Accompanied by a numerous and brilliant suite, the empress then repaired to the metropolitan church, where the archbishop and a great number of ecclesiastics, whose cooeperation had been secured, received her, and the venerable archbishop, a man of imposing character and appearance, dressed in his sacerdotal robes, led her to the altar, and placing the imperial crown upon her head, proclaimed her sovereign of all the Russias, with the title of Catharine the Second. A Te Deum was then chanted, and the shouts of the multitude proclaimed the cordiality with which the populace accepted the revolution. The empress then repaired to the imperial palace, which was thrown open to all the people, and which, for hours, was thronged with the masses, who fell upon their knees before her, taking their oath of allegiance.
The friends of Catharine were, in the meantime, everywhere busy in putting the city in a state of defense, and in posting cannon to sweep the streets should Peter attempt resistance. The tzar seemed to be left without a friend. No one even took the trouble to inform him of what was transpiring. Troops in the vicinity were marched into the city, and before the end of the day, Catharine found herself at the head of fifteen thousand men; the most formidable defenses were arranged, strict order prevailed, and not a drop of blood had been shed. The manifesto of the empress, which had been secretly printed, was distributed throughout the city, and a day appointed when the foreign embassadors would be received by Catharine. The revolution seemed already accomplished without a struggle and almost without an effort.
THE CONSPIRACY; AND ACCESSION OF CATHARINE II.
From 1762 to 1765.
Peter III. at Oranienbaum.—Catharine at Peterhof.—The Successful Accomplishment of the Conspiracy.—Terror of Peter.—His Vacillating and Feeble Character.—Flight to Cronstadt.—Repulse.—Heroic Counsel of Munich.—Peter’s Return to Oranienbaum.—His Suppliant Letters to Catharine.—His Arrest.—Imprisonment.—Assasination.—Proclamation of the Empress. Her Complicity in the Crime.—Energy of Catharine’s Administration.—Her Expansive Views and Sagacious Policy.—Contemplated Marriage with Count Orlof.
It was the morning of the 19th of July, 1762. Peter, at Oranienbaum, had passed most of the night, with his boon companions and his concubines, in intemperate carousings. He awoke at a late hour in the morning, and after breakfast set out in a carriage, with several of his women, accompanied by a troop of courtiers in other carriages, for Peterhof. The gay party were riding at a rapid rate over the beautiful shore road, looking out upon the Bay of Cronstadt, when they were met by a messenger from Peterhof, sent to inform them that the empress had suddenly disappeared during the night. Peter, upon receiving this surprising intelligence, turned pale as ashes, and alighting, conversed for some time anxiously with the messenger. Entering his carriage again, he drove with the utmost speed to Peterhof, and with characteristic silliness began to search the cupboards, closets, and under the bed for the empress. Those of greater penetration foresaw what had happened, but were silent, that they might not add to his alarm.