Author Topic: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs  (Read 63899 times)

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David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2006, 11:28:06 AM »
Dear Liz,

I think that I now understand your comments about clapping in a church much better. Let me know if it is correct that you were attending a performance whose venue was a church and the audience clapped rather than you were attending a religous service in a church and the attendees clapped after individual musical accompanyments to the service? If you were simply attending a performance then the clapping is proper if you were attending a religious service then the clapping was improper.

David

David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2006, 11:51:18 AM »
THE HISTORY OF RUSSIAN COURT ETIQUETTE

By A.I. Barkovetz, Ph.D. in History

Part 1

The French Emperor Louis XIV introduced the word «etiquette» in the XVII century. At one of his grand receptions each guest received a card with printed behaviour rules everyone was supposed to observe. The French word for such a card was «etiquette», so that introduced the concept of «etiquette» as a set of behaviour norms appropriate in the high society. Court etiquette was carefully observed by the European Monarchy courts, both the rulers and their retinue were required to strictly follow the severely regulated rules and behaviour norms, which were at times close to absurd. Thus, the King of Spain Philippe III preferred to be burnt down by his fireplace (the lace on his clothes suddenly flamed up) rather than to put down the fire himself in the absence of the person in charge of the court fire ceremony.

The court etiquette first appeared in Russia during the times of the great «architect» of the Russian state, the reformer Tsar Peter I. The foreign elements of Western culture were often imposed by Peter the Great through the means of «whip and rack», when the Tsar often forced his boyars not only to destroy their patriarchal traditions and customs, but even to change their appearance and ways of life radically, turning their faces to the advanced Europe. New manners, etiquette, music and European fashion pervaded the «jail» Russia from the West.

The balls became one of the first newly established court ceremonials. The Royal Decree of 1719 stated the balls being the inalienable part of the famous Peter's assemblies. The Table of Ranks introduced in 1722 stipulated — among others — the court ranks, which after numerous changes compiled the strict hierarchy of the Russian Imperial Court.

After the death of Peter the Great the high society culture was developing dynamically. It did not blindly make an absolute copy of the Western model, but filled it with specific Russian features. The German influence was getting weaker, displaced by the French. The French language was becoming the language of the court and of the high society in general, thus it became an important part of nobility education and up bringing. The court etiquette was becoming more and more regulated, providing for especially splendid and magnificent features of the Russian Imperial Court. It affected the ambassadorial receptions in the first place. In 1744, during the reign of Elizabeth the «Ceremonial for foreign Ambassadors to the Russian Imperial Court» was developed. It specified the steps and actions starting from the moment of arrival of foreign guests to the Russian capital until the moment of reception itself.

The Empress Catherine the Great has undoubtedly played a special role in formation of the court etiquette in Russia. She was the author of the special «Hermitage» Etiquette, in which she insisted that the guests «should eat and drink well, but not to the extent that they might keep their feet under the table when it's time to dance». She also recommended the guests of Hermitage to admire «expensive porcelain statuettes and other objects of art just with your eyes, and in case these objects end up in your hands — do not put them by chance in your pockets».

The Russian Imperial Court owned huge property: palaces, parks, theatres, singing choirs, magnificent collections of arts. Most of the year the monarchs stayed in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, and sometimes in other palaces of the Russian capital. In the summer the Court moved to one of the countryside residences — to Tsarskoye Selo or to Peterhof. The vast household required pretty sophisticated management system. The structure of the court agencies was formed and changed within the course of many decades. In 1826 the Ministry of the Imperial Court and the Principalities was institutionalised, the Head of which was accountable to the Monarch directly, and as a rule had to be a highly credible person.

Providing for the proper respect and prestige of the Monarch was the main function of the Court. The Court consisted of people with titles and ranks. The Court ranks were divided into two classes. By 1908 there were 15 people who belonged to the First Class Court Ranks, and their ranks had the names of Arch-Steward, Arch-Marshal of the Imperial Court, Arch-Master of the Hunt and Arch-Schonk. 134 people belonged to the Second Class. In addition to those of the First and the Second Class, other people with court ranks were members of the Imperial Court. Those ranks were Chamberlain, Gentleman of the Bed Chamber, «Attached to Their Majesties» Medics, Furriers, Chamberlains, etc. The ladies of the Court had the ranks of Arch-Stewardesses of Imperial Court and of the Great Prince Courts, Maids of Honour, and others. No one belonging to the Court Rank could enter a marriage without a permission of the Emperor.

The Decrees regulating the Court Dress Code (uniform) were issued in 1831, and in 1834 the Special Decree set the order of female court dress of the so-called «Russian style». The colour of the velvet fabric and the design of gold or silver embroidery were based on the rank of the lady who wore the dress. Each Court Rank was attributed a specific uniform, and each uniform had separate sets for the balls, the ceremonies, for regular service and for a march. The higher the rank was, the more golden embroidery the uniform carried. The Arch-Steward had not a single seam on his dress without glittering arabesques and garlands.

The Court Ranks weren't merely «theoretical» (nominal), people who carried them had to follow certain duties. The Arch-Fonschneider accompanied the dishes served to His Majesty at the coronation dinner, the Arch-Schonk served the gold goblet with wine to the Tsar, the Arch-Master of the Hunt was present at the Imperial Hunting, the Equerries assisted the Tsar to get into the carriage, etc.

