The last lover of the Empress – Іван Корсак

Eddies of fate raised her and were twirling her long and threw her on Imperial Throne at last, her, who was German, who was of other confession and didn’t have a drop of Russian blood. She will have a chance and time to express her opinion about Russian state and people, about Russian ruling elite, opinion which appeared incidentally in the letter to baron Friedrich Grimm, “Half of those who are still alive, or idiots, or madmen: try to live with these people when you can.”

And she, who was educated and energetic, had to lead this stupid nation to something better, Didro was in communication with Voltaire about this. There must be no obstacles on this way and any resistance must be crushed down.

Her husband, thrown emperor isn’t a barrier any more; he will not be able to get out from under the gravestone of Alexander Nevsky Lavra. One more legitimate emperor Ivan Antonovich is a prisoner in reliable walls of Shlisselburg fortress: he won’t see human face for a long time, he is ordered to hide behind the screen when a guard enters the cell. Reliable guard is ordered to kill immediately those who tries to dismiss a prisoner.

On the way to the great aim – to lead these half fools, half madmen to wealth, there was the last barrier: contumacy of the Church and such pastors as Arceniy who tell that she was not a legitimate empress. But her mind will master it. She will gain new living spaces for Russians, and she will let contemptible Jews live only below the limit of settlement, and only first guild merchants, highly educated Jews, former recruits, registered prostitutes and baptized Jews will be out of the limit.

But there is one more barrier, about which only some people in the whole empire can guess – Mikhail Lomonosov. But she managed to clear this hurdle providently before her enthronement.

…The emperor Peter I was dying very hard. He didn’t know the reason for his illness – either cold, or poison, or maybe running syphilis, poorly cured by bad doctor – but somebody put the burr on his chest and each breath cost him an incredible effort. But when the emperor understood that it was his hour of death, he confessed to Feofan Prokopovich, “Lord, I have one more sin” – Peter was wheezing, not talking, rattle was pulling out of the chest with a stop, piecemeal – “I have a son, nobody knows about him, his name is Mikhail Lomonosov.”

The emperor told about that distant sin, now with a rattle, then in a whisper.

Since persecution of Old Believers in Russia they began to move to Siberia, to the North, to run the show there – how valuable only shipyards of Bazhenov brothers are. The emperor spent three-quarters of the budget on wars and he looked at those riches more and more often, narrowing his lids. By Peter’s mischance his son Aleksey was against parental innovations, the wife gave birth only to daughters. Old Believers conceived a cunning venture when the emperor came back again to the northern lands. They thought not only about Peter’s heir but how to have crown person from their surroundings, and they clapped him on a very nice blond beauty, Helen. Czar had been toying with her for a week in Ust-Tosno, he enjoyed the beauty of the young, chasing messengers with their government worries at the door. When it became known that Helen was pregnant, Old Believers married her quickly to the nephew of Peter Dwinskiy’s trusted elder clerk Luka Lomonosov – Vasiliy Dorofeev. The next emperor’s decree appeared very quickly. “My son and betrothed father Vasiliy are ordered to have the surname Lomonosov and to live in this family under the supervision of Luka Lomonosov, not to forget to keep the secret. I’ll remember to thank.”

… The health of the emperor Peter went from bad to worse, now he tried to utter a word with ruckle, then he was light-headed and saw snow dazzling spaces of Kholmogory, and he was tobogganing rapidly as fifteen years ago, the wind raised snow-storm behind him, and minute powdery snow glistened in the slanting rays of the sun. And when he revived again he ordered Prokopovich, “Lord, teach him in Moscow schools and attach to the rank of the priests or to state service according to his abilities.”

Feofan Prokopovich looked after Mikhail but he didn’t want to keep the secret when he was dying and told everything Peter’s daughter Elizabeth.

“He is not a barrier on the way to the throne,” Prokopovich told carefully. “He is illegitimate and he won’t trench upon throne but he is a kinsman and you must care for him well.”

Five winters passed between this conversation and Elizabeth’s enthronement. But in first years of her reign she appointed her stepbrother an adjunct of the Academy of sciences, then a professor and gave him unthinkable sum – two thousand roubles for the ode, there was a lack of money in the treasury, that’s why groats were brought as a present, brought by a horse cart.

Nobody knew whether Mikhail was aware of the mystery of his birth, but he didn’t rely upon anybody – on foot to Moscow, then Petersburg Academy, Kiev-Mogila Academy, Marburg, Freiburg… A man, who has been hardworking since childhood, can fly very high.

A shadow was twinkling when Elizabeth died, no, throne didn’t belong her according to traditions and laws, it was only the shadow of the empress’s name, shadow of the wife of possible emperor Peter III, and then she got to know Lomonosov’s secret by chance. That’s why one trusted hand prepared a delayed poison for them stealthily at the waking dinner, after Elizabeth’s death where Mikhail was invited with his wife.

Wedded pair fell ill almost on the same day – Mikhail’s legs were paralysed and his wife could scarcely move, catching on backs of the chairs. The empress Catherine II wanted to visit the Lomonosovs, to see influence of poison and to cheer up the couple in that trouble.

Everything was clear with Lomonosov, only Matsievich was the last problem.

What? The block, torn nostrils, fire-pan and a confession forced by intrusive Sheshkovskiy and his people? And if he won’t repent? If she creates a martyr for the faith and rebellion herself? It is very far from nice Shtettin with its cosy and small German streets… Or maybe quite the reverse, high empress’s pardon, Christian clemency?

Only one thing is obvious: if she loses the moment now, the Church will never become a support of the throne. And she could give lands of monasteries to those who helped her in enthronement and who would defend that throne willingly…

What? Thoughts were floating like a mill-stream and this mill wheel was flying round, whirling and couldn’t stop…


…The trial was over at last and the words of judgement sounded in tense silence.

“The former Rostov metropolitan Arceniy misapprehended and spelled backward beneficial distribution of the church property and had impudence that Holy Synod had obvious written documents about his reproaching and scandalizing observations, he failed in his duties to Spiritual Assembly where her Majesty was a president.

Holy Synod found him guilty and worthy of not only arrest but the court too, for such resistance of the supreme power and decrees, for crime which was offensive for her Majesty. He dared interpret his offence of Majesty wrong and cleverly (offenced her not only as the highest person, as president of Synod, but as his autocratic Sovereign).”

The words of judgement weren’t rising up, they were rustling as last year’s discolored leaves which had wintered under snow until spring, but Arceniy heard their true, ruthless, and menacing sense very well in this rustling: he was brought to world, criminal justice, not to ecclesiastical court. And this court would pass him a sentence…

The empress Catherine thought over every opinion of influential courtiers, she was twisting and turning the thoughts like hot potatoes in hands, she simply didn’t have right to make a mistake, to lose. She had the only right to win.

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