Prince Alexey Fyodorovich Orlov: The Life and Times

Prince Alexey Fyodorovich Orlov: The Life and Times

Aug 6, 2021, 5:56:59 PM Life and Styles

Early Life and entanglements

Destiny and fate collided for Alexei Orlov. From birth he was placed close to the decision makers and leaders of Russia. This serious man of great intelligence with a love for diplomacy was able to put his natural talents to use during the turbulence, war and political unrest that ensued in Russia during his lifespan.

Born in 1786, in Moscow Russia, he was the illegitimate son of Count Fyodor Grigoryevich Orlov. Alexei's father and uncle (Grigory Orlov) arranged the coup d'etat that won Catherine the Great the Russian throne when she overthrew her unpopular husband, Peter III. Grigory's dedication to Catherine also grew from the fact that he was her lover. Grigory followed her boldly and became her close advisor. This familiar love connection put Alexei right at the heart of matters of strategy and expansion for the Russian empire. 

Catherine had a fondness for Alexei Orlov, who spent much time in the care of his father and uncle on the battle lines, learning the art of war from a young age. Catherine saw to it that Alexei received noble rights and his father's name.

Not much is recorded about Alexei's own love life and he died a bachelor. There is a tongue and cheek anecdote recorded about one of his mistresses. We can imagine Alexei led a life dedicated to the state and had not much time for matters of the heart.

War Stories

As was expected of young men at that time, Alexei joined the army (1804). Here he took part in the Russian campaigns, including the Napoleonic Wars until the capture of Paris in 1814. His gallant efforts while serving as commander of the cavalry regiment, "Horse Life Guards", earned him the title of count. Other war accolades include a golden sword for courage achieved during the Battle of Austerlitz and the Order of St. Vladimir 4th class when he was wounded 7 times during the battle of Borodino.

He rose to the rank of lieutenant general during the Turkish war of 1828-1829 where his delegation concluded the peace treaty of Adrianople (1829). Alexi was then involved in suppressing the Polish uprising of 1830-1831. His battled studded climb through the ranks ultimately led to him gaining the title of prince in his later years.

Diplomatic and Secret Affairs

Being something of a diplomat at this stage of his career, he acted as the Russian plenipotentiary at the Peace of Adrianople. In 1883 he simultaneously acted as Russian ambassador at Constantinople and commander in chief of the Black Sea Fleet. His many accomplishments in battle, strategic alliances and intelligence gathering, lead Emperor Nicholas (Catherine's successor) to trust deeply in Alexi and called for Alexi to accompany him on his foreign tour.

Alexei Orlov's life took a rather exciting turn from 1844 – 1856 during his involvement heading up the iniquitous Third Section (secret police), with the main focus on monitoring the serfs and preventing an uprising as was seen in the French revolution. With Russia's economy being 95 % agricultural, the landowners relied heavily on the serfs' free labour and were not prepared to hand them freedom. Alexei spent much time with the Emperor during this period and had a strong influence on the emperor and his policies.

An unsuccessful enterprise was his effort to win Austria over to the Russian side during the Crimean war of 1853-1856. However, he did have success concluding the Peace of Paris, which finally brought an end to the Crimean War. It was at this time that he received his title of prince, along with being appointed president of both the Imperial Council of State and of the Council of Ministers for Russia.

In his last few years, he presided over the commission formed to consider the question of the emancipation of the serfs – something he was vehemently against but unable to prevent. The serfs were emancipated several months before his death. He died peacefully in Saint Petersburg in 1862.

Find out more about this historic period in time by searching through our website.

Published by Gaurav Gupta


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