Why Peter The Great Really Killed His Son

While some of us dream of being a prince or princess, historically speaking, being part of a royal family is often complicated, dramatic, and tragic. For some royal families in particular, no behavior is off limits, including murder. Attila the Hun murdered his brother; Henry VIII offed two of his wives; Elizabeth I had her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, beheaded — just to name a few. It could be argued, however, that none of those bonds are quite as strong as that between a parent and a child. Even still, there are multiple times throughout history where royal parents have killed their children, or vice versa. One of the most well known incidents involving royals slaying family members is that of Russia's Peter the Great and his son.

Peter I, aka Peter the Great (above), ruled Russia for decades, and is often recognized as the czar who brought the country into the modern era, according to History. His progressive reforms led to improvements across all aspects of Russian society as he rebelled against more traditional Russian standards. One duty he could not escape was that of bearing a new heir to the throne. In 1690 he accomplished this task with the birth of his son, Alexei. As king and heir, and more importantly as father and son, their relationship turned out to be extremely volatile.

A strained relationship breaks

Where Peter was an innovative and adventurous leader, Alexei (above) was the opposite. He apparently took more after his mother, an extremely conservative and pious woman, per History Collection. The czar banished Alexei's mother to a convent. This action, along with a few other incidents between the two, resulted in a very strained relationship, so much so that Peter no longer wanted Alexei to succeed him on the throne. Surprisingly enough, Alexei agreed to relinquish his title and live the quiet life of a monk, which should have been the end of it. Unfortunately, Alexei had a change of heart, and then made a decision which had catastrophic results.

Instead of going quietly to a monastery as had been discussed, Alexei fled to Austria with his mistress and three servants, as stated in History. Peter was completely furious and tracked down his wayward son in 1717. He sent Alexei a letter, stating that all would be forgiven and no punishment would befall him if he just came home without a fuss. This turned out to be a lie. Upon his return, Alexei was immediately disinherited and forced to reveal the names of his "accomplices" who helped him flee. After turning in his friends, he was put on trial, jailed, and tortured under suspicion of treason. About a week after being beaten — "flogged for days," says History Collection — and "confessing" to conspiring against the czar, Alexei succumbed to his wounds, thus dying at the hands of his own father.