From the moment of his birth, Peter was caught up in a complex dynastic and political situation dominated by brutal conflicts between different factions and personalities. His father, the Tsar Alexis, had married as his first wife Maria Miloslavskaya, a member of a minor noble family. By her he had no fewer than thirteen children; but of the sons of this first marriage only two, Feodor (Theodore) and Ivan, survived him, and both of these were in poor health from birth. Feodor, though he was officially recognized as having come of age in 1674, was so delicate that he was not expected ever to reign. Ivan was an even more pathetic creature, almost blind, mentally deficient and with a speech defect. Six daughters of this marriage also survived; of these, Sophia was to prove one of the most remarkable figures in the whole of Russian history. As a result of Alexis’s first marriage, the Miloslavskiis, a family hitherto obscure and with no significant record of state service, achieved for a number of years a leading position at court which aroused the envy and dislike of older and more prominent noble houses. This was lost, however, upon the death of Maria Miloslavskaya in 1669 and the remarriage of the tsar to Natalia Naryshkina, also a member of a relatively unimportant landowning family. Peter was her first child. Unlike his half-brothers he was lively and healthy from birth. The tsar’s second marriage meant that the Naryshkin family used its newly won importance, as the Miloslavskiis had done earlier, to further the interests of its members. The two families thus formed competing court factions or at least provided the nuclei for them. It would be a mistake, however, to assume that they stood in any significant way for differing policies. It is true that the foster-father of Natalia Naryshkina, Artamon Matveev, 22who had become head of the Posolskii Prikaz in 1671, was one of the most progressive and westernized figures in Russia. His wife was the daughter of a Scottish officer in Russian service. His substantial library, his interest in the theatre now just beginning to take root in Russia, his responsiveness to innovations of many kinds, mark him out as quite untypical of his class even in an age of accelerating change. Yet to identify the Naryshkin party with progress and the Miloslavskii one with resistance to it would be an oversimplification. The Miloslavskiis, for example, were stronger supporters than their rivals of the Polish and Ukrainian influences which, as has been seen, were in many ways the most important leaven at work in late seventeenth-century Russia. The factional struggle was for position, for power and ultimately for the physical survival of the contestants rather than over policies or ideas.