“I fear that I have not sufficiently thanked you for the care which you took of the empress when she was last ill. Be to her for the future what you have been in my life-time, and salute my beautiful Peterhoff, the first time you go there with her.”
These interviews being closed, he addressed his son and Count d’Adelberg respecting his obsequies. He selected the room in which his remains were to be laid out, and the spot for his tomb in the cathedral of the Apostles Peter and Paul. “Let my funeral,” said he, “be conducted with the least possible expense or display, as all the resources of the empire are now needed for the prosecution of the war.” While conversing, news came that dispatches had arrived from Sevastopol. The emperor deeming that he had already abdicated, declined perusing them, saying, “I have nothing more to do with earth.” Alexander sat for several hours at the bed side, receiving the last directions of his father.
On the 2d of March the emperor remained upon his bed, unable to articulate a word, and with difficulty drawing each breath. At noon he revived a little and requested his son, in his name, to thank the garrison at Sevastopol for their heroism. He then sent a message to the King of Prussia, whose sister he had married. “Say to Frederic that I trust he will remain the same friend of Russia he has ever been, and that he will never forget the dying words of our father.”
The agony of death was now upon him, and he was speechless. His confessor repeated the prayers for the dying. At twenty minutes past twelve he expired, holding, till the last moment, the hand of the empress and of his son Alexander.
Alexander II., who now occupies the throne, was born the 29th of April, 1818. He is a young man of noble character and very thoroughly educated. At the age of sixteen, according to the laws of the empire, he was declared to be of age and took the oath of allegiance to the throne. From that time he lived by his father’s side in the cabinet and in the court. His fare was frugal, his bed hard, and his duties arduous in the extreme. In April, 1841, he married the princess Maria, daughter of the Grand Duke of Darmstadt. She is reported to be a lady of many accomplishments and of the most sincere and unaffected piety. He is himself a man of deep religious feeling, and many who know him, esteem him to be a sincere and spiritual Christian. What character the temptations of the throne may develop, time only can determine. He is now struggling, against the opposition of the nobles, to emancipate the boors from the slavery of serfdom, being ambitious of elevating all his subjects to the highest manhood. The temporal welfare of perhaps ninety millions of men is placed in the hands of this one monarch. An indiscreet act may plunge all Russia into the horrors of a civil war, or kindle flames of strife through Europe which no power but that of God can quench. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon him, and the friends of the Redeemer, the world over, watch his movements with solicitude and with prayer.