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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/513

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MENTAL AND MORAL HEREDITY IN ROYALTY.

acters; three of these are children, two are grandchildren and one is a great-grandchild of Peter the Great. Thus in this arrangement we see the principle of heredity which calls for a closer resemblance among those more closely related in kin.

Of Ivan's children, Catharine was as good as the Empress Anne was inconsistent, vindictive, cruel, passionate and sentimental. Catharine married average stock, but her daughter, Anne, was passionate, indolent, capricious and weak. Anne married the excellent but mediocre Anton Ulric, of Brunswick, which family we have already seen to be full of virtue and literary tastes, so that the next generation brings one parent and three grandparents free from the taint.

We now get just what we might expect, in spite of the fact that the five children were all taken when infants and for political reasons imprisoned for thirty-six years. Ivan the eldest was almost an imbecile and showed occasional symptoms of insanity.[1] This imbecility might be attributed to the imprisonment, which was extremely severe, but the other four children help us out. The following is taken from Coxe, a very accurate historian:

Elizabeth, the youngest sister, was a woman of high spirit and elegant manners. On being released she wrote a letter of thanks to the empress so well expressed as to excite admiration how she could have obtained sufficient instruction during her long confinement.

The other children were mediocre and in no way peculiar. "They amuse themselves with reading, playing billiards and cards, riding and walking. They walk much about the town and in the environs, and drive out in carriages; the princes frequently ride and particularly Alexis, who is very fond of that exercise, and said to be an expert. They not infrequently pay visits in the country and dine with the neighboring families."[2]

Thus among five children exposed to a very unusual environment from infancy we find a result showing little influence other than should be expected from heredity. Three were mediocre representing the majority of the strain, one was an imbecile, corresponding to the combined influence of his mother and great-grandfather, Ivan, and one was spirited and cultivated in spite of it all, and rose very nearly as high as any of the immediate ancestors. Of course such remarkable circumstances must have modified the characters of the four normal ones, at least to some noteworthy extent, such as raising one of the sons above the absolute mediocrity in which we find them; but I do contend that even these deviate very little from what is to be expected from the principles of heredity as we usually expect them to act.

Alexis, Peter the Great's son by his first wife, Eudoria Lapookin, was a very poor specimen.


  1. Coxe, 'Travels,' III., p. 51.
  2. Coxe, 'Travels,' V., p. 19.