Russian Empress Elisabeth’s passport

Peter III was emperor of Russia for a mere six months in 1762 before he was overthrown by his wife, Catherine the Great, and assassinated in 1762. During his reign, he withdrew from the Seven Year’s War and formed an alliance with Prussia to wage war against Denmark, which made him an unpopular leader. His wife, Catherine the Great, suspected he was set to divorce her and conspired with her lover to overthrow him. He was subsequently assassinated on July 17, 1762, in Ropsha, Russia.

Peter III

was born Karl Peter Ulrich on February 21, 1728, in Kiel, in the duchy of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany. The only son of Anna Petrovna and Charles Frederick, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp, he was the grandson of two emperors, Peter the Great of Russia and Charles XII of Sweden. Karl’s parents died when he was young, and he was placed in the care of tutors and officials at the Holstein court, who groomed him for the Swedish throne. Russian Empress Elisabeth’s passport

Karl was cruelly raised by his mentors and punished for being a poor student. Though he showed interest in the arts, he failed nearly every academic subject. He loved military parades and dreamed of being a world-famous military warrior. At age 14, he was brought to Russia by his aunt Elizabeth when she became empress, renamed Pyotr Fyodorovich, and proclaimed heir to the throne. Peter resented living in Russia and often complained the Russian people would never accept him.


On August 21, 1745, Peter married Sophie Frederica Auguste, a princess from Anhalt-Zerbst in Saxony, who took the name, Catherine. The marriage, politically arranged by Peter’s aunt, was a disaster from the start. Catherine was a young woman of prodigious intellect, while Peter was a child in a man’s body. They had one son, Paul, the future emperor, and a daughter, Anna, who died before she was 2. Later, Catherine alleged that Paul was not Peter’s son and that she and Peter had never consummated their marriage. During their 16 years together, Catherine and Peter took numerous lovers. Russian Empress Elisabeth’s passport

It is believed Empress Elizabeth shielded Peter from government affairs, possibly because she suspected he was mentally incapable. He hated being in Russia. His allegiance was toward his homeland and Prussia. He didn’t care about Russia’s people and hated the Orthodox Church. Nonetheless, Peter succeeded Elizabeth when she died on December 25, 1761. Much of what has been known about Peter III was drawn from his wife’s memoirs, which depict him as an idiot and a drunkard, prone to brutal practical jokes and interested only in playing soldier.

Peters’ Reign

Once on the throne, Peter III reversed his aunt’s foreign policy, withdrew Russia from the Seven Years’ War, and struck an alliance with Prussia, Russia’s enemy. He set out to wage war against Denmark and gain back his native land of Holstein. The move was seen as a betrayal of Russian war sacrifices and alienated him politically among the military and powerful court cliques. While historically Peter’s actions have been viewed as treasonous, recent scholarship has suggested they may have been part of a pragmatic plan to expand Russia’s influence westward. Russian Empress Elisabeth’s passport

Russian Empress Elisabeth's passport
Elisabeth Petrowna passport signed by Peter Augustus Friedrich Holstein-Beck, governor of Reval 1743-1753,  Reval Castle, Holstein, written in German, dated Reval castle May 1747.

Peter III also instituted many domestic reforms that today seem democratic, including proclaiming religious freedom, abolishing the secret police, and outlawing the killing of serfs by their landowners. He established the first state bank in Russia and encouraged mercantilism by increasing grain exports and placing embargos on materials that could be found in Russia.

There is wide speculation as to Peter III’s demise. Traditionally, it has been believed that he had alienated the Orthodox Church and much of the nobility with his reforms and that because his personality and policies were seen as so bizarre and unpredictable, these factions went to Catherine for help and plotted against him. But recent scholarship points to Catherine as the mastermind of a conspiracy to rid herself of her husband because she thought he was going to divorce her.

On June 28, 1762, Peter III was arrested and forced to abdicate. He was taken to Ropsha, outside St. Petersburg, where he was supposedly assassinated on July 17, though this has never been confirmed, and some evidence shows he might have committed suicide.

This is truly a document of significant Russian history and worth being in every collection. Extremely rare to find.

As I just learned from a attentive reader, the signature is NOT Peter’s III but Peter from Holstein: Peter Augustus Friedrich Holstein-Beck, governor of Reval 1743-1753. I really appreciate such readers who share there knowledge and help me to make my articles better and more accurate. THANK YOU, SIMON!


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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

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