The empress was fond of music, and introduced to Russia the opera and the theater. She was as intolerent to the Jews as her father had been, banishing them all from the country. She lived in constant fear of conspiracies and revolutions, and, as a desperate safeguard, established a secret inquisitorial court to punish all who should express any displeasure with the measures of government. Spies and informers of the most worthless character filled the land, and multitudes of the most virtuous inhabitants of the empire, falsely accused, or denounced for a look, a shrug, or a harmless word, were consigned to mutilation more dreadful and to exile more gloomy than the grave.
PETER III. AND HIS BRIDE.
From 1728 to 1762.
Lineage of Peter III.—Chosen by Elizabeth
as Her Successor.—The
Bride Chosen for Peter.—Her Lineage.—The Courtship.—The
Marriage.—Autobiography of Catharine.—Anecdotes of Peter.—His
Neglect of Catharine and His Debaucheries.—Amusements of the Russian
Court.—Military Execution of a Rat.—Accession of Peter III. to the
Throne.—Supremacy of Catharine.—Her Repudiation Threatened.—The
Conspiracy.—Its Successful Accomplishment.
Peter the Third was grandson of Peter the Great. His mother, Anne, the eldest daughter of Peter and Catharine, married the Duke of Holstein, who inherited a duchy on the eastern shores of the Baltic containing some four thousand square miles of territory and about three hundred thousand inhabitants. Their son and only child, Peter, was born in the ducal castle at Kiel, the capital of the duchy, in the year 1728. The blood of Peter the Great of Russia, and of Charles the Twelfth of Sweden mingled in the veins of the young duke, of which fact he was exceedingly proud. Soon after the birth of Peter, his mother, Anne, died. The father of Peter was son of the eldest sister of Charles XII., and, as such, being the nearest heir, would probably have succeeded to the throne of Sweden had not the king’s sudden death, by a cannon ball, prevented him from designating his successor. The widowed father of Peter, thus disappointed in his hopes of obtaining the crown of Sweden, which his aunt Ulrica, his mother’s sister, successfully grasped, lived in great retirement. The idea had not occurred to him that the crown of imperial Russia could, by any chance, descend to his son, and the education of Peter was conducted to qualify him to preside over his little patrimonial duchy.
When young Peter was fourteen years of age, the Empress Elizabeth, his maternal aunt, to the surprise and delight of the family, summoned the young prince to St. Petersburg, intimating her intention to transmit to him her crown. But Peter was a thoroughly worthless boy. All ignoble qualities seemed to be combined in his nature without any redeeming virtues. Elizabeth having thus provided twenty millions of