On This Day in Napoleonic History – 23 March 1801

Paul I23 is assassinated

Assassination of the Russian Tsar Paul III at the hands of a group of Russian nobles came as a blow to Napoleon, who was hoping for a lasting alliance with Russia. Paul was mentally unstable and his policies supporting the middle class threatened the Russian nobility. Although not directly involved in the murder, Paul’s 23-year old son and heir Alexander, who was in the palace at the time, had known about it in advance. This knowledge and the fact that he stood by while his father was being assassinated was¬†a heavy burden he was to carry¬†through his whole life. The nobles demanded Paul’s abdication before they stabbed, strangled and kicked the Tsar to death. Alexander was crowned Tsar later that year. Although he theoretically had absolute power, he knew that he had to work with the nobility if he were to escape his father’s fate. He understood that unpopular policies, including any concessions to France, would endanger not only his crown but his life.

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