The Arch-Master of the Ceremonies of His Majesty's Court and the Arch-Stewardess of Her Majesty's Court were fully in charge of the etiquette and all the ceremonial procedures. We need to say here, that Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II, his son, were quite indifferent to the ceremonial issues, while as the Emperors Nicholas I and Alexander II were very strict about following the court etiquette, about organization of Imperial receptions and grand entrances, so it was absolutely unacceptable for their Masters of the Ceremonies to make a slightest mistake.

The Imperial Entrances were among the most important ceremonies of the Russian Imperial Court. There were Grand and Minor Entrances. All Court Rank bearers were absolutely required to be present at the Grand ones. Personal invitations were sent out for the Minor Entrances. This ceremony was connected with the appearance of the Emperor and the Empress out of the inner chambers and ceremonial passing into the church. All members of the Royal Family got together in the Malachite Hall of the Winter Palace, and the Court Ranks bearers ready to participate in the procession gathered in the other halls. The officers in charge of the ceremonial issues played the major role at such times; they watched the pre-set order to be observed and organized the Imperial cortege. Everyone belonging to the Court Ranks had to wear a ceremonial dress. The military had to appear only in their retinue dress regimentals, the ladies of the Court had to wear white dresses of Russian style with trains. Only the Great Princes, the higher-ranking dignitaries and stewardesses were admitted into the church. All the others had to await the end of the service outside. On their way back The Majesties stopped at the Concert Hall and the newly appointed Maids of Honour were introduced to them, as well as the dames granted the honours for distinguished service, and in January The Majesties greeted the Diplomatic Corps.

The court balls were even of greater importance. The ceremonial procedures were very strict and absolutely no liberties were allowed, rigid hierarchy had to be observed. Various entertaining games were introduced into the course of the balls in the XVIII century: cards, lotto, forfeits. The new fashionable tobacco smoking had also become part of the ball entertainment. Special attention was paid, of course, to the art of dance. Special dance schools were opened, and wealthier people hired individual dance tutors and dancing masters. Teaching children the art of dance had gradually become a compulsory element of their up bringing. Polonaise, contredanse, quadrille, round dance, and some Russian folk dances (trepak, Kamarinskaya) became the major ceremonial dances. The ball itself by the XVIII century had become «not just a show, but a spectacular show. The decorations were of special importance: the architectonics of the ball room, the surrounding environment, the final fireworks, and even the setting of the dinner table — anything that could be attributed to the ball framework» (Е.V. Dukov The Ball in the Culture of Russia. From the book Culture of Entertainment in XVIII-XIX centuries Russia. St.-Petersburg. 2001. P.179).

In the époque of Catherine the Great the balls featured such great affluence, luxury and grandeur, that many of the contemporaries were truly amazed. The need to follow strict requirements of ceremonial regulations, to demonstrate splendid attire and personal skills of court etiquette and of the art of dance turned the balls into some sort of an exam for all their participants, the exam they had to take and pass to prove their social status. The ballet-masters and choreographers trained the children of aristocratic families not just to dance, but to observe other norms of court etiquette as well: how many steps they were supposed to make to approach the Emperor properly, how they were supposed to hold their heads, their eyes, their hands, etc.

David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2006, 11:58:53 AM »
THE HISTORY OF RUSSIAN COURT ETIQUETTE

By A.I. Barkovetz, Ph.D. in History

Part 2

After the Great French Revolution of 1789 an enormous flow of foreigners spouted to Russia. They brought their language, fashion, traditions and manners with them. The Emperor Paul I was so much afraid of the revolutionary contagion, that he declared war to waltzes, to round hats, and to anything French, which used to be so popular with his Mother's Court. However, pretty soon he annulled his ban on the waltz for the sake of his favourite Anna Lopukhina, who loved this particular dance very fondly. The new etiquette rules introduced by Paul I reminded his contemporaries of Prussian military manoeuvres.

The époque of the Emperor Alexander I opened by a series of court balls in both capital cities, and the high society members enjoyed coming back to cheerful festive life. The persecution of all the French was abolished. In early XIX century Russian aristocrats were copying not just the beau ideals of European exterior fashion. Their behaviour was supposed to comply with the fashionable «sentimentalism» (and later «romanticism»): the «delicate paleness» was highly desirable, as well as discussions on sentimental topics. The interest towards music, literature and fine arts had become obligatory. All this trendiness had undoubtedly affected the court etiquette, as well. In the XIX century the balls were becoming the obligatory appanage of the court and aristocratic life. The balls were no longer just ceremonial events; they were turning into the place of flirtation and amusement. New dances — cotillion, ecossaise, mazurka, British «promenade» — had become a fashionable avocation of the young people. However, any ball always started out with a Grande polonaise, which had never become obsolete and stood against the new waltz and mazurka. This particular dance, despite of its cursory lightness, was pretty ornate both in its figures and its meaning and demanded special skills and dignity of bearing from the partners. Dinner was an obligatory part of any ball, and usually it was pretty sophisticated, with exquisite and complicated dishes being served. One can remember the famous Guriev's Kasha (the product of fantasy of the chef of Count D. A. Guriev) — a sort of pudding made from semolina with cream seasoned with walnuts, pineapples and a variety of other fruit.

