OVERRIDE

Peter the Great

Derek Wilson

St. Martin's Press

There has never been a more remarkable national leader in modern history than Peter the Great (1672–1725). He was a giant in every way. In physical stature, willpower, enthusiasm, energy, libertinism, and refusal to accept old conventions, he stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries. He grew up in an atmosphere of fear, suspicion, and court rivalries that often assumed violent forms. He only gained power, at the age of seventeen, by ousting his half sister, Sophia, and shutting her up in a nunnery. As a product of the system, Peter was, of necessity, ruthless and tyrannical, personally carrying out the execution of defeated rebels and even effecting the death of his own son.

But there his identification with Russia’s past ends. For what has earned Peter his place in history is his tearing his country, kicking and screaming, from its traditional, oriental customs and beliefs and integrating it into the life of Europe. He removed the privileges of the medieval aristocracy, brought the church under state control, and rejected the old Russian calendar in favor of the dating system used in Europe. He even ordered his courtiers and officials to shave their traditional beards and adopt Western dress codes. He avidly studied the latest scientific and technological advances and employed them to build a modern army and to create from scratch a Russian navy. These tools he used to devastating effect by destroying the Swedish Empire and making Russia (with its brand-new capital, St. Petersburg) master of the Baltic.

European leaders did not know what to make of this eccentric, unsophisticated tsar who loathed pomp and ceremony, served as a junior officer in his own armed forces, and indulged in rowdy, boorish behavior. Yet, by the end of his remarkable reign, this man, who had made a servant girl his own wife and empress, had married members of his family into the royal houses of Europe. Thanks to Peter the Great, Russia was profoundly changed. So was Europe.

Derek Wilson tells his extraordinary story with a verve and atmospheric detail that emphasizes vividly the impact this one man made not only in Russia, but in the wider world. Peter the Great created a new Europe in which, for good or ill, Russia was to play a crucial part. His contemporaries were obliged to come to terms with him. And today, it is perhaps even more important for us to understand the historical context and the pivotal role Peter played in the creation of a whole new order.


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PETER THE GREAT
1SurvivalHe stood at the top of the Red Staircase between the Cathedral of the Assumption and the Palace of Facets - a dark-haired, wide-eyed ten-year-old, already tall for his age. He huddled close to his mother, who had one arm around him and the other round his half-brother. Ivan. The tension in Tsarevna Natalya's body told him that something was very wrong. She had gathered the two boys hurriedly from their rooms in the palace and rushed them out to face a bewildering scene. Below them, in the square, stood a crowd of soldiers brandishing muskets and shouting. 'Here are Tsar
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REVIEWS

Praise for Peter the Great

“I cannot praise too highly Derek Wilson’s prose style, which is both masterful and lively. He writes with great conviction and a breathtaking attention to the kind of personal detail that makes his books such compelling reading.” —Alison Weir

 

“A useful and stimulating book about [Britain’s] most important dynasty.” —Antonia Fraser on In the Lion’s Court

 

“A nuanced portrait of a perplexing titan.” —Booklist on Out of the Storm

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Derek Wilson

  • Derek Wilson, a leading biographer and novelist, came to prominence after graduating from Cambridge thirty years ago with A Tudor Tapestry: Men, Women and Society in Reformation England. This was followed by several critically acclaimed and bestselling books such as Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power; In the Lion’s Court: Power, Ambition, and Sudden Death in the Reign of Henry VIII; and All the King’s Women: Love, Sex and Politics in the Life of Charles II. He has also written and presented numerous radio and television programs. Visit his Web site at www.derekwilson.com.

  • Derek Wilson
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    Peter the Great

    Derek Wilson

    • e-Book

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    St. Martin's Press

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