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desired to witness the ceremony, Russians and foreigners, was immense, and the chapel in which it was to occur was small. No time was to be lost; for in a few minutes an aide-de-camp of the Prince was to come to take me to the palace, and see that I reached my proper place--a matter of no small importance on such an occasion, and I may add of no small difficulty.
Upon our arrival at the palace, we found the Emperor, the Grand Duke Michael, the Heir Apparent, and the Prince of Prussia, surrounded by many distinguished officers, reviewing some of the regiments of splendid Imperial Life-Guards, who certainly deserve to be ranked among the finest looking soldiers in the world. A vast concourse of people surrounded the parade-ground, which was quite near to the palace. The day was a remarkably fine one, and every thing without as well as every thing within that gorgeous building, indicated life, excitement and joy.
As soon as the review was over, all who were entitled to enter the palace hurried into it, until many of its vast apartments were filled to overflowing. Following my faithful guide, the Aid of the Prince, I made my way up to the second story, and having traversed several crowded rooms, found myself in that which contained the foreign ambassadors and their suites. There I was placed by the side of Mr. John Randolph Clay, the amiable and esteemed Secretary of the American Legation, and at that time acting as Charge d'Affaires, who, I may say, in passing, would, long before that time, have reached a higher diplomatic rank, if it were not too much the policy of those in power with us to reward their noisy partizans and friends with offices abroad, for which few of them are as well qualified as they should be.
At length the moment so full of interest arrived ; and we all began to move forward towards the chapel-at the west end of the palace, and on the second floor-in due order. The ambassadors were the first to enter. As I was placed among them, it fell to my lot, according to orders which none might dispute, to take my stand with them on the northern side of the chapel, and within a few feet of the altar.
The chapel was scarcely more than thirty-five feet square.The walls and dome were gorgeously adorned with paintings and gildings. I know not when I have seen any thing more showy. There was not a seat of any kind in it, save two or three chairs
for the Empress and one or two other ladies, whose health was not good. There was no carpet on the floor, nor pulpit, nor any thing that resembled one. A platform, of about one foot in height, and some twelve or fifteen feet square, occupied the centre. An altar, more of the shape of a reading desk than any thing else, stood on this platform, but not in the centre of it. By the side of it stood two small tables, on which rested two marriage-crowns.
In front of the chapel was a room of the same size, less magnificently adorned, which might be called the “Court of the People." Three large doors opened from it into the chapel. On the oppo site side of the chapel was another room, not quite so large, where were the priests in all their rich and splendid robes. This might be designated the most "Holy Place."
When we entered we found several of the dignitaries of the church standing in the centre of the chapel, and the choir of men and boys, dressed in purple tunics, which descended to their heels, standing, one-half on one side and one-half on the other of the chapel, near to the vestry, or most Holy place. In fact they occupied the two corners of the chapel on that side. The ambassadors and ministers of the Emperor, and myself among them, stood near to a portion of the choir. It was some time after our arrival that the Imperial Family
Behind them followed a great number of officers and ladies, who filled the ante-chamber, or vestibule, or whatever else it may be called. The Archbishop of St. Petersburg, accompanied by several other prelates, dressed in splendid robes, which seemed to be composed more of silver and gold than any thing else, and wearing their mitres, met the Emperor and Empress and the rest of the Imperial group, at the middle of the outer room, and received them in oriental style-bowing most profoundly and kissing their hands, an homage which was as graciously returned.Entering the chapel, the Emperor presented his daughter and her “affianced” to the Imperial chaplain, whose duty it was to perform the ceremony, and who received them on the estrade or platform. I had expected that the Metropolitan would perform this service; but he is a monk, (as all the prelates of the Greek Church are), and no monk is allowed in Russia to perform the marriage ceremony—and this is serving them rightly enough, I think.
The chaplain was a little old man, whose countenance interested me very much.
After the presentation of the persons who were to be married, the Emperor, Empress, and the members of the Inperial Family, took their places on the side of the chapel opposite the ambassadors, and on the right hand of the officiating priest. The Emperor and Empress were by a window, he being quite near to the portion of the choir which was on that side of the chapel. Next to the Empress stood her brother—the Prince of Prussia, the heir to the throne of that country. Next to him, and near another window, stood the Duchess of Leuchtenberg (the eldest daughter of the Emperor), and her sister-in-law, the wife of his Imperial Highness, Alexander Nicholavietch, the heir to the throne of Russia. Next to them stood the Prince himself, and his three younger brothers—the Grand Dukes Constantine, Nicholas, and Michael, who were at that time youths of from eighteen to twelve or fifteen years of age. Near to them, and in one of the doors of the chapel, stood the Grand Duke Michael, the Emperor's brother. Next to him was the Duke of Leuchtenberg. The centre door and the other door were so crowded with great officers that the ladies and gentlemen who filled the vestibule had but a poor chance to see what was going on in the chapel, although they might hear the chanting of the choir, and much of what was said by the officiating priest.
