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Act of succession to the throne by Paul I published

16 April 1797

On April 5 (16), 1797 on the day of his coronation Emperor Paul I promulgated the Act of succession which abolished Peter’s Decree on succession of February 5 (16), 1722. The Act with slight amendments had been in effect until 1917.

Back in 1788 Tsesarevich Pavel Petrovich developed and signed together with his wife the Great Duchesse Maria Feodorovna the Act of succession to the throne. Paul’s intention was to exclude a possibility of removing from the throne rightful heirs. Tsesarevich introduced the succession according to the law. The Act ran: ‘in order that the state always has a heir, that the heir is always appointed by law itself, that there is not any doubt about who should inherit the throne, that the families’ right to succession is not violated and to avoid the troubles while passing from one kin to another’. Paul established the majority for emperors and heirs the age of 16; for other members of the imperial family the age of 20. If a heir under age was to mount the throne, a ruler and a tutor must be assigned. The Act also included an important provision declaring that a person who did not belong to the Orthodox Church could not ascend the Russian throne. 

After his coronation on April 5 (16), 1797 Paul I himself swore to the issued Act which was placed to the Dormition Cathedral and kept there.

On the same day the Emperor issued another Act, the Regulations on the Imperial family, which determined the members of the imperial family, their hierarchy, the civil rights of the Imperial House members, their duties to the Emperor; it also established the coats of arms, titles and the size of alimony.

In 1820 Emperor Alexander I supplemented the Act on succession with the requirement of kin equality in marriage as indispensable condition for succession to the throne by the children of the Imperial family members.

The Act on succession to the throne of Paul I along with subsequent acts regarding this issue was included in all the editions of the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire.

Lit.: Зызыкин М. Царская власть и закон о престолонаследии в России. София, 1924; Иоанн (Максимович М. Б.). Происхождение закона о престолонаследии в России. Шанхай, 1936.

From the Presidential library materials:

Павел I (1754–1801) // Династия Романовых. 400-летие Земского Собора 1613 года: коллекция;

Полное собрание законов Российской империи, с 1649 года. Собрание 1-е. Т. 24: С 6 ноября 1796 по 1798. СПб., 1830. № 17910.