much to the general distress felt among the class of pro- Chap.

ducers. Already the ruble was worth 50 per cent more L_

than it had been a few years before. A treaty was signed 1824, on the 27th April between Russia and the United States, which settled the respective limits of their vast possessions in North America: the line of demarcation was fixed at 54° north latitude; all to the north was Russian, all to the south American; and the reciprocal right was secured Hut^'ntf!] to the inhabitants of both countries, of fishing on each ApVui'f' other's coasts, navigating the Pacific, and'disembarking J*^ ;^nnon places not occupied, but for the purpose only of trade 389,644. with the inhabitants, or supphes for themselves.1

When, in 1793, the Empress Catherine deemed it gg time to select a spouse for her grandson, Alexander, The Emshe cast her eyes on the family of the Grand-duke ofEia: Baden, who at that time had three daughters, gifted p1^'^ with all the virtue and graces, and much of the beauty "^j*^ of their sex. They all made splendid alliances. The Ureldest became Queen of Sweden; the youngest, Queen of Bavaria; the second, Empress of Russia. Married on 9th October 1793 to the young Alexander, then onlyoct. 9, sixteen years of age, when she was fifteen, she took, 1793according to the Russian custom, the name of Elizabeth Alexejiona instead of her own, which was LouiseMarie-Auguste, under which she had been baptised. The pair, though too young for the serious duties of their station, charmed every eye by the beauty of their figures, and the affability of their manners. But the union, however ushered in by splendid prognostications, proved unfortunate: it shared the fate of nearly all in every rank which are formed by parental authority, before the disposition has declared itself, the constitution strengthened, or the tastes formed. The young empress was gifted with all the virtues and many of the graces of her sex. Her countenance, though not regular, was lightened by a sweet expression; her hair, which she wore in locks over her shoulders, beautiful: her figure

VOL. II. o

Chap. was elegant, and her motions so graceful that she seemed VI"' to realise the visions of the poet, which made the goddess

1824. reveal herself hy her step."* In disposition she was in the highest degree amiahle and exemplary, self-denying, generous, and affectionate. But with all these charms and virtues she wanted the one thing needful for a man of a thoughtful and superior turn of mind: she was not a companion. She had little conversation, few ideas, i. 96"l97;er' and none of that elasticity of mind which is necessary s3cnire for the charm of conversational intercourse. Hence even deVe°"o?e,s tne earliest years of their marriage were productive of toabriandha" no lasting ties ; they seldom met, save in public; and the congr&ide death of their two only children, both of whom were

VsroDe i

207. '' daughters, deprived them of the enduring bond of parental love.1

No one need be told that conjugal fidelity is of all others the virtue most difficult to practise on the throne, and that it is never so much so as to sovereigns of the most energetic and powerful minds. Ardent in one thing, they are not less so in another: of few, from Julius Caesar to Henry IV., can it be said that they are, like Charles XII,

"Unconquered lords of pleasure and of pain."

Alexander was not a sensualist, and he had not the 99. . ... .

Amoura of passion for meritricious variety, which so often in high

the czar. rank disgraced the most illustrious characters. But his mind was ardent, his heart tender, and he had the highest enjoyment in the confidential 4panchements which, rarely felt by any save with those of the opposite sex, can never be so but with them—by sovereigns whose elevation keeps all of their own at a distance. Before many years of his married life had passed, Alexander had yielded to these dispositions; and the knowledge of his infidelities completed the estrangement of the illustrious couple. "Out of these infidelities arose," says

* " Et vera incessu patuit Dea,"—Viroil.

M. de Chateaubriand, "a fidelity which continued eleven Chap.

[ocr errors]


years." Alexander, however, suffered in his turn by a righteous retribution the pangs of jealousy. The object of his attachment (a married Polish lady of rank) had all the beauty, fascination, and conversational talent which have rendered her countrywomen so celebrated over Europe, and to which even the intellectual breast of Napoleon did homage; but she had also the spirit of coquetry and thirst for admiration which has so often turned the passions they have awakened into a consuming fire. Unfaithful to duty, she had proved equally so to love: the influence of the emperor was, after a long constancy, superseded by a new attachment; and the liaison between them was already broken, when a domestic calamity overwhelmed him with affliction. Meanwhile the empress, who had left Russia, and sought solace in foreign travelling, mourned in silence and dignified retirement the infidelity of her husband—the blasting of her hopes. Yet even then, under a calm and serene air, and the cares of a life entirely devoted to deeds of bene- ischnitrier( ficence, was concealed a heart wasted by sorrow, but faithful to its first attachment. "How often," says the congres'de

