The marriage was performed by the bishop in the church of Notre Dame. “You are now,” said the metropolitan, in conclusion, “united for ever, by virtue of the mysteries of the gospel. Prostrate yourselves, then, before the Most High, and secure his favor by the practice of every virtue. But those virtues which should especially distinguish you, are the love of truth and of benevolence. Prince, love and honor your spouse. Princess, truly Christian, be submissive to your husband; for as the Redeemer is the head of the church, so is man the head of the woman.”
For many days Moscow was surrendered to festivity and rejoicings. The emperor devoted his attention to the rich, the empress to the poor. Anastasia, since the death of her father, had lived remote from the capital, in the most profound rural seclusion. Suddenly, and as by magic, she found herself transported to the scenes of the highest earthly grandeur, but still she maintained the same beautiful simplicity of character which she had developed in the saddened home of her widowed mother. Ivan IV. was a man of ungovernable passions, and accustomed only to idleness, he devoted himself to the most gross and ignoble pleasures. Mercilessly he confiscated the estates of those who displeased him, and with caprice equal to his mercilessness, he conferred their possessions upon his favorites. He seemed to regard this arbitrary conduct as indicative of his independence and grandeur.
The situation of Russia was perhaps never more deplorable than at the commencement of the reign of Ivan IV. The Glinskys were in high favor, and easily persuaded the young emperor to gratify all their desires. Laden with honors and riches, they turned a deaf ear to all the murmurs which despotism, the most atrocious, extorted from every portion of the empire. The inhabitants of Pskof, oppressed beyond endurance by an infamous governor, sent seventy of their most influential citizens to Moscow to present their grievances to the emperor. Ivan IV. raved like a madman at what he called the insolence of his subjects, in complaining of their governor. Almost choking with rage, he ordered the seventy deputies to be put to death by the most cruel tortures.
Anastasia wept in anguish over these scenes, and her prayers were incessantly ascending, that God would change the heart of her husband. Her prayers were heard and answered. The same power which changed Saul of Tarsus into Paul the Apostle, seemed to renew the soul of Ivan IV. History is full of these marvelous transformations—a mental phenomenon only to be explained by the scriptural doctrine of regeneration. In Ivan’s case, as in that of thousands of others, afflictions were instruments made available by the Holy Spirit for the heart’s renewal.
Moscow was at this time a capital of vast extent and of great magnificence. As timber was abundant and easily worked, most of the buildings, even the churches and the palaces, were constructed of wood. Though almost every house was surrounded by a garden, these enclosures were necessarily not extensive, and the city was peculiarly exposed to the perils of conflagration.