Ernst Biron – regent of Russia
Ernst Biron was a count, duke of Courland, regent of Russia, imperial favorite. The dark era of foreign dominance is known as Bironovshchina.
Ernst Johann Biron was born on November 23, 1690. He was one of three sons and five daughters.
Ernst rose through court service to Anna Ioanovna in her capacity. He had a great influence on the Empress.
Biron gained status by marriage to Benigna Gotlib Trott von Treyden. The couple had two sons and one daughter.
In 1730 Biron became grand chamberlain and count of the Holy Roman Empire and his wife became lady- in-waiting. His brothers entered the Russian army.
In 1737, with the assistance of Anna Ioanovna, he was elected Duke of Courland. After Anna Ioanovna death on October 17, 1740 Biron became regent for infant Ivan VI.
On the night of October 18/19, 1740, Biron and his wife were roughly arrested by troops under Field Marshal Burkhard von Munnich and imprisoned for interrogation. Biron avoided death and the entire family was exiled to Siberia.
Peter III permitted Biron’s return to court, and Catherine II restored him in Courland.
Biron died on December 18, 1772.
Anna Ioanovna and Ernst Biron
Anna Ioanovna was the daughter of Tsar Ivan V and Queen Praskovya Saltykova. When the girl was 17 years old, her uncle Peter I gave her to Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Courland, as a wife. A few months after the wedding Anna’s husband suddenly died. Future Empress had to go alone to the capital of Courland Mitau where she spent thirteen years. P.M. Bestuzhev, a lover of the young widow, ruled the duchy.
In 1718, he was replaced by Ernst Johann Biron. The cunning and skillful seducer, he charmed the Duchess and soon she lost her head.
In 1723, Anna, not to incur the suspicion of severe Peter I, who controlled the financing of Courland court, selected a wife for her lover. Stupid, ugly and unpleasant Benigna Gotlib Trott von Treyden became Biron’s wife. She was entirely dependent on Anna.
Emperor Peter II suddenly died in 1730. He had no heirs. The members of the Supreme Privy Council decided to choose Anna as a ruler.
Anna Ioanovna accepted all the conditions, which forbade her to marry, bear children, and appoint the successor. She went home accompanied by the faithful of Courland barons headed by her favorite Biron.
On the day of the coronation the Empress dispersed the Supreme Privy Council and on February 25 declared herself an autocratic queen. She was destined to rule the Russian Empire for ten years.
The era of Anna Ioanovna was one of the darkest periods in the history of Russia. She has low interest in politics and power was divided between the favorites – Duke E. Biron, Baron A. Osterman and General-Field Marshal Earl B. Munnich. Biron made all major decisions. Arrogant, selfish and conceited foreigner did not win the sympathy of the court. He was interested only in power, wealth and glory.
Luxury of Russian court times of Anna Ioanovna impressed foreign visitors. The queen spent huge amounts on clothes. She arranged grand balls, feasts, surprising guests with all sorts of delicacies and the most exquisite French wines.
Anna was afraid of conspiracies and encouraged espionage and reports. A lot of people were executed or exiled. During the ten years of her reign more than a thousand people were executed and more than twenty thousand were sent into exile. Biron took the most active part. He would continue to administer the affairs of state, if not for the sudden death of the Empress. He became a regent of six months old Ivan. Embittered, suspicious and cunning he ruled cruelly and confidently. However, he was destined to rule less than a month. In November he was arrested and sent into exile.
After twenty-two years Biron returned from exile and became the ruler of Courland again.
He died at home in 1772 at the age of eighty-two.