Meanwhile, Elizabeth had made herself absolute mistress of the imperial palace. Hastening to the throne-room, she had taken possession of the throne of her father, and administered the oath of allegiance to the guards surrounding her.
They lay upon their knees before her, these cowardly instruments of despotism; they bowed their heads in the dust, and these four or five thousand slaves, to which number the followers of the empress already amounted, swore fealty to Elizabeth, ready to strangle the regent and the young emperor at her command, or to serve her the same if, peradventure, the regent should regain a momentary power.
While the guards were doing homage in the palace, Grunstein and Woronzow, by Lestocq’s command, led their men to Munnich’s and Ostermann’s, and both were imprisoned; with them, a great number of leading and suspected persons, who, perhaps, might have been disposed to draw the sword for Anna Leopoldowna. Lestocq had thought of every thing, had considered every thing; at the same time that he entered the regent’s palace with Elizabeth, he sent to the printer the manifesto which proclaimed Elizabeth as empress. With the appearance of the sun in the horizon, Elizabeth was recognized as empress in the capital, and soon after throughout the whole empire. Who were they who recognized her? It was not the people, for in Russia there are no people—there are only masters and slaves. Elizabeth had become empress because fortune and Anna Leopoldowna’s generous confidence had favored her; not the exigencies of the people, nor the tyranny of her predecessor had called her to the throne, but she had attained to it by the cunning and intrigues of some few confederates. She had become empress because Lestocq was tired of being only physician to a poor princess; because Grunstein thought the position of under-officer was far too humble for him, and because Alexis Razumovsky, the former precentor in the imperial chapel, found it desirable to add to his name the title of count or prince!
When St. Petersburg awoke it heard with astonishment the news of a new revolution. From mouth to mouth flew this astounding announcement: “We have changed our rulers! We are no longer the servants of the Emperor Ivan, but of the Empress Elizabeth! A new dynasty has arisen, and we have a new oath of allegiance to take!”
At first only a few ventured to spread this extraordinary intelligence, and these few were tremblingly and anxiously avoided; it was dangerous to listen to them; people fled from them without answering. But as the rumors became constantly louder and more significant, as at length their truth could no longer be doubted, as it became certain that the regent and her son were dethroned and Elizabeth was established in power, all the doubting and anxious faces were, as by an electric spark, lighted up with joy; then nothing was heard but the cry of triumph and jubilation; then was Anna Leopoldowna loudly cursed by those who had blessed her on the preceding day; then was the new Empress Elizabeth loudly lauded by those who yesterday had smiled with contempt at her powerlessness.