The ball fashion of the early XIX century was a mixture of costumes from various époques, different styles and cultures. One could see clothes with elements of Ancient Greek style, and waistcoats from Catherine the Great's times, and red-heeled boots (a sign of nobility in France). To wear a tailcoat with lengthy trousers was a special chic, a touch of European taste. Military officers had to wear regimentals, which differed by various decorations, special for each regiment and kind of troops. White gloves, white pantaloons and shoes with silver buckles were obligatory elements of the military dress code. The possibility to carry weapons at the balls was either forbidden or strictly regulated. Two attributes were absolutely essential for the balls: fans for ladies (and there was a whole art of expressing emotions using them), and gloves for men.

After the Patriotic War of 1812 the European influence on Russian culture, and fashion in particular, grew even higher. The wigs and short pantaloons were left in the past. Tailcoats, long pantaloons covering the boots, a pin in the tie and a pocket watch took their place. An image of a contemporaneous young man was developed, who was «dressed as a London dandy» (according to A.S. Pushkin). This was not just a tribute to fashionable dress, this was a sort of special philosophy — seeming disinterested during the balls, having a languishing and disdainful look... As for the Emperor Alexander I himself, he liked to dance, but was doing that in an extremely elegant and exquisite manner.

«The Don-Quixote of the Russian absolutism» was the nickname of Nicholas I. He was a great adherent of various court entertainment; for him it was part of the image of the powerful and prosperous Empire, where the Court had to amaze with brilliance, elegance, luxury and grandeur. For this Russian monarch regular balls were an equal priority with receiving the Ministers and with the church services. «During the young years of the Emperor Nikolay (Nicholas) Pavlovich and the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna the Court was very lively. They both were extremely sociable and joyful, and they viewed entertaining the higher society as their duty, as well as their appearance to the public in theatres, at concerts, at promenades, etc. In other words, they lived openly, together with the others. The environment was Imperial, of course, very dignified: they understood the need of prestige. Grand dinners and balls were given in their palace all year round. Twice a year — on January 1st and July 1st — they gave the huge „peoples“ balls, the so-called „masquerades“. This name was preserved from the times of Peter the Great and his high successors, when such fancy dress-balls were extremely popular. During the winter the masquerades were held in grand halls of the Winter Palace, which were opened for all the public without any exception. In the summer such balls were held in the Great Peterhof Palace», — Baroness Frederix remembered. (From the memoir of Baroness M. P. Frederix. In the book The Mysteries of the Tsar's Palace (from the Maid's memoir). M.1997. P.299)

His son Emperor Alexander II also liked to throw balls. However, something elusive was changing in the atmosphere of court festivals. And that was the attitude of the Royal couple, first of all. Alexander II loved women's advertence and exhilaration and got carried away by the festive atmosphere. While his wife, the Empress Maria Alexandrovna, according to Count S. D. Sheremetyev, perceived the balls as her duty and boring obligation. (Memoir of Count S. D. Sheremetyev. M.2001. P.115).

David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2006, 12:09:31 PM »
THE HISTORY OF RUSSIAN COURT ETIQUETTE
 
By A.I. Barkovetz, Ph.D. in History
 
Part 3

It is curious, that the following Imperial couple had absolutely diametrical views on the balls. Alexander III started dreaming about the end of the ball as soon as he declared it open, while as the Empress Maria Fyodoronva could dance through all the night. The court etiquette and all the ceremonies had become much easier during the reign of this Emperor. He decreased the number of personnel of the Ministry of the Imperial Court substantially and introduced strict supervision over the expenses. Expensive imported wines were replaced by the Crimean and the Caucasus ones, and the number of Grand Court Balls was limited to four per year...

The court etiquette was strict about the norms for organizing the balls. The invitations to the Imperial balls were to be sent out no later than two weeks prior to the ball. The first ball of the season was held in the Nicholas Hall of the Winter Palace, where up to 3 000 quests were invited. Then the concert balls were organized (up to 700 invitees) and the Hermitage balls (up to 200 invitees). The titles of the balls matched the names of the halls in Winter Palace, which were allocated for the dancing. The bearers of the first four ranks of the Table of Ranks with spouses were invited to the court balls, as well as Court Rank bearers, foreign diplomats with their families, young officers — «the dance cavaliers» and special guests selected by the Royal family. The Steward kept a special Register of the invitees. Certain essential requirements were to be met to be able to attend a court ball: for men that was a formal right to be introduced to the Emperor, for women — the prior actual introduction to the Empress. The balls began, as a rule, at eight thirty in the evening. It was impossible to arrive late or to use the wrong entrance of the Palace. Everything was organized in accordance to special order: the Great Princes came through the entrance in the Saltykov lane, the bearers of the Court Ranks — through Their Majesties' entrance, civil servants had to come through the Jordan entrance, and military officers — through the Commandant's entrance.

