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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 503 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.

“Just as I was about to fold up this letter, I received yours of the 10th of July, in which you inform me of the adventure that happened to my ’Instruction’[22] in France.  I knew that anecdote, and even the appendix to it, in consequence of the order of the Duke of Choiseul.  I own that I laughed on reading it in the newspapers, and I found that I was amply revenged.”

[Footnote 22:  Her majesty’s instruction for a code of laws.]

CHAPTER XXVI.

REIGN OF CATHARINE II.

From 1774 to 1781.

Peace with Turkey.—­Court of Catharine II.—­Her Personal Appearance and Habits.—­Conspiracy and Rebellion.—­Defeat of the Rebels.—­Magnanimity of Catharine II.—­Ambition of the Empress.—­Court Favorite.—­Division of Russia into Provinces.—­Internal Improvements.—­New Partition of Poland.—­Death of the Wife of Paul.—­Second Marriage of the Grand Duke.—­Splendor of the Russian Court.—­Russia and Austria Secretly Combine to Drive the Turks out of Europe.—­The Emperor Joseph II.

In 1774 peace was concluded with Turkey, on terms which added greatly to the renown and grandeur of Russia.  By this treaty the Crimea was severed from the Ottoman Porte, and declared to be independent.  Russia obtained the free navigation of the Black Sea, the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.  Immense tracts of land, lying on the Euxine, were ceded to Russia, and the Grand Seignior also paid Catharine a large sum of money to defray the expenses of the war.  No language can describe the exultation which this treaty created in St. Petersburg.  Eight days were devoted, by order of the empress, to feasts and rejoicings.  The doors of the prisons were thrown open, and even the Siberian exiles were permitted to return.

The court of Catharine II. at this period was the most brilliant in Europe.  In no other court was more attention paid to the most polished and agreeable manners.  The expenditure on her court establishment amounted to nearly four millions of dollars a year.  In personal appearance the empress was endowed with the attractions both of beauty and of queenly dignity.  A cotemporary writer thus describes her: 

“She is of that stature which is necessarily requisite to perfect elegance of form in a lady.  She has fine large blue eyes, with eyebrows and hair of a brownish color.  Her mouth is well-proportioned, chin round, with a forehead regular and open.  Her hands and arms are round and white, and her figure plump.  Her bosom is full, her neck high, and she carries her head with peculiar grace.

“The empress never wears rich clothes except on solemn festivals, when her head and corset are entirely set with brilliants, and she wears a crown of diamonds and precious stones.  Her gait is majestic; and, in the whole of her form and manner there is something so dignified and noble, that if she were to be seen without ornament or any outward marks of distinction, among a great number of ladies of rank, she would be immediately esteemed the chief.  She seems born to command, though in her character there is more of liveliness than of gravity.  She is courteous, gentle, benevolent and outwardly devout.”

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