« ForrigeFortsett »
Chap, separated by mutual consent, and the Grand-duchess
— returned, with a suitable pension, to her father in Ger
18 6' many. The Grand-duke was occupied for twenty years after with war, interspersed with temporary liaisons; but at length, in 1820, when he was Viceroy of Poland, his inconstant affections were fixed by a Polish lady of uncommon beauty and fascination. She was Jeanne Grudzinska, daughter of a count and landed proprietor at Pistolaf, in the district of Bromberg. So ardent was the passion of Constantine for the Polish beauty, that he Apriii, obtained a divorce from his first wife on 1st April 1820, 11 and immediately espoused, though with the left hand, the object of his present passion, upon whom he bestowed the title of Princess of Lowicz, after a lordship in Masovia ,„, . , which he gave to her brother, and which had formerly i. ii6,137. formed part of the military appanage bestowed by Napoleon upon Marshal Davoust.1
The marriage of Constantine, however, was with the constat- left hand, or a morganatic one only; the effect of which vbu'renun- was, that, though legal in all other respects, the sons of hu'righfot the marriage were not grand-dukes, and could not sucwccesBion. ceed to the throne; nor did the princess by her marriage become a grand-duchess. But in addition to this, Constantine had come under a solemn engagement, though verbal, and on his honour as a prince only, to renounce his right of succession to the crown in favour of his brother Nicholas; and it was on this condition only that the consent of the emperor had been given to his divorce. In pursuance of this engagement he had, on the 14/26th Jam 26, January 1822, left with his brother, the Emperor Alexander, a solemn renunciation of his right of succession, which had been accepted by the emperor by as solemn a writing, and a recognition of Nicholas as heir to the throne. The whole three documents had been deposited by him in a packet sealed with the imperial arms, i. 162,163.' endorsed, "Not to be opened till immediately after my death, before proceeding to any other act,"2 with Prince
Pierre Vassiluvitch Lapoukhine, President of the Im- Chap. perial Council.* YIn" The intelligence of the death of Alexander arrived at 1J^6, St Petersburg on the 9th December, in the morning, at NichoUs rathe very time when the imperial family were returning crowned thanks, in the chapel of the palace, to Heaven for his sup- 0TM»*»°* posed recovery, which the despatches of the preceding day had led them to hope for. The first thing done was, in terms of the injunction of Alexander, to open the sealed packet containing Constantine's resignation. As soon as it was opened and read, the Council declared Nicholas emperor, and invited him to attend to receive their homage. But here an unexpected difficulty presented itself. Nicholas positively refused to accept the throne. "I am not emperor," said he, "and will not be so at my brother's expense. If, maintaining his renunciation, the Grand-duke Constantine persists in the sacrifice of his rights, but in that case only, will I exercise my right to the throne." The Council remained firm, and entreated him to accept their homage; but Nicholas positively refused, alleging, in addition, that as Constantine's renunciation had not been published or acted upon during the lifetime of the late emperor, it had
* "Ne reconnaissant en moi, ni Te génie, ni les talents, ni la force nécessaire pour être jamais élevé à la dignité souveraine, à laquelle je pourrais avoir droit par ma naissance, je supplie V. M. I. de transférer ce droit a celui à qui il appartient après moi, et d'assurer ainsi pour toujours la stabilité de l'empire. Quant à moi, j'ajouterai par cette renonciation, une nouveUe garantie et une nouvelle force à l'engagement que j'ai spontanément et solennellement contracté, à l'occasion de mon divorce avec ma première épouse. Toutes les circonstances de ma situation actuelle, me portent de plus en plus a cette mesure, qui prouvera à l'empire et au monde entier la sincérité de mes sentiments. Daignez, sire, agréer avec bonté ma prière, daignez contribuer à ce que notre auguste mère veuille y adhérer; et sanctionnez-la de votre assurance impériale. Dans la sphère do la vie privée, je m'efforcerai toujours de servir d'exemple à vos fidèles sujets; à tous ceux qu' anime l'amour de notre chère Patrie." —constantin à PEmpereur, St. Pétenbourg, 14/26 Jan. 1822. The acceptance of the emperor of this renunciation was simple and unqualified, and dated 2/14th Feb. 1822. The emperor added a manifesto in the following terms, declaring Nicholas his heir: "L'acte spontané par lequel notre frère puîné, le Césarowitch et Grand-duc Constantin, renonce à son droit sur le trône de toutes les Russies, est, et demeurera, fixe et invariable. Ledit Acte VOL. II. P
Chap. not acquired the force of a law, and that he was consequently emperor, and if he meant to renounce, must do so
1826. afresD) when in the full possession of his rights. The Council still contested the point; but finding the Grandduke immovable, they submitted with the words, "You are our emperor; we owe you an absolute obedience: since, then, you command us to recognise the Grand-duke Constantine as our legitimate sovereign, we have no alternative but to obey your commands." They accordingly declared Constantine emperor. Their example determined the Senate; and the guards, being drawn up on the place in front of the Winter Palace, took the usual ,. „. oath to the Cesarowitch as the new emperor. The
'Ann.Hist. . . « « .