Women were supposed to wear over clothes — pelisse or sortie-de-ball (special cape), to which they attached their visitors' cards. The head decorations were also regulated by the etiquette: married women wore diadems, and young ladies decorated their hair with flowers. The Court Dames attached the appropriate diamond cipher or a portrait of a Monarch to their left side (reflecting their rank). Officers showed off their dress uniforms. Court Ranks bearers, according to the regulations, had to wear short pantaloons and white silk stockings. The Master of Ceremonies opened the ball. In his hand he carried an ebony warder with an ivory globe, a double-headed eagle and the St. Andrew's blue ribbon bow on top. The orchestra started playing polonaise. The Emperor led the first pair, usually with the wife of the Dean of the diplomatic corps. The Arch-Marshal surrounded by the masters of ceremonies walked in front of the Emperor, as if laying the way for him. «The Court Polonaise was truly a hierurgy», — remembered the Head of the Registry of the Ministry of the Imperial Court A. A. Mosolov. (Mosolov А. А. At the Court of the Last Emperor. M. 1993. P.141). Then was the waltz's turn, then came mazurka, and then the guests were led into the room where dinner had been served. Cotillion was to finish the festival.

During the reign of Nicholas II the last Court ball was held on January 19 1904, and the war with Japan started in a few days. The Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna was staying farther and farther from the court life, closing herself inside her family and busy with the problems of her haemophilic son Alexis. The high society did not forgive her for that; the court people needed an Empress in the role of hospitable and friendly hostess in charge of all her partials. This conflict was then resolved by time itself. The World War I and two revolutions of 1917 put a final conclusive stop not only to the story of court life, but also to the history of Imperial Russia itself.

The above text is part of an exhibition catalogue titled "Russia and Japan: from Past to Future" that was held at Tokyo Metropolitan Art museum in Japan from the 22nd of April through the 6th of July 2003. ITAR TASS and State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSIZO (the Russian side) and Sankei Simbun and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum (the Japanese side) organized the exhibition. The original text of this article with illustrations can be found at http://www.rosizo.ru/eng/japan/etiket.html

Offline Tsarina_Liz

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2006, 01:18:28 PM »
Thanks for the etiquette posts...

When I was in Europe, I went to a lot of performances in Cathedrals and such that weren't religious.  I clapped.  But I also clapped in Church because I don't really think a god gives a damn about clapping.  That's just me, though...  
Hindsight is 20/20.  When the myopic haze of of the present is lifted by the march of time we see it clearly as the past.  Sociology, psychology, anthropology.  They are all means of understanding that which came before.  History cannot stand alone.

David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #20 on: February 17, 2006, 09:45:55 PM »
Quote
Thanks for the etiquette posts...
When I was in Europe, I went to a lot of performances in Cathedrals and such that weren't religious.  I clapped.  But I also clapped in Church because I don't really think a god gives a damn about clapping.  That's just me, though...

Dear Liz,

Considering the style and content of some of your posts this past week, one has to ask why you would even care about etiquette? If you think you can respond without asterisks appearing in your posts, I shall look forward to your answer.

Dvaid

Offline Sarushka

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #21 on: February 17, 2006, 09:50:27 PM »
Quote
Whether that was the case 100 years ago in Tsarist Russia, I am not sure,

That's exactly the point. 100 years ago, ladies didn't show their ankles. Times change.
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David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2006, 03:13:17 PM »
My dearest Liz,

 I have actually restrained myself from over reacting on this forum in particular when I have encountered difficult and intransigent people. I will give you credit however, for devising a rather clever scheme in order to bait me into an outburst but this anticipated reaction will not take place.

With all the best wishes,

David
« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 03:09:20 PM by Alixz »

Offline Ortino

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2006, 03:48:01 PM »
Frankly I think you both are acting rather silly. David_Pritchard, I have always respected you for your informative, insightful posts and I would hate for this topic like so many others to turn into nothing but an argument between two individuals when I am so interested in the subject at hand. Can we please continue onward and put this aside?

Now I have two questions. First, what was the protocol for court balls? What order did they do things? Did people eat and then dance and make conversation? The other way around? Could these be done simultaneously? Were only the nobility and royals invited? I've always been interested in these ceremonies, but I don't know that much about them.....Second, what was the protocol for palace staff's interaction with the royal children? Did they address them a certain way? Did they bow or curtesy to them? Were there restrictions on how much conversation and on what subjects they could have with them?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Ortino »

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2006, 04:12:54 PM »
Liz,
I am going to have to warn you about now having strayed into direct personal attacks to David P. I suggest you simmer down.

As for Etiquette in Imperial Russia, one NEVER EVER spoke to the Emperor, Empress or Imperial Grand Dukes without being addresed first. PERIOD.

One would NEVER have dared approach the Emperor or Empress in public uninvited. You would have been tackled to the ground by the Imperial Secret Security police before getting too close.

One could never have been invited to a formal Imperial Event without first having been presented to Court, either the Emperor, Empress or Dowager Empress. Again, one simply never addressed the Sovereign or Empress first.

The only "exception" would have been if you were "welcoming" the Emperor or Empress to your home, or an event of which you were in charge. THEN and only then would the simplest first greeting of "We humbly welcome Your Imperial Majesty" while bowing deeply.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by admin »

David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #25 on: February 18, 2006, 04:58:07 PM »
Forum Administrator,

I agree with your assessment of etiquette as it concerns the Russian Imperial House.

