classes wanted to join the Parliament from the generals and clergy, from nobility and even from the merchant class. “Verhovniki” were indignant at that most of all, as can’t a band servant rule with the Tsars!

«Verhovniki» proposed to enthrone Duchess Kurlandskaya Anna loanovna as the last of Romanov dynasty. She Peter the Great’s niece. According to his will the widow Duchess ruled over Kurland for 19 years protecting Russian border from Baltic States.

«Verhovniki» decided to resort to cunning and deception. They promised everybody membership in the future Parliament but only after she signed the letter that contained points limiting her power. There were 10 points, the eleventh one they were to tell her in oral form: she wasn’t allowed to invite her young and handsome lover Ernst logann Biron…

These points they called The Conditions.

Having selected Anna loanovna, «Verhovniki» hoped to use her as a marionette and a cloak for their selfish and ambitious ends. But the noblemen made a mistake!

Vice-chancellor Osterman prepared a conspiracy against their plan and because of it some of them lost not only their position, but their heads as well!

In the Moscow Kremlin in front of people Anna loanovna «tore the Conditions» and announced herself being an empress without any limits, as had been her great forefathers! People rejoiced and foreign ambassadors wrote in their reports: «…Russians just as always didn’t manage to negotiate and put Russia back to her slavery…»

Anna’s fiance Biron came to Russia. A lot of Germen poured after him and held only the best posts. Came the terrible decade, which people called «bironovshina».

#8. «Hunt for a Princess»

Production: Russia, 2013
Duration: 2×80 min
Directed by: Svetlana Druzhinina
Cast: Aleksandr Domogarov, Aleksandr Domogarov jr, Natalia Egorova, Vladimir Ilyin, Ekaterina Nikitina, Alexandr Lazarev jr, Ivar Kalnynsh, Anna Terekhova

The year 1736. Anna Ioannovna reins for six years already. To strengthen the female line of her family she makes an unprecedented decision, declaring her grandnephew should succeed her.

Such a thing had never happened in the world history. An unborn child had never been appointed as heir.

In the meantime the Empress is seeking for anchoring the military alliance with Austria, and announces the engagement of her niece Anna Leopoldovna with Anthony Ulrich, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbütte. A mother of a future heir doesn’t feel any love for a fiancé, and Peter (son of Biron) and Moritz (a Saxon delegate) are trying to make use of it. The young people begin the Hunt for a Princess.

Production year

2016

Materials

HD