ix. 381; motives which determined Nicholas to take this step i. 168, 169. were afterwards stated in a noble proclamation on his own accession to the throne.1*
Matters were in this state, the Grand-duke ConstanContestof tine being proclaimed emperor, and recognised by all between the the authorities at St Petersburg, when the Grand-duke tw^L Michael arrived there, with the fresh renunciation by the STtothe former or" ms rights, after the death of the late sovereign throng had been known to him. Nothing could be more clear and explicit than that renunciation, concerning the valide Renonciation sera, pour que la notoriété en soit assurée, conservé à la Grande Cathédrale do l'Assomption à Moscow, et dans les trois hautes administrations de notre Empire, au Saint Synode, au Conseil de l'Empire, et au Sénat Dirigeant. En conséquence de ces dispositions, et conformément à la stricte teneur do l'acte sur la succession au trûno, est reconnu pour notre héritier, notre second frère le Grand-duc Nicolas. Alexandre."—Journal de Si Péterabourg, No. 160. Schnitzler, i. 163, 164.
* "Nous n'eûmes ni le désir, ni le droit, do considérer comme irrévocable cette renonciation, qui n'avait point été publiée lorsqu'elle eut lieu; et qui n'avait point été convertie en loi. Nous voulions ainsi manifester notre respect pour la première loi fondamentale de notre Patrie, sur l'ordre invariable de la succession au tronc. Nous cherchions uniquement à garantir de la moindre atteinte la loi qui règle la succession au Trône, à placer dans tout son jour la loyauté de nos intentions, et de préserver notre chère Patrie, même d'un moment d'incertitude, sur la personne de son légitime souverain. Cotte détermination, priso dans la pureté de notre conscience devant le Dieu qui lit au fond des cœurs, fut bénie par S. M. l'Impératrice Marie, notre mère bien-aimée."—Proclamation, 25 Dec. 1825; Journal de Si Pêtcrtbourg, No. 150. Schniizler, i. 169, 170.
dity of which no doubt could now be entertained. Never- Chap.
thelcss Nicholas persisted in his generous refusal of the L
throne, and, after a few hours' repose, despatched the 1826, Grand-duke Michael back to Warsaw, with the intelligence that Constantine had already been proclaimed emperor. He met, however, at Dorpat, in Livonia, a courier with the answer of Constantine, after he had received the despatches from St Petersburg, again positively declining the empire, in a letter addressed "To his Majesty the Emperor." Nicholas, however, still refused the empire, and again besought his brother to accept it. The interregnum continued three weeks, during which the two brothers—a thing unheard of—were mutually declining» Ann. Hist, and urging the empire on the other! At length, on 24th pfJes'mi December, Nicholas, being fully persuaded of the sin-^Ser, cerity and legality of his brother's resignation, yielded jjj^j,^*5 to what appeared the will of Providence, mounted theauxPuij
* 1 . sauces
throne of his fathers, and notified his accession to all the Ktrangeres, sovereigns of Europe, by whom he was immediately re- 1825. *" cognised.1
But while everything seemed to smile on the young emperor, and he was, in appearance, receiving the reward Account of of his disinterested and generous conduct, in being seated, ^/agamst by general consent, on the greatest throne in the world, hTM* the earth was trembling beneath his feet, and a conspiracy was on the point of bursting forth, which ere long involved Russia in the most imminent danger, and had well-nigh terminated, at its very commencement, his eventful reign. From the documents on this subject which have since been published by the Russian Government, it appears that, ever since 1817, secret societies, framed on the model of those of Germany, had existed in Russia, the object of which was to subvert the existing government, and establish in its stead representative institutions and a constitutional monarchy. They received a vast additional impulse upon the return of the Army of Occupation from France, in the close of 1818, where the officers, having
Chap. been living in intimacy, during three years, with the EngVI"' lish and German officers, and familiar with the liberal press
1826. of countries, as well as of Paris, had become deeply imbued with republican ideas, and enthusiastic admirers of the popular feelings by which they were nourished, and of the establishments in which they seemed to end. The conspiracy was the more dangerous that it was conducted with the most profound secresy, embraced a 1 number of the highest nobles in the land, as well as
deRkPOom- military officers, and had its ramifications in all the conS'Enquste, siderable armies, and even in the guards at the capital. 1825; Amu So strongly was the danger felt by the older officers of 78 80 3U- tde emp're, who were attached to the old regime, that t2uo'for' one of them said, on the return of the troops from France, 7, u.' "Rather than let these men re-enter Russia, I would, were I emperor, throw them into the Baltic."1
The conspiracy was divided into two branches, each of Details on which formed a separate society, but closely connected racy, by correspondence. The directing committee of both had its seat at St Petersburg, and at its head was Prince Troubetzkoi—a nobleman of distinguished rank, but more ardour than firmness of character, who was high in the emperor's confidence—Ryleif, Prince Obolonsky, and some other officers in the garrison, besides sixty officers in the guards. The second society, which was much more numerous, and embraced a great number of colonels of regiments, had its chief ramifications in the army of the south on the Turkish frontier, then under the command of Count Wittgenstein. At the head of this society were Captain Nikita Mouravieff, Colonel Pestel, and Alexander Mouravieff, whose names have acquired a melancholy celebrity from the tragedy in which their efforts terminated. These men were all animated with a sincere love of their country, and were endowed with the most heroic courage. Under these noble qualities, however, were concealed, as is always the case in such conspiracies, an inordinate thirst for elevation and individual ambition, and an entire