There is another interesting souce of first hand information regarding the social structure of the Russian Empire dating from around 1900, the book Russia by Donald Mackenzie Wallace. Here are the links to some of the relevent chapters:

Chapter XX Noblesse http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/hst/russian/Russia/chap27.html
Chapter XXIII Social Classes http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/hst/russian/Russia/chap33.html
Chapter XXIV Imperial Administration and the Officials http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/hst/russian/Russia/chap34.html

David
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by David_Pritchard »

David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #26 on: February 18, 2006, 05:08:48 PM »
Here is the first part of a study of the of the Russian Imperial Court during the middle of the 18th century as it was seen by western diplomats:

La perception de la cour de Russie sous le règne d’Elisabeth dans la culture des diplomates occidentaux

par Francine-Dominique Liechtenhan[/b]


Jusqu’à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, il était exceptionnel qu’un voyageur occidental soit admis à la cour russe ; seuls les diplomates y furent reçus lors d’audiences soigneusement réglées par le protocole. Leur regard était-il pour autant aveuglé par le faste déployé ? Le règne d’Elisabeth présente un double intérêt ; la fille cadette de Pierre le Grand était considérée comme l’héritière et la continuatrice de l’œuvre du premier souverain éclairé ; majestueuse par son apparence et sa stature, n’ayant jamais contracté de mariage officiel, elle apparaissait comme une déesse autour de laquelle gravitait la vie publique de son immense empire, si peu connu du lecteur à l’Ouest.

La présence d'une femme jeune et jolie à la tête de l'Etat modifiait à sa manière les rôles, faussait un jeu rôdé depuis des siècles. Le ballet des maîtresses avec leurs réseaux d'influence était plus ou moins toléré dans les cours occidentales ; la chorégraphie des amants autour d'une souveraine capricieuse (pourvue d'un grand sens de solidarité envers la gent féminine de surcroît) heurtait les esprits. Ligues et fractions se créèrent, se défirent, changèrent avec ou sans la participation des ministres étrangers dont les observations se biaisaient en fonction de leur investissement. Tout leur intérêt allait vers l'analyse des cabales ou factions et ils cherchaient à déterminer le rôle exact de chaque protagoniste. Leurs “mémoires” ou “relations” suivaient une rhétorique dont la hiérarchie se révèle très rigoureuse, allant du portrait de la souveraine vers celui de ses proches pour en dégager le fonctionnement de la cour. Le gouvernement de la nouvelle tsarine reposait essentiellement sur des favoris issus de tous bords et les cadres de l'armé. Elisabeth ouverte et tolérante aux personnes de toutes classes sociales autorisait telle ou telle carrière en dehors des strictes règles de la table des rangs- ceci pour le meilleur et pour le pire. Un cortège d'arrivistes et de parvenus appartenant aux deux sexes obnubilait l'illustre personne, abrutie par les fêtes incessantes, les nuits d'insomnie... et persuadée de ce fait de sa popularité[ii] ! La Souveraine à sa manière ne manquait pas de perfidie, elle semait souvent la discorde entre ses proches afin d'éviter toute contestation dangereuse. Elle jouait le grand chancelier Bestoujev contre le deuxième homme du régime, Voroncov, suscitant de petites ou grandes jalousies, improvisant des changements dans la répartition des tables, exagérant sans raison les cadeaux en faveur de l'un ou de l'autre, hasardant des clins d'œil ou des sourires engageants. Elle regardait cette politique de division comme “avantageuse pour le maintien de son établissement.”[iii] L'Impératrice de toutes les Russies savait flatter ses détracteurs ; les nobles de vieille souche hostiles par principe à la fille de Pierre Ier, furent comblés d'attentions et de postes honorifiques. Les méritocrates issus du régime de Pierre furent réinvestis dans leur fonction en dépit du grand âge de la majorité d’entre eux. Les structures et voies hiérarchiques sous le règne des héritières du grand tsar, et surtout de sa fille cadette, firent abstraction du mérite militaire ou administratif. L'irrationalisme imposé de la sorte suscitait rivalités, jalousies et paralysait a fortiori le fonctionnement de la cour, démystifiée, réduite aux impulsions les plus élémentaires. La tsarine se montrait à en croire le ministre français Dallion “en tout inférieure aux devoirs et aux charges de la Souveraineté.”[iv] Un désir essentiel régissait sa vie : ne pas être importunée par les affaires de l'Etat, à condition toutefois que son honneur restât sauf. Face à l'étranger elle se révéla scrupuleuse gardienne de l'étiquette, revendiquait tout le respect dû à son impériale personne. Elisabeth était paresseuse, certes, mais elle restait la fille de Pierre le Grand, consciente du rôle de son pays dans l'équilibre international.

L’impératrice russe se voulait donc la digne héritière de son père, aspirait à rendre un rôle prépondérant à son pays dans les affaires de l'Europe. Oisive certes, mais point sotte, elle savait contrecarrer les projets de son chancelier. Elle ne se fiait pas entièrement au chef de son gouvernement, elle l'écoutait impassible, malgré sa répulsion manifeste envers lui[v] mais elle ne tranchait jamais sur un coup de tête. Les Français longtemps spéculèrent sur la naïveté politique de la jeune femme, et l'ambassadeur La Chétardie s'empressa de confirmer ce leurre - il y allait de sa propre position. Son successeur Dallion partait du principe qu'elle était incapable et qu'il valait mieux la contourner - attitude condamnée par le cabinet du roi. D'Argenson la soupçonnait de mener un double jeu, de tromper ses interlocuteurs en se servant du grand chancelier pour garder le dernier mot. Le ministre prussien Mardefeld tablait sur la langueur de la dame ; il se bornait à conserver des rapports courtois avec Elisabeth, feignait d'être un partenaire de cartes enthousiaste et loyal afin de concentrer toute son attention sur la faction adverse. Pour Frédéric II et son ministre, Bestoujev était la tête incontestable du gouvernement. L'avenir allait donner raison à d'Argenson (dit “la Bête”) : la tsarine gardait le dernier mot et posait les conditions.

La hiérarchie de l'état russe, ni utérine ni consanguine, restait divisée, fractionnée, modulable au gré de la politique internationale, et cela à la suite d'une loi arbitrairement émise par Pierre le Grand, loi laissant au souverain la liberté de choisir son successeur, au détriment de la loi salique et de la primogéniture, inexistante l'une et l'autre. Les factions familiales se divisaient selon leurs sympathies et intérêts pour les ministres étrangers, tous commandités par leurs capitales en vue d'attiser telle ou telle intrigue. Dallion, le représentant de la France à Pétersbourg, annonça à Amelot “nous sommes ici dans l'embarras jusqu'au cou et dans des mouvements bien violents.”[vi] Dans les mois d'été et d'hiver 1743, les diplomates français et prussiens flanqués d'un certain nombre de dignitaires russes vivaient leur heure de gloire à la cour élisabéthaine. Jamais les pots de vin et autres cadeaux (dont un somptueux portrait de Frédéric II) n'affluèrent en de telles quantités depuis Berlin ou Paris. Les ordres en provenance de Potsdam montraient l'impatience du roi de “conquérir” la cour de Russie : “vous soufflerez feu contre mes ennemis ou faux amis, vous battrez le fer pendant qu'il est chaud.”[vii]. Il voulait pousser l'Impératrice et son cabinet à ce point où “[il] les [avait] désirés d'avoir depuis longtemps”, c'est-à-dire liés avec lui par une alliance défensive. Les cours d'Europe se divisaient selon leurs objectifs politiques, puis se retrouvaient selon la raison d'état ; les diplomates inversement tablaient sur leurs liens d'amitié, s'abandonnaient à un certain pragmatisme, nageaient parfois à contre-courant des positions officielles de leurs dirigeants respectifs. A Pétersbourg, la diplomatie des rois et des cours prit des dimensions insoupçonnées, suscita des comportements plus souples, plus humains, plus intuitifs aussi.

A la suite de catastrophes de tout genre survenues dans le groupe franco-prussien, la situation changea en faveur de “l'inique ministre” et ses adeptes  : Alexis Bestoujev- Rioumine -et la ligue austro-britannique. Le Chancelier montra son vrai visage, celui d'un homme calculateur, brutal, redoutablement intelligent et insaisissable, malgré son manque de souplesse. Il disposait d'une série de feintes pour se dérober à une décision ou à une promesse. Le cas échéant, il avait recours à la bouteille, et prétendait ne pas se souvenir des conversations de la veille ; parfois il s'avisait de bégayer et ne parvenait pas à prononcer telle phrase fatidique[viii]. Nombreux furent les changements de clan, les transfuges vers les faiseurs de carrière des deux bords. La situation au fil des années 1743-1745 s'embrouillait. Frédéric s'en plaignit à son maître d’artillerie Schmettau : “Quant au système actuel de la Russie, il est bien difficile d'en donner une juste idée, n'ayant presque point de système fermé, et changeant souvent de noir en blanc.”[ix] Le Français Dallion et le Prussien Mardefeld durent se rabattre sur des personnages de second rang pour reconstituer ou affermir leur système de relations. S'inspirant de la politique de Londres, le roi de Prusse, en cette année 1744 où il espérait encore contracter une alliance avec la Russie, oubliait “son économie décidée.”
  • hasardait des dépenses. On cultivait les amants d'Elisabeth par des cadeaux, on recevait à Potsdam ou Versailles des jeunes Russes avides d'instruction ; Cyrille Razoumovski, le frère du favori, fut comblé d'offrandes et de toutes sortes de faveurs. On passa même sur les mœurs choquantes, les beuveries, les duels, les affaires de femmes qui accompagnaient souvent le passage des nobles russes en Occident.


Offline Ra-Ra-Rasputin

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #27 on: February 18, 2006, 05:15:33 PM »
The rusty cogs in my brain were creaking as I read that French, David! I haven't read a French book in two years...and I am remarkably rusty!

Thanks for those informative posts and for taking the trouble to copy all of that down.  It must have taken ages!

I have always found it fascinating just how rigid etiquette rules were.  I remember reading once how only married women were allowed to wear tiaras; it was all quite ridiculous!

