and offered to me, and which bore their titles, in large

time:2023-12-04 04:15:51source:xsnedit:android

Such a transit, of the Barbaric semi-fabulous Sovereignties, could not but be wonderful to everybody there. It evidently struck Wilhelmina's fancy, now in her ninth year, very much. What her little Brother did in it, or thought of it, I nowhere find hinted; conclude only that it would remain in his head too, visible occasionally to the end of his life. Wilhelmina's Narrative, very loose, dateless or misdated, plainly wrong in various particulars, has still its value for us: human eyes, even a child's, are worth something, in comparison to human want-of-eyes, which is too frequent in History-books and elsewhere!--Czar Peter is now forty-five, his Czarina Catherine about thirty-one. It was in 1698 that he first passed this way, going towards Saardam and practical Ship-building: within which twenty years what a spell of work done! Victory of Pultawa is eight years behind him; [27th June, 1709.] victories in many kinds are behind him: by this time he is to be reckoned a triumphant Czar; and is certainly the strangest mixture of heroic virtue and brutish Samoeidic savagery the world at any time had.

and offered to me, and which bore their titles, in large

It was Sunday, 19th September, 1717, when the Czar arrived in Berlin. Being already sated with scenic parades, he had begged to be spared all ceremony; begged to be lodged in Monbijou, the Queen's little Garden-Palace with river and trees round it, where he hoped to be quietest. Monbijou has been set apart accordingly; the Queen, not in the benignest humor, sweeping all her crystals and brittle things away; knowing the manners of the Muscovites. Nor in the way of ceremony was there much: King and Queen drove out to meet him; rampart-guns gave three big salvos, as the Czarish Majesty stept forth. "I am glad to see you, my Brother Friedrich," said Peter, in German, his only intelligible language; shaking hands with the Brother Majesty, in a cordial human manner. The Queen he, still more cordially, "would have kissed;" but this she evaded, in some graceful effective way. As to the Czarina,-- who, for OBSTETRIC and other reasons, of no moment to us, had stayed in Wesel all the time he was in France,--she followed him now at two days' distance; not along with him, as Wilhelmina has it. Wilhelmina says, she kissed the Queen's hand, and again and again kissed it; begged to present her Ladies,--"about four hundred so-called Ladies, who were of her Suite."--Surely not so many as four hundred, you too witty Princess? "Mere German serving-maids for the most part," says the witty Princess; "Ladies when there is occasion, then acting aa chambermaids, cooks, washerwomen, when that is over."

and offered to me, and which bore their titles, in large

Queen Sophie was averse to salute these creatures; but the Czarina Catherine making reprisals upon our Margravines, and the King looking painfully earnest in it, she prevailed upon herself. Was there ever seen such a travelling tagraggery of a Sovereign Court before? "Several of these creatures [PRESQUE TOUTES, says the exaggerative Princess] had, in their arms, a baby in rich dress; and if you asked, 'Is that yours, then?' they answered, making salaams in Russian style, 'The Czar did me the honor ( m'a fait l'honneur de me faire cet enfant )!'"--

and offered to me, and which bore their titles, in large

Which statement, if we deduct the due 25 per cent, is probably not mythic, after all. A day or two ago, the Czar had been at Magdeburg, on his way hither, intent upon inspecting matters there; and the Official Gentlemen,--President Cocceji (afterwards a very celebrated man) at the head of them,--waited on the Czar, to do what was needful. On entering, with the proper Address or complimentary Harangue, they found his Czarish Majesty "standing between two Russian Ladies," clearly Ladies of the above sort; for they stood close by him, one of his arms was round the neck of each, and his hands amused themselves by taking liberties in that posture, all the time Cocceji spoke. Nay, even this was as nothing among the Magdeburg phenomena. Next day, for instance, there appeared in the audience-chamber a certain Serene high-pacing Duke of Mecklenburg, with his Duchess;--thrice-unfortunate Duke, of whom we shall too often hear again; who, after some adventures, under Charles XII. first of all, and then under the enemies of Charles, had, about a year ago, after divorcing his first Wife, married a Niece of Peter's:--Duke and Duchess arrive now, by order or gracious invitation of their Sovereign Uncle, to accompany him in those parts; and are announced to an eager Czar, giving audience to his select Magdeburg public. At sight of which most desirable Duchess and Brother's Daughter, how Peter started up, satyr-like, clasping her in his arms, and snatching her into an inner room, with the door left ajar, and there--It is too Samoeidic for human speech! and would excel belief, were not the testimony so strong. [Pollnitz ( Memoiren, ii. 95) gives Friedrich Wilhelm as voucher, "who used to relate it as from eye-and-ear witnesses."] A Duke of Mecklenburg, it would appear, who may count himself the NON-PLUS-ULTRA of husbands in that epoch;--as among Sovereign Rulers, too, in a small or great way, he seeks his fellow for ill-luck!