... . , Verone, 1.

annalist, "was she surprised in tears, contemplating the 207. portrait of that Alexander, so lovable, yet so faithless! "l From this irregular connection had sprung three children, two of which had died in infancy. But the third, Death if Mademoiselle N., a child gifted with all the graces and natural "* charms of her mother, though in delicate health, still daustterlived, and had become the object of the most passionate affection to her father. It became necessary to send her to Paris, for the benefit of a milder climate and the best medical advice; and during her absence, the emperor, a solitary hermit in his palace, but thirsting for the enjoyments of domestic life, sought a temporary respite to his anxiety in frequenting the houses of some highly respectable families in middle life, for the most part Germans, to whom his rank was known, but where he insisted upon

Chap. being treated as an ordinary guest. There he often VI11' expressed his envy at the happiness which reigned in xm' those domestic circles, and sighed to think that the Emperor of all the Russias was compelled to seek, at the hearth of others, that felicity which his grandeur or his faults had denied him at his own. But the hand of fate was upon him; he was to be pierced to the heart through the fruit of his own irregularities. His daughter, who was now seventeen, had returned from France, apparently restored to health, and in all the bloom of youth and beauty. She was engaged to be married, with the entire consent of her father: the magnificent trousseau was ordered at Paris, but when it arrived at St Petersburg she was no more. So sudden was the death of the ) Betaitaiar, young fiande, that it occurred when the emperor was Madiie. 'out at a review of his guards. An aide-de-camp, with a Gouffier, melancholy expression, approached, and requested leave lit Ai«-rt'to speak to him in private. At the first words he chlte'aub85 divined the whole: a mortal paleness overspread his congrisde visage, and, turning up his eyes to heaven, he struck his "207. '' forehead and exclaimed, "I receive the punishment of my sins!"1

These words were not only descriptive of the change Reconc'iiia- in the emperor's mind in the latter years of his life, but emperor and they presaged, and truly, an important change in his empress, domestic relations, which shed a ray of happiness over his last moments. His mind, naturally inclined to deep and mystical religious emotions, had been much affected by the dreadful scenes which he had witnessed at the inundation of St Petersburg, and this domestic bereavement completed the impression that he was suffering, by the justice of Heaven, the penalty of his transgressions. Under the influence of these feelings, he returned to his original dispositions; and that mysterious change took place in his mind, which so often, on the verge of the grave, brings us back to the impressions of our youth. He again sought the society of the empress, who had re- Chap. turned to St Petersburg, was attentive to her smallest vm' wishes, and sought to efface the recollection of former I825* neglect by every kindness which affection could suggest. The change was not lost upon that noble princess, who still nourished in her inmost heart her first attachment; and the reconciliation was rendered complete by the generous tears which, in sympathy with her husband's sorrow, she shed over the bier of her rival's daughter. But she, too, was in an alarming state of health ; long years of anxiety and suffering had weakened her constitution, and the physicians recommended a change, and return to her native air. But the empress declared that the sovereign must not die elsewhere but in her own dominions, and she refused to leave Russia. They upon this proposed the Crimea; but Alexander gave the preference of Taganrog. The emperor fixed his departure for the 13th September 1825, some days before that of the empress, in order to prepare everything for her reception. Though his own health was broken, as he had not recovered from an i Madlle. attack of erysipelas, he resolved upon running the risk ^"^f of the journey: an expedition of some thousand miles 384,386;

ii n i i ic n i i-n Sehnitder,

had no terrors for one the halt oi whose lire was spent i. Io5. in travelling.1

Sincerely religious to the extent even of being superstitious, the emperor had a presentiment that this jour-Solemn serney was to be his last, and that he was about to ex- cathedral of pire beside the empress, amidst the flowery meads and J'K.a"" balmy air of the south. Impressed with this idea, he had 13, fixed his departure for the 1st September (old style, 13 th), the day after a solemn service had been celebrated in the cathedral of Kazan, on the translation of the bones of the great Prince Alexander Newski from the place of his sepulture at Vladimir to that holy fane on the banks of the Neva. On every departure for a long journey, the emperor had been in the habit of repairing to its altar to

« ForrigeFortsett »