Maria Feodorovna (Russian: Мария Фёдоровна; née Duchess Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg; 25 October 1759 – 5 November 1828 [OS 24 October]) became Empress consort of Russia as the second wife of Emperor Paul I. She founded the Office of the Institutions of Empress Maria.
Daughter of Duke Frederick Eugene of Württemberg and Princess Friederike of Brandenburg-Schwedt, Sophie Dorothea belonged to a junior branch of the House of Württemberg and grew up in Montbéliard, receiving an excellent education for her time. After Grand Duke Paul (the future Paul I of Russia) became a widower in 1776, Frederick II of Prussia (Sophie Dorothea's maternal great-uncle) and Empress Catherine II of Russia chose Sophie Dorothea as the ideal candidate to become Paul's second wife. In spite of her fiancé's difficult character, she developed a long, peaceful relationship with Paul and converted to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1776, adopting the name Maria Feodorovna. During the long reign (1762-1796) of her mother-in-law, she sided with her husband and lost the initial affection the reigning Empress had for her. The couple were completely excluded from any political influence, as mother and son mistrusted each other. They were forced to live in isolation at Gatchina Palace, where they had many children together.
After her husband ascended the Russian throne in 1796, Maria Feodorovna had a considerable and beneficial influence during his four-year reign. On the night of Paul I's assassination (23 March [O.S. 11 March] 1801), she thought to imitate her mother-in-law's example and claim the throne, but her son, the future Emperor Alexander I, dissuaded her. She instead instituted the precedence whereby the Empress Dowager out-ranked the reigning monarch's wife, a system unique to the Russian court. Clever, purposeful and energetic, Maria Feodorovna founded and managed all the Empire's charitable establishments, re-modelled the palaces of Gatchina and Pavlovsk, and encouraged foreign links directed against Napoleon Bonaparte. She often gave political counsel to her children, who held her in great respect. The imperial family deeply mourned her death, and her successors regarded her as a role model.