The lords at Moscow had no faith in these words, and were persuaded that he was a spy sent by their enemy, the King of Poland. Though they watched him narrowly, he was not incommoded, and left the kingdom after having satisfied his desire to see all that was remarkable. His report to the German emperor was such that, two years after, he returned, in the quality of an embassador from Frederic III., with a letter to Ivan III., dated Ulm, December 26th, 1488. The nobles now received Poppel with great cordiality. He said to them:
“After having left Russia, I went to find the emperor and the princes of Germany at Nuremburg. I spent a long time giving them information respecting your country and the grand prince. I corrected the false impression, conceived by them, that Ivan III. was but the vassal of Casimir, King of Poland. ‘That is impossible,’ I said to them. ’The monarch of Moscow is much more powerful and much richer than the King of Poland. His estates are immense, his people numerous, his wisdom extraordinary.’ All the court listened to me with astonishment, and especially the emperor himself, who often invited me to dine, and passed hours with me conversing upon Russia. At length, the emperor, desiring to enter into an alliance with the grand prince, has sent me to the court of your majesty as his embassador.”
He then solicited, in the name of Frederic III., the hand of Ivan’s daughter, Helen, for the nephew of the emperor, Albert, margrave of Baden. The proposition for the marriage of the daughter of the grand prince with a mere margrave was coldly received. Ivan, however, sent an embassador to Germany with the following instructions:
“Should the emperor ask if the grand prince will consent to the marriage of his daughter with the margrave of Baden, reply that such an alliance is not worthy of the grandeur of the Russian monarch, brother of the ancient emperors of Greece, who, in establishing themselves at Constantinople, ceded the city of Rome to the popes. Leave the emperor, however, to see that there is some hope of success should he desire one of our princesses for his son, the King Maximilian.”
The Russian embassador was received in Germany with the most flattering attentions, even being conducted to a seat upon the throne by the side of the emperor. It is said that Maximilian, who was then a widower, wished to marry Helen, the daughter of the grand prince, but he wished, very naturally, first to see her through the eyes of his embassador, and to ascertain the amount of her dowry. To this request a polite refusal was returned.
“How could one suppose,” writes the Russian historian Karamsin, “that an illustrious monarch and a princess, his daughter, could consent to the affront of submitting the princess to the judgment of a foreign minister, who might declare her unworthy of his master?”