Potemkin was born on October 11, 1739 into a family of middle-income noble landowners. The family claimed Polish ancestry. His father, Alexander Potemkin, was a decorated war veteran; his mother Daria was "good-looking, capable and intelligent", though their marriage proved ultimately unhappy. Potemkin received his first name in honour of his father's cousin Grigory Matveevich Kizlovsky, a civil servant who became his godfather. It has been suggested that Kizlovsky fathered Potemkin, who became the centre of attention, heir to the village and the only son among six children. As the son of an (albeit petty) noble family, he grew up with the expectation that he would serve the Russian Empire.