Alexander I was Catherine II’s eldest grandson whom she greatly favoured and intended to leave the crown to, instead of her son Paul. Alexander succeeded to the throne after his father Emperor Paul I’s assassination by noble conspirators. Russian liberals had high hopes for the young Emperor Alexander I. One of the first acts of his reign was to appoint the Private Committee, comprising young and enthusiastic friends of his own, to draw up a scheme of internal reform, which was supposed to result in an establishing of constitutional monarchy. But he did not venture to restrict autocracy, and in time lost interest in reform. His reign was also marked by the French invasion of Russia in 1812, when the Russian army routed Napoleon’s considered invincible Grande Armée. After the war, Alexander incredibly raised his meticulous will-follower Count Alexey Arakcheyev, who managed army supplies and organized military-agricultural colonies.
In his last years, the Emperor became very devout and dreamed of solitude. He died in 1825 on the way to Taganrog in the south of Russia, where the Emperor undertook a voyage due to the increasing illness of his wife. However, legend has it that Alexander I’s death was staged, while the Emperor allegedly hid his identity as a mysterious hermit Feodor Kuzmich and spent the rest of his life in pilgrimages.
Alexander I loved Tsarskoe Selo ever since childhood and came here every summer. He occupied Catherine II’s former rooms when she moved to her new ones designed by Ch. Cameron. In September 1793, when he was 15, Alexander was betrothed to a bride chosen by his grandmother –14 year old Louise of Baden, a German princess who was given the name Yelizaveta (Elizabeth) at her Orthodox baptism. The newlyweds moved into the new, Alexander Palace, a wedding present from Catherine II that was built to the design of the architect Giacomo Quarenghi in 1792-96. The palace was surrounded by the new (Alexander) park.
After he became Emperor in 1801, Alexander I spent much time in his study at the Catherine Palacewhere he and Mikhail Speransky (1772-1839) worked together on plans to restructure the state. Particular attention was devoted to the cause of education: on the Emperor’s orders, the Tsarskoe Selo Lyceum, then one of the best educational institutions in Russia, was opened in the Grand Ducal wing of the Catherine Palace. After Russia’s victory over Napoleon, the Emperor spent every summer since 1914 at home, in Tsarskoe Selo. His State Study, together with adjacent rooms, was decorated by the architect Vasily Stasov who filled it with magnificent works of art commemorating remarkable victories in the Patriotic War of 1812. The Catherine Park was embellished with the Granite Terrace, the Girl-with-a-Pitcher Fountain and other structures; the Alexander Park was beautified as well.
In his last years, Alexander showed signs of exhaustion and depression and took to withdrawing to Tsarskoe Selo even in winter. It was back here, in early spring 1826, that his mortal remains were brought from Taganrog, where he died from typhus a few months earlier, and then a quiet funeral service was held in the Palace Church.