The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

“The metropolitan warned…” – Demetrius croaked hardly and thickly, breathed frantically and died.

Bad rumours were spread among people about Gavriil’s death. They told he had taken a fancy woman from lay brother who strangled him with a pillow in a fit of rage.

“Your rival will strangle you for your Irodiada” – metropolitan’s prediction was retailed even in ten years.

Misfortune waylaid Ambrose during the height of the plague, and it wouldn’t be so offensive if he died from illness. He sent many people to Barbaric gate because there were rumours that icon of the God’s Mother gave salvation. Lord Ambrose was an educated man and he understood danger of such crowds, he ordered to bring the icon to the church of Saint Cyrus and Ioann.

“The lord takes money of God’s Mother!” – Somebody’s cry heated disturbed crowd.

Revolted people rushed to Miracles monastery, looking for Ambrose everywhere, they didn’t find them and were disappointed. Smashing wine cellars, the rebels went to the Donskoy Monastery, because they heard that the lord was hidden there.

Ambrose tried to break out of Moscow but it was already late. The lord communicated and hid in the loft. Stamping of feet and an unusual buzz in the temple, a vain attempt of a prior to persuade teased people; steps are heard on a stage of the loft. The curled up lord was praying below his breath, begging God to to forgive all sins, and betrayal of metropolitan Arceniy too.

“He is here! Robber of Bogoliubsk Dame is here!” – chasing cried triumphantly almost over the head.

Archbishop was caught and pulled down like a sack with potatoes, he was dragged by the feet, and the lord painfully hit his head on stage. At last he was pulled to the monastery courtyard, he got many kicks there. Some of them were beating with feet, others – with sticks, but Ambrose didn’t feel pain, as if it wasn’t his body and he didn’t pity it; incomprehensible suffocating bitterness burned through the soul instead of pain. And before insensibility he saw shine of knife in the hands of a man with wild bloodshot eyes, and there was a well-known voice from a distance, “Don’t step on that way, I beg you, Ambrose.”

The prince Potyomkin’s matters shaped well for long… Battle successes in the south brought new orders and estates, and besides, charming Sophia Witt, another of his passions, was heady. Potyomkin was seriously thinking about marriage with her and coronation for new realm. He saw revived Byzantine Empire in his unrestrained dreams. According to legend, the ancient Greek civilization was born in the Northern Black Sea, and it spread on the lands of historical Hellas from that place. The capital of new empire had to be near ancient Olbia, it would be better in Nikolaev, his favourite town.

Although the new designs didn’t have place for the empress Catherine, she continued to send caring letters, she even sent young doctor for Potyomkin from Petersburg.

Strange obscure events began to occur unexpectedly. At the funeral of prince of Virtenberg, brother of princesses Maria Fedorovna, in town of Halacha, after the ceremony a funeral coach came up to Potyomkin instead of his luxurious coach.

The prince was scared, he even stepped back and crossed, his back was cold as if somebody spilled water: he understood that it was somebody’s mistake, but horror did not diminish.

The prince died suddenly in the desert. He had bouts of fever on that day, but he wasn’t afraid of road, he even prepared an entire goose for it.

But he was buried not in his favourite Nikolaev, but in Kherson, he didn’t like this town and called it “coffin”.

Archbishop Ambrose was speaking with sincerity and emotion in a memorial speech over the body of the deceased,

“The empress is now without counselor, associate and friend.”

Shrewd tongues were whispering: “Prince was poisoned, that young doctor did it, doctor who was sent by Catherine.” But there are not people who were not discussed.

The other thing was unexpected. Potyomkin’s vision about plan of destruction of the Zaporozhian Sich at the The Council of State came true: stories about his actions issued first in Hamburg journal “Minerva”, but then in a separate Gelbig’s book “Potyomkin of Tauride”, subsequently the book was reprinted many times in Germany, France and England, at last it was translated into Russian under the title “Pansalvin is the prince of darkness”, then it began to roam on the spaces of empire. The name “the prince of darkness”, given Grigoriy by the author, stuck to the Potyomkin’s surname by firm and inseparable epithet for centuries.

Strange adventures happened to the body of prince Grigoriy too. He was put in a coffin in the church of Saint Catherine, the empress had commissioned a marble tombstone, but it wasn’t made for five years even during her life, and Potyomkin remained not buried. The next emperor Pavel I signed the order for Attorney-General Alexander Kurakin, “that his body must be buried in the same coffin in special pit without taking air, and the pit must be covered with soil so flatly as if it wasn’t there”. And they told Kurakin the other things,

“Everything that reminds of Potyomkin must be destroyed, and his bones must be spread out in the Devil’s Canyon.”

So strange name for a canyon… And Ukrainian land hadn’t taken the prince Potyomkin’s body for six years. The grave was dug under the moon and buried empty.

The next emperor Alexander I ordered to erect a monument to Potyomkin in Kherson. A famous painter I. Martos had to prepare a draft, but the work didn’t come to hand, heirs squabbled over money. Official commission opened the coffin many times, checking the remains; Potyomkin was buried eight times, as historians estimated, and every time there were reasons for abruption of his dust.

A writer Boris Lavrenev in 1930 entered former church with a plate on the door “Museum of Atheism” and examined the exhibits. In a showcase under glass he saw a human skull, darkened by the time, and a table “Skull of Potyomkin, lover of Catherine II”. In the second showcase – remains of clothes, stockings and shoes, in the other – human skeleton with a rotted pieces of muscles. The same table: “Bones of Potyomkin, lover of Catherine II”.

The local priest had been keeping yellow photos of excavation of graves for a long time: farmers are standing above the skeletons in the remnants of Catherine uniforms, and leather jacket of chekist is seen near by – worthy successor of the Secret Expedition of Catherine II and prince Grigoriy Potyomkin.

40

Everything faded away in the palace of the late autumn night, daily hustle and bustle of the court subsided, empress had long been in the bedchamber, only the maids of honor did not sleep on duty. Only light and calm crackle of firewood occasionally broke the silence of the huge building.

Suddenly the door of the bedchamber opened, empress came out with a candle in her hands and went to throne room. Maids of honor were surprised at such late visit and long absence of the empress. Bell for servants from the bedchamber broke their hesitations and whisperings.

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