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Empress Anna of Russia
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    (February 7, 1693-October 28, 1740)
    Born in Moscow, Russian Federation
    Daughter of Tzar Ivan V
    Niece of Peter the Great
    Duchess of Courland (1711-30)
    Empress of Russia (1730-40)
    Thomas Carlyle wrote that each of her cheeks 'was comparable to a Westphalian ham.'
    She was clumsy and had lousy manners.
    She restored the secret police and used them to intimidate political opponents.
    She had loaded rifles placed in all palace rooms so she could shoot at birds flying past the windows.
    She lost huge sums of money in card games.
    She made court jesters wrestle each other for her amusement.
    Her idea of a good joke was having the fire bells rung in St. Petersburg just to see people panicking.
    She forced three nobles who displeased her to live like chickens for a week, dressed in feathers while sitting on eggs in a straw-filled basket outside her bedroom.
    Another noble, Prince Michael Golitsyn, was ordered to marry one of her maids, with the couple then forced to spend the wedding night naked in an ice palace (built for the occasion at a cost of 30,000 rubles) during a particularly harsh winter.
    She was neglected by her mother.
    She was widowed only two months after marrying the Duke of Courland.
    She was chosen as Empress of Russia by a Supreme Privy Council that expected her to be an easily manipulated figurehead. Presumably, when some of them were clucking like chickens, they realized they had underestimated her.
    Given that the usual punishment for ticking off the Russian monarch was beheading, being forced to live like a chicken for a week was practically a slap on the wrist.
    She was credited with bringing ballet and opera to the Russian court.
    Depite its chilly start, Prince Golitsyn's marriage was reportedly a very happy one.

Credit: C. Fishel

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