P. Polyakov. The overthrow of Biron. Illustration for Lazhechnikov's novel The Ice House, 1894
В previous article it was told about the search for the heir to the Russian throne from the Ioannovich family, the death of Empress Anna and the activities of Biron as regent under the infant Ioann Antonovich. In the final article of the cycle, we will talk about the fall of Biron and the last years of his life.
"Night Revolution" November 9, 1740
As you remember, Field Marshal Munnich was dissatisfied with both Biron's elevation and the insufficiently high position that he himself occupied. Most of all, Minich wanted to receive the title of Generalissimo. Having secured the consent of the mother of the infant emperor, Anna Leopoldovna, on the night of November 9, 1740, the field marshal, at the head of only 80 soldiers, boldly went to the Summer Palace to overthrow the regent. Christoph Hermann von Manstein, the son of commandant Revel (Tallinn), a participant in the Crimean campaigns and the storming of Perekop, who rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and the post of adjutant of Field Marshal Minich, was appointed the main executor. The soldiers of the Manstein detachment (20 people - Minich and the remaining 60 soldiers remained on the street), not without difficulty finding the regent's bedroom, knocked out the door with rifle butts and burst into the room. Biron desperately defended himself, and in the ensuing fight, the soldiers inflicted 20 wounds on him, some of which then made themselves felt over the course of 2 years. In the end, the regent was tied up, covered with an overcoat, carried out into the street (at the same time they passed through the hall, where the coffin with the body of Anna Ioannovna still stood) and put into a carriage. His wife was also taken out of the palace, but they didn’t take it away - they just threw it into a snowdrift.
Gustav Biron and Cabinet Minister A.P. Bestuzhev-Ryumin were also arrested. We have already spoken about the fate of Gustav Biron. But Bestuzhev-Ryumin did not disappear - he was briefly sent to his Vologda estate, but then returned, and even received the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called - for "innocent suffering". Later he became the chancellor of the Russian Empire and the positive hero of the near-historical series "Midshipmen, forward!". It was about A.P. Bestuzhev-Ryumin that Frederick II said:
“His corruption reached the point that he would sell his mistress (Elizabeth) at auction if he could find a rich enough buyer for her.”
The information from the Prussian king was accurate: the chancellor received seven thousand rubles from his government, and twelve thousand from the British. He also took money from the Austrians.
But back to Byron. It is curious that in the epigram written after his arrest, the regent was called a bull whose golden horns were broken: you must admit, the comparison is quite flattering and not offensive. The golden-horned bull is still not a plucked rooster, not a mangy dog, not a pig or a rat.
To Pelym and back
The investigation of the former regent quickly reached a dead end, as it turned out that there was nothing to accuse him of. So, Munnich, for example, stated that Biron took 300 thousand rubles from the treasury for the construction of a palace in Mitau, 600 thousand for the purchase of mortgaged Courland estates and 37 thousand Reichstalers for the purchase of the Wartenberg estate in Silesia, but it was not possible to prove this. The former regent brazenly demanded a trial and asked "uncomfortable questions":
“Please show me how much I stole. Where exactly, from which bag I took.
No one could show it, but, think for yourself, was it not to let him go with an apology? Not then at night they pulled out of bed. Biron was unfoundedly accused of not going to church, not caring about the health of Anna Ioannovna and disrespectful to her, insolently treated Anna Leopoldovna and her husband, “lashed out angrily» on dignitaries and so on, in the same vein. Biron was also accused of threatening to bring Prince Holstein to Russia, which was not at all beneficial to him: we are talking about the future Peter III, the undisputed heir to the throne along the line of the Petrovichs, whom Elizabeth later summoned to St. Petersburg. Biron, of course, was on the side of the Ivanovichs. But his enemies did not even think about the plausibility of the accusations.
It is curious that in the manifesto published on behalf of Emperor Ivan VI on April 14, Biron was compared with Boris Godunov.
The former regent was sentenced to quartering, but the execution was replaced by an eternal exile in Pelym, and he was ordered to be called Biring. On June 14, 1741, Biron with his family and several servants left to him under the protection of 84 soldiers were taken to Pelym. They reached their destination only in November.
