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Dresden he went on to Carlsbad, and in the neighboring little town of Schlackenwerth he met for the first time the Princess Charlotte of Wolfenbüttel, whom it had been arranged that he should marry.
The house of Brunswick, one branch of which sat on the throne of Hanover, was connected with most of the reigning families of Europe. The Princess Charlotte, granddaughter of the reigning Duke Anton Ulrich, was sister of the wife of the Austrian Archduke Charles, then a claimant to the Spanish throne, and in 1711 Emperor of Germany. She was educated at the Saxon court by her aunt, the Queen of Poland. Although negotiations for this marriage had been going on for some years, Alexis had never been told by his father what he was expected to do. He knew well enough that he was to marry a foreigner, and he had hints from others of the person destined for him.
The interview at Schlackenwerth passed off pleasantly, and both Alexis and Charlotte seemed to be favorably impressed with each other. In a letter written soon after this, to his confessor, Alexis tells of the circumstances, and says that his father had written to him to know how she pleased him. "So now I know that he wishes to marry me, not to a Russian, but to one of those people, according to my choice. wrote to him that, if it is his will that I should marry a foreigner, I will marry this princess, whom I have seen, and who pleases me, and who is a good fellow, and better than whom I cannot find. I beg you to pray for me if it is the will of God that this be accomplished, if not that it may be hindered, for my hope is in Him. What He wishes will happen." In the autumn of 1710 Alexis went twice to Torgau, and at last formally demanded the hand of the princess from the Queen of Poland. The marriage was deferred, and Alexis went back to his studies and his lonely life at Dresden. He was greatly troubled that he had no priest with him, and wrote to Ignátief to find one capable of keeping at secret. "He must be young, unmarried, and unknown to every one. Tell him to come to me in great secrecy, to lay aside all marks of his condition, to shave his beard and his hair, and to wear a wig and German clothes."
After the campaign on the Pruth, Peter, as we remember, hastened to Carlsbad, and, after his cure, went to Torgau, where, on the 25th of October, 1711, the marriage of Alexis and Charlotte was celebrated in the
castle of the Queen of Poland. Four days after the ceremony, Alexis was ordered to go to Thorn and see to the forwarding of provisions for the Russian troops in Pomerania. A little respite was given, for he was allowed to visit Wolfenbüttel with his bride. With the spring, Alexis was obliged to go to the army in Pomerania, while the Crown Princess had to move to Elbing. Here she received frequent and regular letters from her husband, as well as a visit from the Tsar and Catherine, both of whom were most kind. She adds, in writing to her mother, that her joy was diminished by seeing how little the Tsar loved the Tsarévitch, and she begged Catherine to interfere in her husband's behalf. In October, the Crown Princess received orders from the Tsar to go to St. Petersburg. From all that she had heard, and from much that she had seen, she had fear of the Russians, and disliked to go alone to St. Petersburg. Then, too, certain things which had been said to her threw her into despair. She imagined that her husband never had loved her and that Catherine hated her. In this frame of mind, instead of going to Russia, she made a visit to her family at Wolfenbüttel, so that when Alexis passed through Elbing he did not find her. It was not until the spring of 1713 that she arrived in St. Petersburg, but her husband was then with the Tsar on an expedition in Finland, and did not return until late in the summer. The meeting of husband and wife after this absence of over a year was cordial and affectionate, and at first everything went well. Soon there came difficulties, a coolness with Catherine and with the Tsar's sister Natalia, troubles on account of the bad composition of the little court, and especially on account of want of money. Although Alexis was a good manager, yet he had not income enough to keep his household in the state in which he needed to live. To this we must add the love of the Tsarévitch for strong drink, his carouses with his friends, and his frequent fits of drunkenness, in which he not only treated his wife brutally, but spoke of her in terms of contempt to his servants. The health of Alexis failed, his physicians thought that he had consumption and that his condition was a serious one, and they advised him to go to Carlsbad. wife was the last to know of his resolution, and it was only when everything was ready, and he was about to take his seat in the carriage, that he bade her good-bye
- with "Adieu! I am going to Carlsbad." | Alexis was born too late. This was on the 15th of June, 1714. There to the past generation. Not only did he take no interest in the work and plans of his father, but he gradually came to dislike and hate them.
