Vassili hated the pope, because he had ordered Te Deums in Rome, in celebration of a victory which the Poles had obtained over the Russians, and had called the Russians heretics. But still the bait the pope presented was too alluring not to be caught at. In the labyrinthine mazes of politics, however, there were obstacles to the development of this policy which years only could remove.
Upon the death of Maximilian, Charles V. of Spain ascended the throne of the German empire, and established a power, the most formidable that had been known in Europe for seven hundred years, that is, since the age of Charlemagne. Vassili was in the midst of these plans of aggrandizement when death came with its unexpected summons. He was in the fifty-fourth year of his age, with mental and physical vigor unimpaired. A small pimple appeared on his left thigh, not larger than the head of a pin, but from its commencement attended with excruciating pain. It soon resolved itself into a malignant ulcer, which rapidly exhausted all the vital energies. The dying king was exceedingly anxious to prepare himself to stand before the judgment seat of God. He spent days and nights in prayer, gave most affectionate exhortations to all around him to live for heaven, assumed monastic robes, resolving that, should he recover, he would devote himself exclusively to the service of God. It was midnight the 3d of December, 1533. The king had just partaken of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Suddenly his tongue was paralyzed, his eyes fixed, his hands dropped by his side, and the metropolitan bishop, who had been administering the last rites of religion, exclaimed, “It is all over. The king is dead.”
IVAN IV.—HIS MINORITY.
From 1533 to 1546.
Vassili At the Chase.—Attention To Distinguished Foreigners.—The Autocracy.—Splendor of the Edifices.—Slavery.—Aristocracy.—Infancy of Ivan IV.—Regency of Helene.—Conspiracies and Tumults.—War with Sigismond of Poland.—Death of Helene.—Struggles of the Nobles.—Appalling Sufferings of Dmitri.—Incursion of the Tartars.—Successful Conspiracy.—Ivan IV. At the Chase.—Coronation of Ivan IV.
Under Vassili, the Russian court attained a degree of splendor which had before been unknown. The Baron of Herberstein thus describes the appearance of the monarch when engaging in the pleasures of the chase:
“As soon as we saw the monarch entering the field, we dismounted and advanced to meet him on foot. He was mounted upon a magnificent charger, gorgeously caparisoned. He wore upon his head a tall cap, embroidered with precious stones, and surmounted by gilded plumes which waved in the wind. A poignard and two knives were attached to his girdle. He had upon his right, Aley, tzar of Kazan, armed with a bow and arrows; at his left, two young princes, one of whom held an ax, and the other a number of arms. His suite consisted of more than three hundred cavaliers.”