The Empire of Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 601 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.
people with a sovereign, looked about to find for that sovereign a suitable wife.  Upon the banks of the Oder there was a small principality, as it was called, containing some thirteen hundred square miles, about the size of the State of Rhode Island.  Christian Augustus, the prince of this little domain, had a daughter, Sophia, a child rather remarkable both for beauty and vivacity.  She was one year younger than Peter, and Elizabeth fixed her choice upon Sophia as the future spouse of her nephew.  Peter was, at this time, with the empress in Moscow, and Sophia was sent for to spend some time in the Russian capital before the marriage, that she might become acquainted with the Russian language and customs.

Both of these children had been educated Protestants, but they were required to renounce the Lutheran faith and accept that of the Greek church.  Children as they were, they did this, of course, as readily as they would have changed their dresses.  With this change of religion Sophia received a new name, that of Catharine, and by this name she was ever afterward called.  When these children, to whom the government of the Russian empire was to be intrusted, first met, Peter was fifteen years of age and Catharine fourteen.  Catharine subsequently commenced a minute journal, an autobiography of these her youthful days, which opens vividly to our view the corruptions of the Russian court.  Nothing can be more wearisome than the life there developed.  No thought whatever seemed to be directed by the court to the interests of the Russian people.  They were no more thought of than the jaded horses who dragged the chariots of the nobles.  It is amazing that the indignation of the millions can have slumbered so long.

Catharine, in her memoirs, naively describes young Peter, when she first saw him, as “weak, ugly, little and sickly.”  From the age of ten he had been addicted to intoxicating drinks.  It was the 9th of February, 1744, when Catharine was taken to Moscow.  Peter, or, as he was then called, the grand duke, was quite delighted to see the pretty girl who was his destined wife, and began immediately to entertain Catharine, as she says, “by informing me that he was in love with one of the maids of honor to the empress, and that he would have been very glad to have married her, but that he was resigned to marry me instead, as his aunt wished it.”

The grand duke had the faculty of making himself excessively disagreeable to every one around him, and the affianced haters were in a constant quarrel.  Peter could develop nothing but stupid malignity.  Catharine could wield the weapons of keen and cutting sarcasm, which Peter felt as the mule feels the lash.  Catharine’s mother had accompanied her to Moscow, but the bridal wardrobe, for a princess, was extremely limited.

“I had arrived,” she writes, “in Russia very badly provided for.  If I had three or four dresses in the world, it was the very outside, and this at a court where people changed their dress three times a day.  A dozen chemises constituted the whole of my linen, and I had to use my mother’s sheets.”

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The Empire of Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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