were indeed reasons for reticence, because the country through which he had to pass was not without danger, and he wished to keep his departure a secret from the foreign ministers. He traveled in the guise of a simple officer. But the coldness and indifference affected Charlotte, and during the six months of his absence he never wrote her a word. On the 23d of July she gave birth to a daughter, Natalia, but Alexis did not seem to trouble himself about the matter. At the end of December Alexis returned to St. Petersburg. At first his conduct was exemplary. He was affectionate to his wife, and was delighted with his little daughter. A little later, Charlotte wrote to her family that he conducted himself as before, with the only difference that she saw him less frequently. He had fallen in love with Afrosinia, a Finn, and serf of his teacher Viázemsky, brought her to his house, and continued in relations with her during the rest of his life. Foreigners noticed that, in society, Alexis never spoke to his wife, and said that he scarcely saw her once a week. Nevertheless there were occasional glimpses of happiness-Alexis was fond of his child, and every mark of love soothed the heart of the mother. On the 23d of October, 1715, a son was born, who subsequently became the Emperor Peter II. Four days afterward the state of the mother took a turn for the worse, a fever set in, and toward midnight on the 1st of November she died. Alexis had not left her bedside during the last days, had fainted three times, and seemed inconsolable at her death. He took the children in his arms and carried them to his own room.
The day after the funeral, Catherine gave birth to a boy. The long smoldering conflict between father and son now broke forth.
FATHER AND SON.
THE opposition between Peter and his son was passive-was an opposition of character rather than of action. Peter was active, curious, and energetic. Alexis was contemplative and reflective. He was not without intellectual ability, but he liked a quiet life. He preferred reading and thinking. While it sometimes seemed as if Peter was born too soon for the age,
With this opposition of temperament and character, with the lack of tenderness which Peter had always shown in his relations to his son, with the great fear which he inspired in him, it was not unnatural that Alexis always felt uncomfortable when he was with his father, hated to hear of his coming, and was glad to be away from him. Once he admitted to his confessor that he had frequently wished his father's death, and Ignátief replied: "God will forgive you. We all wish for his death, because the people have to bear such heavy burdens."
All who were discontented with the existing state of things naturally turned their eyes toward Alexis, and, without assuming such a position, he became the nucleus of the opposition to reform. Among the nobility, and even among those distinguished by the Tsar, many showed privately their sympathy with Alexis. Prince Jacob Dolgorúky, the senator, said: "Do not visit me, for they watch me to see who comes." And General Basil Dolgorúky once said to him: "You are wiser than your father. Your father is wise, but he has no knowledge of men. You will have more knowledge of men." This was an evident expression of the hope that, when Alexis came to the throne, the old families would be much more favored, and upstarts like Menshikóf and Golófkin would no longer hold the first places in the empire. The Galítsyns were friends of his, and even Field-Marshal Boris Sheremétief advised him to have some one always near the Tsar who could be intimate with his friends and inform him of what was going on. Prince Boris Kurákin, the diplomatist, asked Alexis in Pomerania whether his step-mother treated him well, and when Alexis said that their relations were most cordial, added: "As long as she has no son she will be good to you; but as soon as she has a son it will be quite otherwise."
Although Alexis was in thorough sympathy with the discontented, and showed them plainly that if he ever came to the throne things would not go on as then, that no active policy would be pursued, and that in all probability St. Petersburg would be abandoned, yet there was no conspiracy, no attempt to thwart the plans of the Tsar. The policy of all was to wait,
and to hope for Peter's death. The Tsar's health had been so shaken for some years that it seemed as if this might occur soon. On the day of the funeral of the Crown Princess Charlotte, the 7th of November, 1715, when the mourners, according to the customs of the country, had assembled again in the house of the Tsarévitch, Peter handed his son a letter, dated the 22d of October. It was written in strong and decisive terms, and contained an ultimatum. After speaking of the Swedish war, and how affairs had taken such a turn that the Swedes now trembled before the Russians, the Tsar continued:
"When I consider this joy come of God to our father-land, and look then on the line of my successors, a deep grief comes over me, because I consider you unfit to carry on the business of the Government. God is not at fault, for he has not deprived you of a sound mind, nor taken entirely away from you bodily strength; for although you are not of a strong nature, still you are not very weak. But you do not wish to hear anything about military affairs, although by this we have come from darkness into light, and those who knew nothing of us before now respect us. I do not demand that you should be desirous of making war without lawful reasons, but I expect you to appreciate military affairs and learn all that is most necessary in them, for this is one of the two necessary things for government, order, and defense. * * You have no desire at all to learn anything. You know nothing of military You excuse yourself by saying that your weak health prevents you from taking
part in the fatigues of a campaign. But this is no reason. I do not wish bodily fatigue from you, but only the desire for the thing, and this can be weakened by no illness."