Much later, the Decembrist A.F. Briggen, who was exiled to those parts, wrote down the stories of the old people that Biron
“He behaved very proudly, so that the local governor, meeting with him on the street, talked, taking off his hat, and in his house he did not dare to sit down without an invitation.”
However, in anguish and despair, the former regent twice tried to set fire to the house allotted to him, built according to the project of Munnich himself.
The fall of the "Brunswick family"
Minich did not receive such a coveted title of generalissimo, and as a thank you from Anna Leopoldovna, who became the ruler of Russia, he was soon dismissed. This woman, according to the English envoy Edward Finch, was "endowed with intelligence and common sense". Many contemporaries note her gentleness and kindness.
At the same time, Anna had practically no experience in political struggle and palace intrigues, she was condescending, complacent and did not believe in someone else's deceit (which Elizabeth later took advantage of).
At the same time, the new ruler had an affair with Moritz Linar with renewed vigor, which began so rapidly even before her marriage that Empress Anna Ioannovna hurried to expel this Saxon from Russia.
Louis Caravaque. Portrait of Anna Leopoldovna, 1740
Moritz Karl Linar, portrait by an unknown artist, 1756
Meanwhile, the situation in St. Petersburg was complex and required increased attention. The new Cabinet Minister Mikhail Golovkin did not possess Osterman's talents and authority, there was no agreement in the government, and Chétardy reported to Paris that in St. Petersburg "everyone goes apart". In the royal palace, balls followed balls, and in the capital's garrison, whose guardsmen were not distinguished by discipline anyway, a real mess was going on. Not only officers, but also soldiers of the guards regiments came to the service drunk, instead of military exercises they played cards, sentries arbitrarily "left the guards". The brawls that the guards staged in taverns and brothels, fights and even shooting in the streets, robberies of passers-by became commonplace. A certain Ivan Korkin, a grenadier of the Semyonovsky regiment, was detained in the market during the sale of dishes that he stole from the house of the greatest chancellor A. M. Cherkassky, and a soldier of the Preobrazhensky regiment Artemy Fadeev took out silverware and pots already from the royal palace. Another Preobrazhensky, Gavriil Naumov, drunkenly broke into the house of the French ambassador Chétardie. During interrogation, he testified that he wanted to borrow money from the Marquis. The French diplomat Favier gave the following assessment of the guards regiments of St. Petersburg:
“A large and extremely useless corps ... of the Janissaries of the Russian Empire, whose garrison is in the capital, where they seem to keep the courtyard imprisoned.”
Meanwhile, in Sweden, which was dreaming of revenge, the “battle hat party” won. In 1741, a new war began with Russia, which took place on the territory of Finland. The Russian troops were led by Field Marshal Pyotr Lassi, already familiar to us.
The Swedes lost the "Russian war of hats" (Hattarnas ryska krig), but it became one of the reasons for another coup d'état in Russia. The “Russian patriot” Elizabeth organized it with the money of Sweden, which was at war with Russia, and France, which was allied to this country (although then she cynically “threw” her creditors and benefactors - the winners do not pay their bills).
At first, Anna Leopoldovna made a mistake, who in November 1741, having received a letter from a Russian agent in Silesia with a detailed description of the conspiracy, which contained an unequivocal call for the arrest of the court physician and adventurer Lestok, showed this document to Elizabeth, allowing her to convince herself of her innocence.
Johann Hermann Lestok, copy of a portrait by G.K. Groot, 1740s. Through it went the financing of the conspiracy from Sweden and France. In Chétardie's reports, he was described as an agent "brave buddy”, received from the French treasury a “pension” of 15 thousand livres. And the Prussian ambassador in St. Petersburg, in a letter to Frederick II, called him "such a zealous servant of your majesty, as if he were in your service»
Meanwhile, the ministers of Anna Leopoldovna decided to use the war as a pretext for the withdrawal from St. Petersburg of the absolutely decomposed and becoming uncontrollable guards regiments. The order to prepare for the speech from the capital, the guards received the next day after the conversation between Anna Leopoldovna and Elizabeth. It was impossible to make a better gift for the conspirators: the guards did not want to fight, moreover, they were afraid that they would not be returned to the capital later. A total of 308 Preobrazhenians (they will become life-companies under Elizabeth and become famous for their unpunished brawls) decided the fate of Russia by capturing the young legitimate emperor and arresting his parents. For a long 20 years, "merry Elizabeth" came to power in Russia. Thus, Anna Leopoldovna managed to hold on to power for only a little over a year.
