THE TRIAL AND CONDEMNATION OF ALEXIS AND DEATH
OF THE TZAR.
From 1718 to 1725.
The Tzar’s Second Visit to Holland.—Reception in France.—Description of Catharine.—Domestic Grief.—Conduct of Alexis.—Letters from His Father.—Flight To Germany.—Thence to Naples.—Envoys Sent to Bring Him Back.—Alexis Excluded from the Succession.—His Trial for Treason.—Condemnation and Unexpected Death.—New Efforts of the Tzar for the Welfare of Russia.—Sickness of Peter.—His Death.—Succession of the Empress Catharine.—Epitaph to the Emperor.
From Holland the tzar went to Paris. Great preparations were made there for his reception, and apartments in the Louvre were gorgeously fitted up for the accommodation of him and his suite. But Peter, annoyed by parade, declined the sumptuous palace, and, the very evening of his arrival, took lodgings at the Hotel de Lesdiguieres. To those who urged his acceptance of the saloons of the Louvre he replied,
“I am a soldier. A little bread and beer satisfy me. I prefer small apartments to large ones. I have no desire to be attended with pomp and ceremony, nor to give trouble to so many people.”
Every hour of his stay in Paris was employed in studying the institutions of the realm, and the progress made in the arts and sciences. Standing by the tomb of Richelieu, which is one of the finest pieces of sculpture in Europe, he exclaimed,
“Thou great man! I would have given thee one half of my dominions to learn of thee how to govern the other half.”
All the trades and manufactures of the capital he examined with the greatest care, and took back with him to St. Petersburg a large number of the most skillful artists and mechanics. Leaving France he returned to Amsterdam, where he rejoined Catharine, and proceeded with her to Berlin. A haughty German lady, piqued, perhaps, that a woman not of noble birth should be an empress, thus describes the appearance of Catharine at that time:
“The tzarina is short and lusty, remarkably coarse, without grace and animation. One need only see her to be satisfied of her low birth. At the first blush one would take her for a German actress. Her clothes looked as if bought at a doll shop; every thing was so old fashioned and so bedecked with silver and tinsel. She was decorated with a dozen orders, portraits of saints, and relics, which occasioned such a clatter that when she walked one would suppose that an ass with bells was approaching. The tzar, on the contrary, was tall and well made. His countenance is handsome, but there is something in it so rude that it inspires one with dread. He was dressed like a seaman, in a frock, without lace or ornament."
[Footnote 14: Memoires de la Margrave de Bareith.]
On Peter’s return to Russia, he was compelled to meet and grasp a trouble which for fifteen years had embittered his life. His son, Alexis, had ever been a thorn in his father’s side. He was not only indolent and dissipated, but he was utterly opposed to all his father’s measures for reform, and was continually engaged in underhand measures to head a party against him. Upon the death of the unhappy princess of Wolfenbuttle, wife of this worthless prince, the grieved and indignant father wrote to him as follows: