18. Catherine the Great's betrothal while still a German princess (1743)

In the evening we went incognito to the Kremlin, an ancient castle which served as a residence of the Tsars. I was given a room at the top, so high that one could hardly see the people who walked at the foot of the wall.

The Grand Duke had shown some interest in me during my illness and continued to do so after I recovered. While he seemed to like me, I cannot say that I either liked or disliked him. I was taught to obey and it was my mother's business to see about my marriage, but to tell the truth I believe that the Crown of Russia attracted me more than his person. He was sixteen, quite good-looking before the pox, but small and infantile, talking of nothing but soldiers and toys. I listened politely and often yawned, but did not interrupt him and as he thought that he had to speak to me and referred only to the things which amused him, he enjoyed talking to me for long periods of time. Many people took this for affection, especially those who desired our marriage, but in fact we never used the language of tenderness. It was not for me to begin, for modesty and pride would have prevented me from doing so even if I had had any tender feelings for him; as for him, he had never even thought of it, which did not greatly incline me in his favour. Young girls may be as well brought up as you could wish, but they like sweet nonsense, especially from those from whom they can hear it without blushing.

The next day, St. Peter's Day, when my betrothal was to be celebrated, the Empress's portrait framed in diamonds was brought to me early in the morning, and shortly afterwards the portrait of the Grand Duke, also encircled with diamonds. Soon after, he came to take me to the Empress who, wearing her crown and Imperial mantle, proceeded on her way under a canopy of massive silver, carried by eight major-generals and followed by the Grand Duke and myself. After me came my mother, the Princess of Homburg, and the other ladies according to their rank. (From the moment of my conversion it was ordained that I should precede my mother, though I was not yet betrothed.) We descended the famous flight of stairs called Krassnoe ICriltso, crossed the square and walked to the cathedral, the Guards regiments lining the road. The clergy received us according to custom. The Empress took the Grand Duke and myself by the hand and led us to a platform carpeted with velvet in the centre of the church where Archbishop Ambrose of Novgorod betrothed us, after which the Empress exchanged our rings — the one the Duke gave me cost twelve thousand roubles and the one I gave him fourteen thousand. Guns were fired after the service. At midday the Empress lunched with the Grand Duke and myself on the throne in the hall named Granovitaia Palata.

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