I felt surprised while I was checking the board searching for threads focused on Martha Skavronska, later Ekaterina Alexeyevna, later tsarina Ekaterina I of Russia. I only have found a very brief thread about this woman, and it amazes me because she was the first female sovereign of the empire and also the mother of a great empress, Elisabeth Petrovna.
Her story is fulfilled with interesting and intriguing episodes. He knew little about her childhood and early youth. He knew little about her career before the first meeting with Peter the Great. He can speculate about her relationship with Alexander Danilovich Menshikov, but also with Willem Mons. She was a clever and good-hearted woman, the only one who could managed well with such a difficult man and husband as Peter was with her strength, her common-sense and her devotion to him.
She was, at the first, Martha Samuilovna Skavronska. Her father, the lithuanian peasant Samuil Skavronsky, had two wives, Dorothea Hann and Elisabeth Moritz. It seems clear that Elisabeth Moritz gave him five children: Martha, Karl, Theodor, Anna and Christine. When Samuil and Elisabeth died, the children were under the care of their relatives. Very soon, Martha was sent to the home of a lutheran priest, Ernst Glück, at Marienburg. She was, essentially, a home servant. But when she reached the first youth, she had became a pretty and vivacious girl. And Mrs Glück was fearful that the girl could caught the eye of her husband or, maybe, her elder son. So, Martha was engaged -perhaps married- to a swedish dragon, Johannes Raabe. Their conjugal life ended in eight years...when russian forces captured Marienburg. Martha Skavronska became a servant of the russian military chief Boris Sheremetev.
Later, she became servant of prince Alexander Danilovich Menshikov. It is said that Alexander and Martha were lovers, but I really doubt it. By this time, he was madly in love with Darya Mikhailovna Arseyevna, who, with her sister Varvara, belonged to the house of tsarevna Natalya Alexeyevna, sister of Peter the Great. As Massie states in his wonderful bio on Peter, it could be that Menshikov entertained the nights with a beautiful and attractive lithuanian servant while he made courtship to Daria, but there´s no evidence about an intimate relationship between the prince and the humble girl.
At Menshikov´s house, Martha met for the first time Peter. The servant caught the eye of the sovereign, and he ordered: "When I go to bed, you, beauty, take a candle and light the way". This was the beginning of a long-standing relationship. He firstly married her secretly, and, a few years later, took place a public wedding after the Pruth campaign, when she had borne him five children. Martha, who had became Ekaterina Alexeyevna, was solemnly crowned empress-consort on the 7th of May 1724. She wore a crown with no fewer than 2564 precious stones.
Whitin a few months of her triumph, she was threatened with utter ruin by the discovery of a supposed liaison with her gentleman of the bedchamber, a very handsome but also very unscrupulous man named Willen Mons. Willen was the brother of two fascinating women: Anna, former mistress of Peter the Great, who has to be tsarina but fell from grace because her sovereign discovered she was involved with a prussian ambassador, and Matryona, by her marriage Matryona Balk, lady in waiting and friend of Ekaterina. It´s strange, but Ekaterina has as her favourite lady in waiting the sister of a mistress of Peter, and as her supposed lover the brother of a mistress of Peter. Willen was executed with great cruelty, Matryona was exiled for years at Siberia and Ekaterina did not speak with Peter for several months. But, at the end, the imperial couple was reconciled.