Throughout his life, Russian Emperor Paul I was afraid of being poisoned, particularly during the time he was still a successor to the throne. Disfavored by his mother Catherine the Great to be the one to take the crown, Paul even had a chef from England preparing his meals. But it was not poisoning that ended his life on the night of March 11, 1801.
It was Russia’s high society; Counts Palen and Benigsen, Dukes Zubov and Volkonsky, and General Uvarov did not accept Paul as the ruler of the country and planned a coup. At first their plan was to arrest Paul and force him to give up the throne in favor of his son, but things took a different turn.
Drunk on champagne, the conspirators arrived at St. Michael’s Palace, where the emperor resided, knocking down objects and servants on their way. Paul had heard them coming down the corridor to his rooms and tried to escape through the door that lead to his wife’s private rooms, but it was locked. So he dashed for the window and hid behind the curtain.
Not finding the emperor in his bed, the conspirators panicked. They thought their plot has been discovered and this could be a trap, but Count Palen approached the bed and as he touched the sheets, exclaimed “the nest is still warm, the bird cannot be far.” They searched the room and found Paul helpless in his nightgown.
After a short argument, a struggle began and Paul was hit in the head and fell to the floor. He was then beaten and choked with a scarf. For the rest of the night, a medic worked on Paul’s body to cover the bruises and make it look like a natural death. But despite the make up, the black and blue marks on Paul’s face could still be seen as he lay in his coffin. He was succeeded by his son Alexander I. It is believed that Alexander gave the conspirators his approval to carry out their plot to kill his father.