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The Curious Case of Ivan VI

Born on 23 August 1740 to the Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick-Luneburg and his wife Anna Leopoldovna, Ivan was the only grandson of the former Tsar of Russia Ivan V, and consequently in line to the Russian throne.

His mother was the niece of Empress Anna and expected that one of her line would inherit the throne once her aunt died. Consequently, Anna and her husband had spent the majority of their marriage in Russia, preparing for this day. They would soon see their dreams realised when Empress Anna was on her deathbed and adopted her great-nephew naming him her heir.

Empress Anna died 28 October 1740, leaving her confidant and rumoured lover Biron as regent for her great-nephew, while Ivan was proclaimed Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias. However, Biron’s regency was short-lived, the man was deeply unpopular at court, and had done much to earn the displeasure of the nobility and his Tsar’s mother. A coup shortly followed which replaced Biron with Duchess Anna as regent, and brought to the fore her pro-German foreign policy and her German advisors.

His mother’s Germany advisors were so unpopular at court, that when the daughter of Peter the Great decided that she wanted a piece of the pie, it was not that hard for her to stage another coup. Anna was removed from the regency, and for a brief moment in time it seemed as though Elizabeth would serve as regent. However, deciding that the throne was better than turmoil, Elizabeth took the throne and threw her relative into prison. Ivan VI would remain imprisoned for the rest of his short life, growing up emotionally and socially challenged, before being executed after soldiers tried to free him.

Elizabeth’s reign was a colourful one as were those of her successors. However, one must wonder what might have become of Russia had Ivan VI remained on the throne and been allowed to grow. A possible pro-German or Pro-Prussian policy might well have developed, which could have seen all sorts of shenanigans emerge over the following years.