Grand Duchess Anna Petrovna was born on 9 December 1757 as the daughter of the future Empress Catherine the Great.
Anna was born between 10 and 11 o’clock in the Winter Palace on the Nevsky Prospect with the Empress Elizabeth and Catherine’s husband Peter present. The following day, her birth was announced to the city with a 101 gun salute from the Peter and Paul fortress. She was baptised on 17 December and received the Great Cross of the Order of Saint Catherine from Empress Elizabeth. The Empress was also her godmother and held her above the baptismal font. Catherine received a gift of 60,000 rubles from the Empress. Empress Elizabeth gave her the name Anna after Anna Petrovna, Elizabeth’s sister, against Catherine’s wishes. Like her elder brother Paul before her, Anna was almost immediately taken from Catherine. Catherine late wrote, “It is said that the public celebrations were magnificent but I did not see any. I remained in my bed alone except Madame Vladislavova. No one set foot in my apartment or sent to ask how I was.” This was probably not entirely true, though the baby was snatched from her.
Though Anna was accepted as the child of Catherine’s husband, the future Emperor Peter III, her paternity was doubted by the court and she was most likely fathered by the Polish aristocrat Stanisław Poniatowski. Peter himself commented, “God knows where my wife gets her pregnancies. I don’t know if the child is mine.”
When the frail Grand Duchess died on 8 March 1759, she was buried in the Alexander Nevsky Monastery with Catherine and Elizabeth present. Both women kissed the child on her forehead following the Russian Orthodox rites. Catherine never even mentioned her daughter’s death in her memoirs.
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