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palace, the priest and choristers commenced an anthem: the young couple stood upon a cloth of scarlet fringed with gold, whilst two officers of state held a crown on each of their heads, which part of the ceremony is observed towards the commonest Russians; then walked three times before the altar, each holding a lighted taper, exchanged rings, and drank three times out of the sacramental cup, after which the Metropolitan exhorted them: when he had concluded, the bride saluted the archbishop, and her family, and the procession returned. Upon the close of the ceremony a rocket was discharged from the granite terrace in front of the palace towards the Neva, when discharges of çi naon announced the happy tidings to the people. About two hours afterwards a splendid banquet, for the whole court, was served in the grand marble hall, a room, according to my own stepping, two hundred and fifty feet long, and about forty feet high, having arched galleries for the accommodation of spectators, at the end and on the side opposite the windows: the Imperial table was covered with vases of gold, filled with the rarest flowers, pyramids of pines, and the finest fruits, elegantly arranged. Soon after the nobility were seated at the tables, which were covered with every delicacy, the grand master of the ceremonies made a buzzing noise, when the greatest silence immediately followed, the folding-doors opened, and the Imperial family entered, attended by a suite of state officers, and took their seats; when the pages in waiting, richly attired, each hava
ing his right hand covered with a napkin, served the imperial dinner: a noble band of music played, and several fine airs were sung by a distinguished singer, which, on account of the vastness of the room and the frequent roaring of the cannon, were very imperfectly heard. When the Emperor rose and drank felicity to the young couple from a vase of gold, if my sight erred not, a tear bedimmed the eyes of the beautiful bride. During the banquet one of the pages, from excessive agitation, spilt some soup upon her robe, which she returned with a most gracious smile. In the hall were several running footmen who have the privilege of wearing at all times and in all places, their caps and feathers. With great difficulty we reached our carriage, through rooms crowded with cooks, and a great number of sailors in their best dresses, who, upon this occasion, were assistant scullions. Whilst we were at dinner at the hotel, we received a note from our ambassador, informing us that the Emperor had appointed half past six o'clock in the evening for our introduction to him, previous to the ball: this honour, at such a time and on such an occasion, we were told, was against the usual etiquette of the Court, and therefore the more flattering. A short time before the Imperial family appeared, the nobility retired from the room where the presentation was to take place; the names of our party amounting to six, of whom four were English, were given to the Emperor by Count Sherametoff, who intro
duced us. Upon the folding doors opening, a procession similar to that in the morning commenced; when the Emperor approached us the whole halted, and the Count, calling each by his name, introduced us to the Emperor, the Empressdowager, and the Empress, by whom we were very graciously received. An Italian nobleman, who was presented with us, fell at the feet of the Emperor and endeavoured to embrace his knees, which the sovereign recoiled from, with a look that indicated how little a manly generous mind, like his, could be gratified with such servility. After this ceremony, the procession, which we followed, moved to St. George's hall: this magnificent apartment, more rich, though not so vast, as Potemkin's hall, is entirely gilded with various coloured gold, and illuminated by a profusion of richly gilded lustres : on each side were galleries crowded with spectators: on either side of the grand entrance were two enormous mirrors, rising above some exquisite statues of alabaster; and at the end, raised upon a flight of steps, stood the throne. As soon as the Imperial family entered, the band struck up an exquisite polonaise, which is rather a figure promenade than a dance, the weather being too hot for such exercise: the Emperor led out the bride, and walked to the time of the music, the rest of the Imperial family and the Court, amounting to about forty couple, following, up and down the room, forming curves, and various other figures. This recreation continued an
hour; a short time before it expired, I was introduced, through the favour of Madame B-, to the chamber of the bride and bridegroom. In front of the bed, under glass covers, were the bride's jewels, and a service of gold presented to her by her august family, and a golden salver containing a loaf and salt, which, according to the Russian custom, is presented by the Empress-dowager to her daughter on the night of her marriage, just before she unrobes : it is intended to express her wishes, that as the connection between parent and child is dissolved by marriage, she may never want the comforts of life.
The bed was a state one, the robes-de-chambre of the Princess were placed on a stool on the right hand side, and the slippers of the Prince on the left. Heavens ! thought I, what a strange country this is ! the postilions ride their horses on the wrong side, and the husbands sleep on the wrong side; but the remark was no sooner made than removed : it does not accord with the dignity of the empire that any Prince under Heaven should take the right of a Grand Duchess of Russia. Hymen had touched the tapers with his torch, and a band of merry-looking pretty girls, dressed in white, and adorned with flowers, were waiting to receive the happy bride, and let loose the virgin zone. As I quitted this bower of Eden I longed to leave behind me the following beautiful recipe for preserving love:
« Cool as he warms, and love will never cool:
In the evening the city was magnificently illuminated: the house of British embassy shone with unrivalled elegance and splendour. As we rode
the Neva, after supper, we were uncommonly gratified by seeing the whole of the fortress, down to the water's edge, illuminated, which presented a spectacle the most brilliant, and completely novel, I ever beheld. Our bargemen again regaled us with one of their musical yells, the effect of which was encreased by the addition of two tamborines struck at random. In the evening, after the nuptials, the Imperial family went to the the theatre was superbly illuminated, and the court scenes were displayed, which presented the finest specimens of scenic painting I ever beheld. When the Emperor was about to leave his box, the people saluted him with the most enthusiastic applause, with which he was visibly affected.