Duke and Duchess accompanied the Czar to Berlin, where Wilhelmina mentions them, as presentees; part of those "four hundred" anomalies. They took the Czar home with them to Mecklenburg: where indeed some Russian Regiments of his, left here on their return from Denmark, had been very useful in coercing the rebellious Ritterschaft (KNIGHTAGE, or Landed-Gentry) of this Duke,--till at length the general outcry, and voice of the Reich itself, had ordered the said Regiments to get on march again, and take themselves away. [The LAST of them, "July, 1717; " two months ago. (Michaelis, ii. 418.)] For all is rebellion, passive rebellion, in Mecklenburg; taxes being so indispensable; and the Knights so disinclined; and this Duke a Sovereign,--such as we may construe from his quarrelling with almost everybody, and his NOT quarrelling with an Uncle Peter of that kind. [One poor hint, on his behalf, let us not omit: "WIFE quitted him in 1719, and lived at Moscow afterwards!" (General Mannstein, Memoirs of Russia, London, 1770, p. 27 n.)] His troubles as Sovereign Duke, his flights to Dantzig, oustings, returns, law-pleadings and foolish confusions, lasted all his life, thirty years to come; and were bequeathed as a sorrowful legacy to Posterity and the neighboring Countries. Voltaire says, the Czar wished to buy his Duchy from him. [Ubi supra, xxxi. 414.] And truly, for this wretched Duke, it would have been good to sell it at any price: but there were other words than his to such a bargain, had it ever been seriously meditated. By this extraordinary Duchess he becomes Father (real or putative) of a certain Princess, whom we may hear of; and through her again is Grandfather of an unfortunate Russian Prince, much bruited about, as "the murdered Iwan," in subsequent times. With such a Duke and Duchess let our acquaintance be the MINIMUM of what necessity compels.

Wilhelmina goes by hearsay hitherto; and, it is to be hoped, had heard nothing of these Magdeburg-Mecklenburg phenomena; but after the Czarina's arrival, the little creature saw with her own eyes:--

"Next day," that is, Wednesday, 22d "the Czar and his Spouse came to return the Queen's visit; and I saw the Court myself." Palace Grand-Apartments; Queen advancing a due length, even to the outer guard-room; giving the Czarina her right hand, and leading her into her audience-chamber in that distinguished manner: King and Czar followed close;--and here it was that Wilhelmina's personal experiences began. "The Czar at once recognized me, having seen me before, five years ago [March, 1713]. He caught me in his arms; fell to kissing me, like to flay the skin off my face. I boxed his ears, sprawled, and struggled with all my strength; saying I would not allow such familiarities, and that he was dishonoring me. He laughed greatly at this idea; made peace, and talked a long time with me. I had got my lesson: I spoke of his fleet and his conquests;--which charmed him so much, that he said more than once to the Czarina, 'If he could have a child like me, he would willingly give one of his Provinces in exchange.' The Czarina also caressed me a good deal. The Queen [Mamma] and she placed themselves under the dais, each in an arm-chair" of proper dignity; "I was at the Queen's side, and the Princesses of the Blood," Margravines above spoken of, "were opposite to her,"-- all in a standing posture, as is proper.

"The Czarina was a little stumpy body, very brown, and had neither air nor grace: you needed only look at her, to guess her low extraction." It is no secret, she had been a kitchen-wench in her Lithuanian native country; afterwards a female of the kind called unfortunate, under several figures: however, she saved the Czar once, by her ready-wit and courage, from a devouring Turkish Difficulty, and he made her fortunate and a Czarina, to sit under the dais as now. "With her huddle of clothes, she looked for all the world like a German Play-actress; her dress, you would have said, had been bought at a second-hand shop; all was out of fashion, all was loaded with silver and greasy dirt. The front of her bodice she had ornamented with jewels in a very singular pattern: A double-eagle in embroidery, and the plumes of it set with poor little diamonds, of the smallest possible carat, and very ill mounted. All along the facing of her gown were Orders and little things of metal; a dozen Orders, and as many Portraits of saints, of relics and the like; so that when she walked, it was with a jingling, as if you heard a mule with bells to its harness."--Poor little Czarina; shifty nutbrown fellow-creature, strangely chased about from the bottom to the top of this world; it is evident she does not succeed at Queen Sophie Dorothee's Court!--


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