After all had taken their places, the service commenced. The Grand Duchess Olga and the Prince of Wurtemburg, standing on the platform, occupied a very conspicuous station ; and certainly they went through their portion of the ceremony in an admirable manner. The Prince was dressed in the uniform of a Wurtemburg military officer of the highest rank. He was a young man of twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, good looking enough in person, but not possessing a very handsome face. The Grand Duchess was twenty-four years of age, and older than her husband by some six months. She is a beautiful woman; she was even called the most beautiful woman in Europe. However this may be, it is certain that it would be difficult to conceive of one that possessed more charms of person; and those of her mind and heart are said, by all who know her well, not to be inferior to those of her person. She is rather above the medium height of
ladies; has beautifully blue eyes, a blonde complexion, and auburn hair.
Her dress was magnificent, as may be supposed. In the first place, she wore a white, or rather a fawn-colored silk dress, with large sleeves that were adorned, as was the skirt, with a rich border of inwrought flowers and figures of silver. A red velvet ribbon of a couple of inches in width, passed from one shoulder across, or rather below, her bosom, and terminated below the other arm, from which descended numerous diamond-pendants. A necklace of the richest and most splendid sort, all sparkling with diamonds, adorned, with many a fold, her neck and bosom, and came down almost to her feet; whilst her hair, in two plaits, fell on her fair shoulders. A coronet, studded with most precious stones, rested on her head, whilst a train of the richest purple velvet, some ten or twelve feet long and six wide, lined and bordered with the purest ermine, attached to her dress behind, just below her shoulders, was borne by five gentlemen of the Imperial household. In my humble opinion she would have looked better without this splendid and very heavy appendage. As it was, she appeared extremely beautiful. When she ascended the platform, as well as throughout the ceremony, she was rather paler than usual, but seemed to be entirely self-possessed. The graceful manner of her standing, and the great beauty and loveliness which beamed from her countenance, charmed every one, and commanded every eye.
The marriage service was very long, and consisted of reading portions of the Gospels and Epistles, chanting of prayers and hymns by the choir, the chaplain and two deacons who assisted him taking the lead. And never have I heard such singing and chanting as from that choir, which consists of from sixty to eighty boys and men. There was no instrument of
kind-instrumental music not being permitted in the services of the Greek Church in Russia. I have often heard the Pope's choir in the Sixtine Chapel, in the Vatican, but never did I hear any thing like this. The base and sophrano voices were wonderful. A great portion of the singing consisted of the responses to the prayers, chanted by the entire choir. I never heard sounds prolonged to any thing like the extent that I did in these responses. Often the priest had made considerable progress in the next petition, before the last, lingering notes of the choir, uttering the preceding responses, had died away.
At the commencement of the ceremony, a wax candle was put in the left hands of the bride and bridegroom, which they held till the close. The marriage crowns were held over their heads during almost the whole ceremony ; the Grand Duke Constantine holding one over the head of the Grand Duchess, and the Grand Duke Nicholas holding another over the head of his brother-in-law, the Prince. It must have been rather fatiguing work to these youths, for they changed hands and position very often during the ceremony.
At one stage of the ceremony, the officiating priest, uniting the right hands of the bride and bridegroom, and taking hold of their hands, led them three times around the altar, accompanied by the crown-bearers, train-bearers, and two deacons; whilst the choir, priest, and deacons chanted portions of the Scriptures in an astonishing manner. It seemed almost as if the very walls of the chapel must be driven asunder by the force of the immense volume of voice which was poured forth from the many-throated company.
During the whole service, the Emperor, the Empress, all the members of the Imperial family, and many of the spectators frequently crossed themselves, according to the custom of the Greek Church, with much apparent devotion. This was especially the case with the Emperor, who stood all the time, wearing a half military dress of deep green, which is the color of the dress of the infantry of Russia. It was easy to see that, with his whole heart, he doated upon his beloved daughter, and that his earnest aspirations ascended to heaven in her behalf. The Empress, who is a most affectionate mother, seemed scarcely to withdraw her eyes from her daughter; and it was manifest that her maternal affections were deeply interested in the touching scene before her.
I may remark, that the Empress is about two years younger than the Emperor. She is a daughter of the late king of Prussia, and the eldest sister of the present monarch of that country. For many years after her marriage her health was excellent, and her overflowing spirits seemed never to know abatement. She was a beautiful woman, almost adored by her husband, and the life of the exalted circle in which she moved. In the summer of 1837, I saw her for the first time, at the fete which conmemorated the anniversary of her birth, in the same palace at Peterhoff. Her health was then good, and she was the centre and soul of the vast