Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov was born on 5th October 1737 in Tver Province in Russia. His father, Grigory Ivanovich Orlov, was the governor of Novgorod. Therefore, he was a scion of a noble family in Russia during the Renaissance era. Moreover, his brother was Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov, who later became a lover of Catherine the Great. He grew to be a tall man towering over 2 meters tall. He joined the Russian Preobrazhensky Regiment, where he attained the rank of sergeant in 1762. His nickname scarface originated from the scar on his cheek, which he was inflicted in his dueling championships, which he won most of the time. As a soldier, he was widely remembered for his role in the Seven Years War. However, he was injured when fighting in the Battle of Zorndorf.
Tsar Peter III was growing unpopular amongst his subjects due to his policies. In July of 1962, Alexei and his brother, Grigory, planned and executed a coup de tat against the emperor. They overthrew the emperor and installed his wife, Catherine the Great, as his successor. In the infamous coup, Alexei found Catherine in bed at the Peterhof Palace and woke her up to tell her of the upcoming enthroning plans. He drove her to St Petersburg, where the regiment guards proclaimed their undying loyalty to her.
Tsar Peter III was placed under the guard of Alexei after being arrested and imprisoned. He later died mysteriously on 17th July 1762, with the official account stating that he died of haemorrhoidal colic. However, it is widely believed that Alexei killed him on his volition or Catherine’s orders. After his death, a letter widely circulated that Tsar Peter was killed by Alexei in a drunken brawl when he was defending himself against a possible poisoning incident.
Catherine the Great Reign
Alexei and his brother were rewarded handsomely by Catherine the Great. They were awarded 50000 roubles and 800 serfs. Besides, the large estates he was awarded allowed him to breed horses resulting in the Orlov Trotter breed. Moreover, he popularized a chicken breed which was referred to as Orloff. He served as the founder and first elected chairman of the Free Economic Society. He corresponded with notable scientists such as Denis Fonvizin and Mikhail Lomonosov and the famed renaissance philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau. This is despite lacking formal education and competence in foreign languages.
Additionally, he was promoted to the Major General rank of the Russian army. In this capacity, he organized the First Archipelago Expedition and commanded a squadron of the Imperial Russian Navy during the Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774. With the help of the British navy, he fought and won the Battle of Chesma against the invading Ottoman army. This victory gave him the highly sought-after Russian military title: Chesmensky. Additionally, for his exploits in the war, Alexei Orlov was awarded the Order of St.George First Class. His success inspired an Orlov revolt in Greece against the Ottoman conquest. However, it was crushed by the Ottoman military due to a lack of support from the Russian allies.
In 1772, he was sent to Focşani as a diplomat to mediate an impasse. However, his impatience foiled the ongoing negotiations, which annoyed the empress. In 1775, he was sent to spy on Yelizaveta Alekseyevna, claiming to be the daughter of Empress Elizabeth of Russia. She was a pretender to the throne, and he won her easily by pretending to be an ardent supporter of hers. He seduced and lured her into a Russian ship in Livorno. She was arrested and delivered to Russia, where she later died.
Post-Catherine The Great Reign
Alexei was ordered to carry the Imperial Crown in front of Tsar Peter III’s coffin after Tsar Paul I ordered for a grand burial. Tsar Paul, I ascended to the throne after the death of his mother, Catherine the Great, in 1796. Alexei left Russia immediately returning to Moscow once Tsar Paul I died and was succeeded by Tsar Alexander I. he was thought to be the mastermind behind Tsar Paul’s assassination. In 1806-7, he led the fifth district of the militia during the War of the Fourth Coalition, which he fully funded.
Death and Legacy
Alexei died on 5th January 1808. His daughter, Anna Orlova-Tshesmenskaja (1785–1848), and his son Ivan (1786–1787) survived him. His wife, Eukodia, died in 1786 as she was birthing Ivan. He had married her on 6th May 1782. His estate was worth 5 million roubles and 30000 serfs at the time of his death.