Then making a comparison with his own brother Theodore and Louis XIV., who himself took no part in campaigns, he continues:
"When I represent to myself all this and turn again to my first thought, I must say to myself, I am a man-I can die. To whom then shall I leave that which I have by God's help planted and increased? To him who is like the idle servant in the Gospel, that buried his talent in the ground? I think, besides, what a bad and obstinate character you have. How much have I scolded you for it, and not merely scolded but beaten you for it! How many years have I not spoken with you! Nothing has been of help; nothing has borne fruit; it has all been in vain; my words have been carried off by the wind. You wish to do nothing except to sit at home and to delight yourself if everything goes contrary. Seeing, therefore, that I can turn you to nothing good, I have thought best to write you this last testament, and still wait a little to see whether, in truth and without hypocrisy, you change. If not, then know that I deprive you of your right to the throne, and cut you off like a only son, and that I write this only to frighten you. blasted limb. And do not think that you are my In very truth, by the will of God, I will fulfill it, for, as I have not spared my life for my country and my subjects, how can I spare you, who are unfit? Better a deserving stranger than an unworthy son."
When, the next day, Alexis heard of the
birth of his step-brother, he was much cast down, but he gradually came to a resolution, and three days afterward wrote to his father, saying that if it was his will to cut him off from the succession, he begged him to do so. "I see myself unsuitable and unfit for this business, for I am quite devoid of memory, without which it is impossible to do any thing, am weak and do not possess all my intellectual and bodily powers, and have become unsuited to the government of such a people, for which it is necessary to have a man not so rotten as I. Therefore, to the Russian succession after you (God give you health for many years) I lay no claim, and in future shall make no claim (even if I had no brother, and now, thank God, I have a brother, to whom may God give health). I confide my children to your will, and as for myself, beg for support until my death." After receiving this letter, Peter had a conversation with Prince Basil Dolgorúky, on which the latter came to the Tsarévitch, read carefully through the Tsar's letter of the 22d of October, and said: "I have had a word with your father. I think he will cut you off from the succession. It appears that he is content with your letter. I have saved you from the scaffold. You can now
rejoice, and need trouble yourself about nothing more." The expression of Dolgorúky about the scaffold shows with what excitement the Tsar had spoken about his son. There seems, however, no reason to believe that Peter was at any time satisfied with what Alexis had written. In the state of things at that time in Russia, renunciation of the succession was scarcely sufficient. It was necessary to determine on something beyond this, and at this step Peter hesitated.
For a whole month the Tsar kept silent, then, after a drinking bout at Apráxin's, he became so dangerously ill that during two nights the senators and ministers remained in the palace. On the 13th of December he was so weak that the last sacrament was administered to him, but after this the attack passed, he began to mend, and three weeks later, was able to go to church, looking better than had been expected, but pale and shrunken. During this time Kikin warned Alexis to be cautious, maintaining that the Tsar was feigning illness to see how he would behave, and had received the sacrament only for the purpose of creating a belief that his end was near. On the 30th of January, 1716, Alexis
received a second and still more threatening letter from his father. The Tsar found fault with him for mentioning only the question of succession and his physical weakness, while silent with regard to his father's anger and discontent.*
"This leads me to write more decidedly, for if you do not fear me now, how will you follow my testa
ment? I cannot believe your oath on account of your hardness of heart. David has already said that all men are liars, so that if you really wished to keep it you could be dissuaded by the long beards, who on account of their laziness are not now in favor, but to whom you are greatly devoted. And what gratitude have you shown to your father? Do you help me in my sorrows and troubles, so hard to be borne, although you have already reached ripe age? No, not in the least. It is known to every one that you hate my deeds, which I do for the people of this nation, not sparing my health, and after my death you will destroy them. For that reason, to stay as you would like to be, neither fish nor flesh, is impossible. Therefore, either change your character, and without hypocrisy be my worthy successor, or become a monk, for without this my soul will not be at peace, especially that I am now so ill. Therefore, on receiving this, give me immediately an answer, either in writing or in words; and if you do not do this, I will treat you as a criminal."
* Peter's excitement is evident, for he overlooked the fact that Alexis in his letter had expressly mentioned his intellectual disqualifications.
The friends of Alexis advised him to become a monk. Kikin, who had before counseled this, now said: "A monk's cowl is not nailed on a man. It can be laid aside again." laid aside again." Viázemsky urged him to send first for a confessor and say to him that the step he took was compulsory, so that he could inform the metropolitan of Riazan, and it should not be thought that he had been put into a monastery as a punishment for some fault. This advice he followed, and in three lines wrote to his father, excusing himself for not writing more explicitly on account of illness, but saying that he wished to go into a monastery, and begging his permission for this step; signing himself, step; signing himself, "Your slave and unworthy son, Alexis."
Two days before" Peter's departure for Danzig and the West, he visited his son, whom he found ill in bed, and asked him what he was resolved to do. Alexis called God to witness that he wished nothing else than to go into a monastery. Peter replied: "That is not easy for a young man. Think
a little about it. Do not hurry. Then write to me what you wish to do. You had better turn about to the straight road rather than become a monk. I will wait for half