Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Emperor Alexander

Wynnstay: Oct. 1806.— I heard a curious trait of the character of the Emperor Alexander. At one of the great national festivals of St. Petersburgh, where he was greeted by multitudes almost innumerable with the most violent applause,—every one seeming to vie with his neighbour in the mode of best expressing their enthusiastic fondness for their Emperor,—he turned to the Duke of G. who was standing near him, and said he could not look at that immense populace without shuddering when he considered them as absolutely dependent upon the will of one man; adding that he should never feel completely happy till he saw introduced into Russia, a limited monarchical government similar to that of England.*

… The Duke of G. spoke much of the violent detestation expressed by all orders of men for the Archduke Constantine. It seems strange that such statements can be loudly professed with impunity under the government of a son of the Emperor Paul; but one fact which the Duke of G. said was related to him by Alexander, is much more so. The Emperor was one reproving Count Pannin, his favourite, for expressing so freely his opinion of Constantine. He told him that he must consider it a want of respect to himself when his brother was treated in such a manner: besides, added he, consider what may be the probable consequences to yourself; remember that, if anything should happen to me, Constantine becomes your Sovereign.**

Pannin replied that no one was more anxious than himself to avoid anything which might appear like disrespect to His Majesty, and therefore would for that reason avoid expressing his opinions on this subject; adding that, as to the other argument, that had no weight with him,.

‘Sire,' said he, ' if anything was to happen to you, I wish Archduke Constantine to know, and beg you will tell him from me, that he shall not reign twenty-four hours.’

* Alexander is said. to have replied to Madame de Stael, when she spoke of his beneficent rule, that he was only a happy accident.
** Pannin might have remembered the reply of Charles II, when the Duke of York (afterwards James II), reproached him with not taking precautions against assassins: 'Depend on it, James, no one will kill me to make you king.'

[The Duke of G. is, I assume, her father, George Grenville, First Lord of the Treasury in the 18th century.]


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