Elizabeth's conspiracy was unique in that she did not have her own "party" among Russian dignitaries and aristocrats. But the Saxon envoy Petzold, expressing the general opinion of foreign ambassadors, said later:
"All Russians admit that they can do anything, having at their disposal a certain number of grenadiers, a cellar with vodka and a few bags of gold."
The drunken soldiers then looked into the house of Field Marshal Peter Lassi. There is a legend that only his resourcefulness saved the honored commander from the arrest - as if to the question of whom he serves, the field marshal answered: to the one who now reigns.
Biron never offended Elizabeth, who came to power. He even patronized her - after all, Anna Ioannovna, and many of her courtiers treated her daughter with contempt "soldier's port". Once he even paid off Elizabeth's debts and gave her 20 rubles. The new Empress Biron did not rehabilitate, but nevertheless ordered that he be transferred with his whole family to live in Yaroslavl, where he spent 20 years. And Minich and his wife went to Pelym - to the prison, designed by him personally for the maintenance of the overthrown regent: as they say, "do not dig a hole for another." Minich, who was retired, was arrested and sentenced to death, but pardoned at the last minute (Osterman, who was nearby, had already laid his head on the chopping block). In Kazan, Biron, returning from Pelym, met with Minikh, who was going there: the nobles of Anna Ioannovna did not say a word to each other - they only silently exchanged bows. In Pelym, the retired field marshal probably regretted his reckless decision to remove Biron from the post of regent more than once. After 20 years, Minich and Biron will meet again in St. Petersburg - in the palace of Emperor Peter III.
The dashing warrior Manstein, who captured Biron, was transferred to the fleet, then planted in a fortress, but soon released. Deciding not to tempt fate, he fled to Prussia, where he wrote the famous Notes on Russia. "Meek Elizabeth" took out her anger on Manstein's father, who was removed from office and arrested.
Biron in Yaroslavl
Two chests with the clothes of the former regent, furniture, dishes, books from the library and even hunting rifles, dogs and horses were delivered to Yaroslavl from St. Petersburg. He was allowed to correspond, but it was forbidden to travel further than 20 miles from the city. Biron was guarded by 25 soldiers, who were first led by lieutenant N. Davydov, and then by S. Durnovo, whom the former regent complained to in St. Petersburg in 1753:
“We were forced to endure so many afflictions from this man that few such days passed in which our eyes would dry up from tears ... without any reason, he screams at us and pronounces the most cruel and rude words.”
In the end, Biron achieved the removal of Durnovo, but he not only did not suffer any punishment, but even received a promotion.
In 1749, a scandal broke out in the Biron family: his daughter, Hedwig Elizaveta, ran away. But not to a young boyfriend, as one might think, but to Empress Elizabeth, who was on a pilgrimage in the Trinity-Sergius Lavra. At first, with the help of the wife of the Yaroslavl governor Pushkin, who participated in this intrigue, she achieved a meeting with the first state lady of the Empress, Countess M. E. Shuvalova, and then an audience with Elizabeth. Without hesitation, the fugitive declared that she had left home because she realized that the Lutheran faith was detrimental to the human soul, and her tyrant father did not allow her to convert to Orthodoxy. This event created a small sensation at the court of the Empress. Biron's daughter was baptized, accepted as the second chamberlain - the overseer of the ladies-in-waiting, and married to Baron A. I. Cherkasov.
Baroness Ekaterina Ivanovna Cherkasova, born Princess Hedwig Elizaveta Biron in the portrait of I. Darbes, 1781
Let's return to Biron, who, by the way, being deprived of all Russian ranks and titles, nevertheless remained the legitimate Duke of Courland, a vassal of the Polish king (who was the only one who could deprive Biron of his title). Both in Courland and in Poland there were occasional demands for the release of Biron. Chancellor Bestuzhev-Ryumin offered to send Biron to Mitava, leaving his sons in Russia as honorary hostages. However, Elizabeth was adamant: a myth had already begun to form about how she delivered Russia from the rule of foreigners. But we do remember that, in fact, during the reign of "Peter's daughter" the number of foreigners in Russia and their influence even increased. So, in 1748, the “Germans” were: two generals out of five, four lieutenant generals out of nine, 12 dragoon colonels out of 24 and 20 infantry colonels out of 25.
