The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

Meanwhile, court life moved in a groove: receptions of foreign guests, dinner parties, after dinner they went to a hall, where the empress played cards, whist or pharaoh, arranged drillabilities or charades. Once in the end of May, in 1777, she visited new Potyomkin’s estate in Ozerki. The owner honored guests in a big way, guns fired in their honor at dinner, nearly thirty first state persons sat at the table. But the empress often paid attention not to Grigoriy’s second cousins or the Engelgarts, she was interested in a novice most of all, Hussar Major, thirty-year-old dark Serb, curly husky Semen Zorich. But Grigoriy and all the rest at the table had the impression that they had known each other before.

Soon Zorich occupied apartments of the official favorite in the Winter Palace.

Having heard about the new rival, Zavadovskiy quickly returned to Petersburg, he was suffering, rushing, not knowing what to do until he was advised to keep silent. Zavadovskiy obeyed, the empress adequately appreciated his courtesy. He would get four thousand people, and for the empress’s money he would build a palace in Yekaterinburg, palace with two hundred fifty rooms and cupro-nickel fireplaces.

The empress felt as usual, passed notes to her lover Sima, as she named Zorich, with the help of Grigoriy. Sometimes Potyomkin went to wars, sometimes he went to fulfil different tasks, but he could return to Winter Palace at any time, to his apartments connected with the empress’s bedroom by a direct corridor. Grigoriy was attentive to every new favorite, who were mostly his former adjutants, he didn’t forget to send them presents from far places. He sent Zorich feather with a luxurious diamond on a hat and an expensive stick, even the empress was glad and wrote in the letter, “Sima is sporting, by your grace, you sent him an excellent stick, he looks like King of Sweden, but he surpasses him in gratitude to you.”

Only once Grigoriy’s temper ran away with him, when he entered the bedroom as usual and saw the empress with Zavadovskiy in bed; he turned red in the face, looked around the room with wild eyes, seized massive candlestick and threw at a couple who didn’t expect the visit. The empress mewed like a cat, as if somebody set foot on a cat’s paw, rolled off the bed at once, and bare Zavadovskiy rushed to the door like a bullet.

Potyomkin had other problems, of course: cunning Panin, and especially an old lover Orlov, tried to put their man in a bed. Basically, their tricks were in vain, Grigoriy selected the reliable and consistent himself, appointing them to adjutants for a month or two. When he invited Alexander Dmitriev-Mamonov after adjutant term, Alexander couldn’t guess what waited for him.

“Undress!” the prince ordered sternly.

Mamonov’s eyes were round as saucers.

“Fully, fully,” Potyomkin told.

He walked around bare Alexander, examining him, as if he were choosing goods and looking for a flaw in order to fault and slow down the price. And when he pressed pressed the desired location, Mamonov’s body became firm and rose up, Potyomkin only smacked, “You will delight the empress.”

Not only Mamonov’s face, but also his back turned red with a shame, he wanted to curse without paying attention to the prince, but he restrained at the last minute because of incredible thought, “If it is true?”

Then everything was as usual in the court: all three women, testing Mamonov, were pleased with him, especially Perekusiha, “Honey, amused me very much, so you would delight the empress even better!”


“Mr Richard Suderland?” – Courier, a young officer, asked, just in case, jingled with his spurs dashingly – “it is ordered at the hands personally.”

The banker only looked at a packet covered with wafers; he knew who had sent it without reading.

This packet was from Potyomkin. “As her Majesty deigned to give privileges to mennonites who wanted to settle in Ekaterinoslav Province, I ask you to give them the required amounts in Danzig, Riga, Kherson.”

The banker read some more lines and his eyebrows went up in surprise – it would be difficult for him to find these sums, especially in several towns at the same time. “It’s the prince’s manner” – Suderland rubbed his temples reflectively – “he has schemes of vast dimensions, and I must think where to find money for the next adventure.”

Two hundred and twenty eight families of mennonites were going from Danzig to Ukrainian steppes, and a group of Swedes were going to Kherson to a settlement, there were houses built for them, Moldavians, Wallachians, Romanians were flocking across the Turkish border. They all were exempted from taxes for ten years; they were given cattle and agricultural instruments, allowed to be engaged in wine… Russian embassies abroad vigorously recruited new settlers.

“European papers praise the new settlements in Mala Rus” – the prince reported the empress.

“Privileges of Greek, Armenian and other settlements attracted a lot of people: poor landowners and peasants, retired soldiers, serfs-escapees who had run away to other countries, religious dissenters, and poor Orthodox priests from remote Russian provinces went there from Russia, sometimes they went to fertile regions by the whole beggarly villages.”

“Potyomkin is in a hurry” – Suderland read the letter down to the last page – “the prince is afraid lest local Cossacks should settle in these lands. But it’s not my trouble; I’d like to earn money on the prince’s haste.”

Suderland went to the Winter Palace the next day to discuss the conditions of such large-scale project, but there he was sent to a new favorite Platon Zubov, referring to the empress’s business.

It was found out in prince Zubov’s rooms that there were too many people. In white marble rooms near the empress’s hall nearly fifty petitioners were looking at the white door, where important person had to appear to decide fates. Somebody was expecting his hapless child to be appointed to the state office, somebody hoped for estates, the others wanted to attract the empress’s attention, but first it was necessary to honor the almighty prince. Honorable ambassador in a turban patiently fingered the rosary, French nobleman, judging by their clothes, was looking with amazement at those present at the reception, perhaps, he was a newcomer there, only one thick general with an eye bandaged with black braid, complained impatiently, “And coffee will be cooled completely…”

Suderland was introduced to Lieutenant-General, man of the world, already famous general, who considered for the honor to come every morning, an hour before Zubov woke up, to cook and serve coffee for the prince in bed personally.

At last the door opened widely, and adjutant announced triumphantly, as about the second coming, “His lordship, Platon Alexandrovich Zubov invites!”

The crowd rushed to the door, pushing and paying no attention to the ranks and uniforms, everybody wanted it quicker, they had been waiting for four hours, but instead of this suddenly a funny monkey appeared at the door before people, monkey was dressed in a short skirt and lacy panties, it began to ape, screaming fun.

Platon Alexandrovich was sitting before a mirror, having put his foot on the edge of the table, he even didn’t move, because his wig was being crinkled and sprinkled with powder at the moment. Visitors with a bow at his feet politely took place, and lanky adjutant was commanding as if they were children in parochial school, “You, count, will be the first, you, general, after count, and you after general…”

Zubov didn’t notice anybody while he was being brushed, he was breaking letters and gave them to adjutant to read – everybody saw that he was busy with affairs of state. If Zubov addressed himself to somebody in the queue, that man had right to approach only after five or six bows, and receiving the answer, he had to return to his place on tiptoe; those who weren’t lucky could take place in the queue for three years.

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