The Bobrinsky Palace on the Moika is located in a quiet area of Saint Petersburg – between New Holland Island and Galernaya Street. The façade faces the Admiralty Canal Embankment. This is the palace of Alexei Bobrinsky, an illegitimate son of Catherine the Great and Grigory Orlov.
As one colorful legend would have it, the name Bobrinsky (literally: of beaver, belonging to beaver) comes from the fact that immediately upon his birth he was wrapped up in a beaver fur coat and sent away from the palace to prevent Paul III (the cuckold husband of Catherine the Great) from seeing him.
However, the more likely explanation of his last name is derived from Bobriki, a village in the Tula area where he was brought up.
Catherine sent him a letter in 1781, in which she acknowledged her maternity. It was in this letter that she settled on the name Bobrinsky.
A fascinating story of Bobrinskys birth
Yet there is another fascinating story related to Bobrinskys birth, and this one has been confirmed by historical documents: Vasily Shkurin, Catherine’s valet, set his own house on fire on the day Catherine was giving birth. He knew how fond Peter III was of fires and rightly guessed that the Emperor would rush there along with the fire brigade. The trick worked, and the Empress could give birth with her husband not knowing a thing.
Alexis Bobrinsky, natural son of Catherine II and of Prince Gregory Orloff, was born in the year 1762, and received at first the name of Romanoff, exchanged afterwards for that of Bobrinsky, on account of the estate called Bobriki, in the government of Toula, bestowed upon him by his mother. Paul I. created him Count in the year 1796, November 12th.
A handbook of the principal families in Russia, Petr Vladimirovich Dolgorukov, 1858
The Bobrinksy family owned the palace from 1797 to 1917. In 1919 the family emmigrated to France