​3. Of Mosco the chief Citie of the kingdome and of the Emperour thereof Ivan the Terrible (1584)

Richard Chancellor; from Voyages and Documents of Richard Hakluyt, 1553.

(Richard Chancellor took part in an expedition to find a northern sea-route to China in 1553; his ship made harbour in the White Sea, and this led to his visiting Moscow and establishing a trade agreement with Ivan the Terrible. In 1555, following Chancellor's return to England, the famous Muscovy, (later the Russia) Company was founded. Chancellor was drowned during the disastrous voyage home after his second visit to Russia, in 1556.)

It remaineth that a larger discourse be made of Mosco, the principall Citie of that Countrey, and of the Prince also, as before we have promised. The Empire and government of the king is very large, and his wealth at this time exceeding great. And because the citie of Mosco is the chiefest of al the rest, it seemeth of it selfe to challenge the first place in this discourse. Our men say, that in bignesse it is as great as the Citie of London, with the suburbes thereof. There are many and great buildings in it, but for beautie and fairenesse, nothing comparable to ours. There are many Townes and Villages also, but built out of order, and with no hansomnesse: their streetes and vv-ayes are not paved with stone as ours are: the walks of their houses are of wood: the roofes for the most part are covered with shingle boords. There is hard by the Citie a very faire Castle, strong, and furnished with artillerie, whereunto the Citie is joyned directly towards the North, with a bricke wall: the walles also of the castle are built with bricke, and are in breadth or thickenesse eighteene foote. This Castle hath on the one side a drie ditch, on the other side the river Moscua, whereby it is made almost inexpugnable. The same Moscua trending towards the East doth admit into it the companie of the river Occa.

In the Castle aforesaide, there are in number nine Churches, or Chappels, not altogether unhansome, which are used and kept by certaine religious men, over whom there is after a sort, a Patriarke, or Governour, and with him other reverend Fathers, all which for the greater part, dwell within the Castle. As for the kings Court and Palace, it is not of the neatest, onely in forme it is foure square, and of lowe building, much surpassed and excelled by the beautie and elegancie of the houses of the kings of England. The windowes are very narrowly built, and some of them by glasse, some other by lettisses admit the light: and whereas the Palaces of our Princes are decked, and adorned with hangings of cloth of gold, there is none such there: they build and joyne to all their wals benches, and that not onely in the Court of the Emperour, but in all private mens houses.

Nowe after that they had remained about twelve dayes in the Citie, there was then a Messenger sent unto them, to bring them to the Kings house: and they being after a sort wearied with their long stay, were very ready, and willing so to doe: and being entred within the gates of the Court, there sate a very honorable companie of Courtiers, to the number of one hundred, all apparelled in cloth of golde, downe to their ankles: and therehence being conducted into the chamber of presence, our men beganne to wonder at the Majestie of the Emperour: his seate was aloft, in a very royall throne, having on his head a diademe, or Crown of golde, apparelled with a robe all of Goldsmiths worke, and in his hand hee held a Scepter garnished, and beset with precious stones: and besides all other notes and apparances of honour, there was a Majestie in his countenance proportionable with the excellencie of his estate: on the one side of him stood his chiefe Secretarie, on the other side, the great Commander of silence, both of them arayed also in cloth of gold: and then there sate the Counsel of one hundred and fiftie in number, all in like sort arayed, and of great state. This so honorable an assemblie, so great a Majestie of the Emperour, and of the place might very well have amazed our men, and have dasht them out of countenance: but notwithstanding Master Chanceler being therewithall nothing dismaied saluted, and did his duetie to the Emperour, after the manner of England, and withal', delivered unto him the letters of our king, Edward the sixt. The Emperour having taken, & read the letters, began a little to question with them, and to aske them of the welfare of our king: whereunto our men answered him directly, & in few words: hereupon our men presented some thing to the Emperour, by the chiefe Secretary, which at the delivery of it, put of his hat, being before all the time covered: and so the Emperour having invited them to dinner, dismissed them from his presence: and going into the chamber of him that was Master of the Requests to the Emperour, & having stayed there the space of two howres, at the last, the Messenger commeth, and calleth them to dinner: they goe, and being conducted into the golden Court, (for so they call it, although not very faire) they finde the Emperour sitting upon an high and stately seate, apparelled with a robe of silver, and with another Diademe on his head: our men being placed over against him, sit down: in the middes of the roome stoode a mightie Cupboord upon a square foote, whereupon stoode also a round boord, in manner of a Diamond, broade beneath, and towardes the toppe narrowe, and every steppe rose up more narrowe then another. Upon this Cupboorde was placed the Emperours plate, which was so much, that the very Cupboord it selfe was scant able to sustaine the waight of it: the better part of all the vessels, and goblets, was made of very fine gold: and amongst the rest, there were foure pots of very large bignesse, which did adorne the rest of the plate in great measure: for they were so high, that they thought them at the least five foote long. 

There were also upon this Cupboard certaine silver caskes, not much differing from the quantitie of our Fyrkins, wherein was reserved the Emperours drinke: on each side of the Hall stood foure Tables, each of them layde and covered with very Beane table clothes, whereunto the company ascended by three steps or degrees, all which were filled with the assemblie present: the ghests were all apparelled with linnen without, and with rich skinnes within, and so did notably set out this royal feast. The Emperour, when hee takes any bread or knife in his hand, doth first of all crosse himselfe upon his forehead: they that are in speciall favour with the Emperour sit upon the same bench with him, but somewhat farre from him: and before the comming in of the meate, the Emperour himself, according to an ancient custome of the kings of Moscovy, doth first bestow a piece of bread upon every one of his ghests, with a loud pronunciation of his title, and honour, in this manner: The great Duke of Moscovie, and chide Emperour of Russia, John Basiliwich (& then the officer nameth the ghest) doth give thee bread. Whereupon al the ghests rise up, and by & by sit downe againe. This done, the Gentleman Usher of the Hall comes in, with a notable company of servants, carying the dishes, and having done his reverence to the Emperour, puts a young Swanne in a golden platter upon the table, and immediately takes it thence againe, delivering it to the Carver, and seven other of his fellowes, to be cut up: which being perfourmed, the meate is then distributed to the ghests, with the like pompe, and ceremonies. In the meane time, the Gentleman Usher receives his bread, and tasteth to the Emperour, and afterward, having done his reverence, he departeth. Touching the rest of the dishes, because they were brought in out of order, our men can report no certaintie: but this is true, that all the furniture of dishes, and drinking vessels, which were then for the use of a hundred ghests, was all of pure golde, and the tables were so laden with vessels of gold, that there was no roome for some to stand upon them.

We may not forget, that there were izio. servitors arayed in cloth of gold, that in the dinner time, changed thrise their habit and apparell, which servitors are in like sort served with bread from the Emperour, as the rest of the ghests. Last of all, dinner being ended, and candles brought in, (for by this time night was come) the Emperour calleth all his ghests and Noble men by their names, in such sort, that it seemes miraculous, that a Prince, otherwise occupied in great matters of estate, should so well remember so many and sundry particular names. The Russes tolde our men, that the reason thereof, as also of the bestowing of bread in that manner, was to the ende that the Emperour might keepe the knowledge of his owne houshold: and withal, that such as are under his displeasure, might by this meanes be knowen.