Rachel
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'History teaches that history teaches us nothing' ~ Hegel

David_Pritchard

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #28 on: February 18, 2006, 05:16:32 PM »
Part Two of the above article:

Quant au comportement vis-à-vis de la gent féminine, de nouveaux désaccords se dessinaient pourtant entre Berlin et Paris. Frédéric ne jugeait pas nécessaire de cultiver les amies de la tsarine, concentrait ses dépenses sur les courtisans les plus en vue, surtout s'il les savait acquis à sa cause. Il lui répugnait dans son for intérieur de se plier aux exigences d'une cour régie par une femme ; en dépit des conseils réitérés de Mardefeld, il négligeait sciemment la troisième force du Palais d'Hiver, après les favoris et ministres étrangers : l'entourage féminin de la Souveraine. La faction féminine issue de la famille de Catherine Ière, comptant les descendantes du frère et des nièces de celle-ci préoccupaient les diplomates. Les dames d'honneur souvent avaient plus d'emprise sur l'Impératrice que ses ministres, amants déchus ou personnages trop peu attrayants pour jouer ce rôle, et de ce fait traités en valets de pied. Ces femmes issues d'un milieu modeste, parvenues dans les années 1720 aux premiers rangs de la cour, avaient été les compagnes de jeu d'Elisabeth, les confidentes de ses amours précoces, les organisatrices de ses rendez-vous galants. Et ceci dans un palais étouffant sous les contrôles de la police secrète d'Anna Ivanovna. La Souveraine leur vouait une reconnaissance éternelle et sincère ; signe de suprême confiance, elles avaient le droit de lui « gratouiller » la plante des pieds durant son sommeil.

Anna Karlovna Voroncova, la femme du vice-chancelier, dominait cette petite cour familiale, entrait à toute heure dans les salons impériaux pour recevoir les confidences d'Elisabeth. Elle fut jusqu'à son départ entièrement dévouée aux ministres de Frédéric et de Louis. Evitant de trop se mêler des affaires, elle se contentait d'un rôle passif, transmettant par-ci par-là les “sages avis” de son mari ou préparant Elisabeth à les écouter. Un voyage en Occident la fit changer de camp. Parmi ses complices, on comptait une autre cousine de l'Impératrice, Elisabeth Efimovskaïa mariée avec Tchernychev, le ministre russe à Berlin (1742 à 1746)[xi]. Présomptueuse, encline au faste, celle-ci ne comprenait pas la simplicité du cérémonial de Potsdam, l'interprétait comme un affront personnel qui tourna bientôt en une haine profonde contre le roi de Prusse. Ses plaintes rejoignirent les impressions d'Anna Karlovna, n'avait-on pas osé, à Versailles, priver du tabouret la cousine de l'Impératrice[xii]. Dès leur retour, les deux femmes fomentèrent la dysharmonie dans le groupe franco-prussien, l'une détestant Frédéric, l'autre réprouvant Louis. Ces dames ne se privaient pas de propos désobligeants sur les princes occidentaux : des goujats, irrespectueux de la dignité impériale russe. Ce fut un facteur déterminant pour le revirement de l'impératrice de Russie en faveur de l’Autriche et de l’Angleterre en mai 1746.

A en croire les Mémoires du baron Friedrich von der Trenck, un aventurier et ennemi déclaré de Frédéric II, Mme Bestoujev tenait les rênes du gouvernement[xiii]. Trenck, célèbre pour ses passades dont la chancelière, allemande de naissance, eut elle aussi le privilège, trempa sa plume dans le fiel. Anna I. Bestoujeva fut la seule personne à trouver sa sympathie à la cour impériale dont la médiocrité navrait le hobereau prussien. Effective régente du pays, nota-t-il non sans exagération, elle décidait de la guerre ou de la paix. Bestoujev était la marionnette de son épouse, une femme intelligente et rusée, plus majestueuse que l'Impératrice. Le couple lui paraissait mal associé, le Chancelier réunissant en sa personne des traits aussi contradictoires que la malice, l'égoïsme, la faiblesse et la mesquinerie. Anna Ivanovna était entièrement dévouée aux Anglais, grâce à une pension juteuse. Les 1000 ducats gracieusement offerts par Dallion à sa rivale Mme Troubetzkoy ou les 4000 roubles glissés par Mardefeld dans la poche de son mari, le procureur général, ne faisaient pas le poids contre les dizaines de milliers de livres sterling qui coulaient dans la caisse familiale des Bestoujev. Et d'Argenson accusait son ministre de gaspiller l'argent “pour faire des pensionnaires à la France.”[xiv]... A tous les niveaux, l'économie des cabinets paralysait les légations. Les Prussiens distribuaient l'argent avec parcimonie, comportement peu habile dans une gynécocratie confirmée depuis Catherine Ière. Les Français donnaient peu, mais ils eurent soin de flatter les dames, canal essentiel pour parvenir aux bonnes grâces de la tsarine ; d'Argenson organisa après de longues hésitations une campagne de séduction visant les amies intimes d'Elisabeth. L'épouse du général en chef, la Roumiantseva, “dame du palais et fort en faveur auprès de l'Impératrice” et la princesse Dolgorukov “appartenant à tout ce qu'il y a de plus bien à la cour”, recevaient des Français des “gratifications” allant de 4000 à 6000 livres d'argent comptant[xv]. Versailles par le biais des favorites avait grand soin de cultiver l'ancienne noblesse, comportement révélateur de son opinion sur la méritocratie russe ; en revanche, on rechignait à soigner la famille roturière de la fille de Pierre le Grand. Berlin par contre ne faisait pas la différence, semblait plus à l'aise avec les parvenus issus de la Table des Rangs. Une telle répartition des rôles, systématiquement poursuivie à l'aide d'espèces sonnantes et trébuchantes, aurait pu faire la force des franco-prussiens. Mais les diplomates s'enlisaient dans le système de cour, se laissaient prendre aux petites intrigues qui opposaient famille impériale, favoris, courtisans et leur entourage féminin.

