She consequently signed the command to bring back Anna Leopoldowna and her husband from the citadel of Riga to the interior of Russia, and place them in strict confinement in Raninburg.
She also signed another order, and that was to rend the young Ivan from the arms of his mother, to take him to the castle of Schlusselburg, and there to hold him in strict imprisonment, to grow up without teachers, or any kind of instruction, and without the least occupation or amusement.
“I well know,” said she, with a sigh, as she signed the document—“I well know that it would be better for this Ivan to be executed for high-treason than to remain in this condition, but I lack the courage for it. It is so horrible to kill a poor, innocent child!”
“And in this way we attain our end more safely,” said Lestocq, with a smile. “Your majesty has sworn to take the life of no one; very well, you keep your word as to physical life—we do not destroy the body but the spirit of this boy Ivan! We raise him as an idiot, which is the surest means of rendering him innoxious!”
Elizabeth had signed the order, and her command was executed. They took from Anna Leopoldowna her last joy, her only consolation—they took away her son, whose smiling face had lighted her prison as with sunbeams, whose childishly stammered words had sounded to her as the voice of an angel from heaven.
They took the poor weeping child to Schlusselburg, and his crushed and heart-broken parents first to Raninburg, and finally to the fortress Kolmogory, situated upon an island in the Dwina, near to that gulf which, on account of its never-melting ice, has obtained the name of the White Sea.
No one could rescue poor Anna Leopoldowna from that fortress—no one could release her son, the poor little Emperor Ivan, from Schlusselburg! They were rendered perfectly inoffensive; Elizabeth had not killed them, she had only buried them alive, this good Russian empress!
And, nevertheless, she still trembled upon her throne, she still felt unsafe in her imperial magnificence! She yet trembled on account of another pretender, the Duke Karl Peter Ulrich of Holstein, who, as the son of an elder daughter of Peter the Great, had a more direct claim to the throne than Elizabeth herself.
That no party might declare for him and invite him to Russia, her ministers advised the empress herself to send for him, and declare him her successor. Elizabeth followed this advice, and the young Duke Peter Ulrich of Holstein accepted her call. Declining the crown of Sweden, he professed the Greek religion in St. Petersburg, was clothed with the title of grand prince by Elizabeth, and declared her successor to the throne of the czars.
Elizabeth could now undisturbedly enjoy her imperial splendor. The successor to the throne was assured, Anna Leopoldowna languished in the fortress of Kolmogory, and in Schlusselburg the little Emperor Ivan was passing his childish dream-life! Who was there now to contest her rights—who would dare an attempt to shake a throne which rested upon such safe pillars of public favor, and which so many new-made counts and barons protected with their broad shoulders and nervous arms?