How did Fish Island become Moricsala?
There is no other island with such an illustrious history in Latvia, although back in 1726 it was a little-known island in Usma Lake called Fish (Zivju) Island. Moricsala gets its name from the historic events of 1726-1727, when the Count of Saxony Maurice de Saxe stayed there. At the time, passion was rife in Jelgava, the capital of the Duchy of Courland and the city was like a honeypot in attracting dozens of suitors to bid for the hand of the young widow of the Duke of Courland, the future Empress of Russia Anna Ivanovna. Anna took a great liking to Maurice, the Count of Saxony, and arranged for the thirty-year old to be appointed Duke of Courland and hoped to marry him. However, this marriage was not in the interests of Russia, and Knyaz Alexander Menshikov arrived from Riga to Jelgava with 1,000 dragoons, so Count Maurice was forced to flee on 20 July, 1727 and take shelter on the Zivju Island of Usma Lake.
Following a Russian siege, Maurice’s 300 soldiers surrendered during the night of 19 August. The duke himself, disguised as a butler, fled the island by swimming across the Ābeļkalniņš and Ozolsēklis sandbanks holding on to a horse. Maurice de Saxe set up residence in France, where nine years later he became Lieutenant General. Following several successful battles in various wars, in 1746 he was appointed Marshal of France and a year later appointed the commander of the conquered Netherlands.
Maurice died in 1750, at the age of 54, but still today he is remembered more often in Latvia than in France. Thus, the most beautiful island of Usma Lake received its name, while the local community of Usma celebrates the Maurice Festival on the first Saturday of each August – a romantic celebration of the summer and of the people.