Dès que son pays se trouvait mêlé à un conflit, Elisabeth se réfugiait en contemplation ; “le bruit des armes” dérangeait Sa Majesté “dans ses plaisirs et dans sa dévotion.”[xvi] Hostile par intime persuasion à toute intervention armée, elle en voulait secrètement aux “créatures et clients” du comte de Bestoujev sans évaluer l'ampleur de sa propre négligence. Inabordable pendant le carême ou d'autres fêtes religieuses, elle multipliait les pèlerinages abandonnant par légèreté, par lâcheté peut-être, le pouvoir au grand chancelier. Selon sa logique, en laissant le second homme de l'Etat risquer la vie de ses sujets, elle-même ne se souillerait pas les mains par le sang versé. Bestoujev canalisait les informations, interprétait le déroulement de la politique internationale à son gré. Louis et Frédéric se résignèrent, abandonnèrent la cour de Russie aux mains de l'ennemi et comptèrent désormais sur le temps, le destin ou le bon sens populaire, en d'autres termes, sur une éventuelle insurrection ou révolution de palais[xvii]. Mardefeld nourrissait moins d'illusions encore, il ne croyait même plus en cette éventualité “d'autant moins fondée que la haine de la nation n'[était] guère à craindre, aussi longtemps qu'elle n'aura[it] pas de chef accrédité.” Ecrasée par les caprices d'Elisabeth et la tyrannie de Bestoujev, abrutie par la mécanique des honneurs et du pouvoir, l'élite de la nation, sans même parler du peuple, n'arrivait plus à imaginer “des opérations de vigueur” qui la libéreraient de la dictature du terrible ministre[xviii].

Les têtes tombaient, les étrangers fuyaient, mais la vie de cour continuait comme si de rien n'était. Lors d'une fête donnée à une fille d'honneur de l'Impératrice, les ministres, favoris et courtisans jouèrent leur rôle à la perfection, “composèrent” des visages exprimant insouciance et gaieté. Plein de rancœur, Finckenstein brossa le portrait psychologique du courtisan à l'issue de la soirée :

“J'eus du moins la satisfaction d'y voir le spectacle de dissimulation que la Russie seule peut fournir. Tout le monde y paraissoit de bonne humeur, le bal étoit plus animé qu'à l'ordinaire et les personnes les plus attachées au malheureux comte de Lestocq s'efforçaient de témoigner à l'enjouement.”

A peine l'un ou l'autre regard trahissait-il de la compassion pour l'amant incarcéré, destin qui guettait plus d'un favori ou courtisan[xix]. Le travail avec Bestoujev devint insupportable, ou plutôt impossible, et Elisabeth n'arrangeait guère la situation. Son nomadisme grandit pendant les périodes de crise. Il lui arrivait de déplacer la cour pendant deux ans à Moscou, voyage qui selon la tradition devait se faire avec tout le corps diplomatique. Dans l'ancienne comme dans la nouvelle capitale, les intrigues repartaient pour de bon. Plus éloignés encore de leur cabinet, les diplomates souffraient de l'espionite accrue de la chancellerie. L'acheminement du courrier devint difficile, la situation incontrôlable. A la suite d'une tel coup de tête qui donna lieu à un revirement de la politique étrangère russe, les Français et les Prussiens décidèrent de rompre les relations diplomatiques avec la Russie (soit en 1748 et en 1751). Le système de cour russe avait eu raison de la diplomatie.

Centre d'Etudes du monde russe - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, École des Hautes études en Sciences Sociales
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by David_Pritchard »

Offline Ra-Ra-Rasputin

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Re: Protocol and Etiquette in the Court of the Romanovs
« Reply #29 on: February 18, 2006, 05:22:56 PM »
Hmmmm....I just wrote a post and it appears to have disappeared!!!

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for taking the trouble to provide all of that information for us, David.  I hope you're a fast typer, otherwise I dread to think how long it took you.

I found the information you posted fascinating.  It's so interesting to learn the little details of court life, such as how married women wore diadems and unmarrieds wore flowers in their hair.  The rigidity and expectations of it all helps me to see just how much of a strain it must have been for someone with Alexandra's temperament to cope during court events.

The French excerpt was also interesting, though how much I actually understood is questionable; I haven't read a French book in two years!

Thanks again, David.  You are very generous with your time. :)

Rachel
xx
'History teaches that history teaches us nothing' ~ Hegel