"The Corps of Pages dated from the year 1711, when the Court rank of 'Page' came into being. It slowly evolved over the following two centuries as almost every monarch changed or improved it - from 1759, when the 'Corps of Pages of the Empress Elisaveta Petrovna' came into being as a formal educational institution, until 1885, when the final reorganisation took place. In October of 1802, Emperor Alexander I gave the institution a charter and the name it bore until the revolution, 'His Imperial Majesty's Corps of Pages', putting into effect a plan drafted by his father a few years before.
In final form, the Corps was a military-educational institution of a very high standard which provided Pages for duty at the Court and which graduated officers for service in the Army. A small percentage of graduates entered the diplomatic or civil service. It was a matter of personal choice, each Page being free to decide which career he wished to follow.
Except by personal appointment of the Emperor or as the son of a Major-General killed in action, admission was only by a difficult competitive examination for which only the sons or grandsons of those on the top three levels of the Table of Ranks were eligible. As one could rise on the Table of Ranks only by service to the State and anyone could rise by such service, the social and cultural backgrounds of these sons of Russia's ruling elite were not as similar as one might be entitled to expect. All social and national groups were represented and most religions."