In addition, the baby emperor John Antonovich was alive, and according to all the law and traditions of that time, Elizabeth was nothing more than a usurper of the throne. Immediately after the coup, coins with the image of Ivan VI, documents in which he was mentioned, began to be withdrawn from circulation. The short period of his reign was called "reign of the former Duke of Courland and Princess Anna of Brunswick-Lüneburg". The sycophants of that time in their writings even descended to blasphemy and blasphemy, representing a crowd of drunken guards
“Blessed and chosen by God and bound by the union of love, enlightened by the light of reason.”
None other than M. V. Lomonosov, in his "Eulogy" on the day of Elizabeth's accession to the throne, wrote:
“A wonderful and beautiful vision is depicted in my mind that a maiden comes with a cross, armed soldiers will follow. She becomes inflamed with a fatherly spirit and faith in God, they burn with jealousy for her.
"In a white halo of roses in front of Jesus Christ."
In the 1741th century, in the same unctuous style, Valentin Pikul wrote about the palace coup of XNUMX. True, he still did not drag the angels of heaven into the cause of the coup d'etat, but, perhaps, only because the Soviet censorship would not have missed the story about them.
In general, Biron was immediately assigned the role of the main villain of a hastily invented play, his rehabilitation contradicted the official version, and therefore, not only under Elizabeth, but under all the Romanovs, it was impossible. The only exception was Peter III, who returned Biron to Petersburg. He, by the way, intended to significantly improve the conditions of detention of Emperor Ivan Antonovich, but did not have time.
But, if in Russia, using administrative resources, Elizabeth achieved her goals, then in Europe, honest studies and biographies of Biron, Munnich and Osterman began to appear. In 1743, Chancellor Bestuzhev-Ryumin ordered Russian ambassadors in European capitals to seek a ban on the publication of such works, but this was extremely difficult to do. A way out of this situation was found by the envoy in Holland, A. G. Golovkin, who offered to trivially bribe the authors of “libels” dangerous for Elizabeth. For these purposes, they began to allocate him 500 rubles a year, and the publication of "harmful" works in Holland ceased. The Golovkin method was also successfully tested by Russian ambassadors in other European countries.
We remember that the "evil and greedy German" Biron lowered the poll tax by 17 kopecks. “Meek and gentle” Elizabeth raised it by 10 kopecks for serfs and 15 kopecks for state peasants. Lutheran churches, built under Anna Ioannovna, were turned into Orthodox churches, and even Armenian worship was banned. In 1742 and 1744 Jews who refused to accept Orthodoxy were expelled from the country. In 1742, even "writing into schism" was banned - a compromise by the government of Peter I, which allowed the confession of the "old faith", but forbade its preaching even in the family circle. The word "Old Believers" was forbidden, and again, as under Peter I, self-immolation of the Old Believers began. Moreover, the practice of charging a fee for wearing a beard has been renewed. So in some ways, Elizabeth really continued the traditions of her father. But the fleet, which began to revive under Anna Ioannovna, again rotted in the harbors. Under Catherine II, a new one had to be built.
Return to Mitava
Elizabeth intended to annex Courland to Russia, exchanging it for East Prussia, which was claimed by the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland August III. As part of this deal, Elizabeth agreed to recognize the son of Augustus, Charles, as Duke of Courland. Allegedly despising Russia and happily sacrificing its interests, Peter III forced Biron, who did not participate in this deal and became superfluous, to renounce the title of Duke of Courland, in fact declaring Russia's rights to this territory. The new emperor offered August III to continue the "game": the recognition of the king's son as the Duke of Courland in exchange for the transfer of the duchy itself under Russian sovereignty. The "Russian patriot" Catherine II returned the title to Biron, restoring the status quo: the pro-Russian duke of the vassal Commonwealth of Courland. What is the wisdom of the state, I personally do not understand. And in 1762, Biron, with the support of Russian troops, arrived in Mitava, where, as they say, he was joyfully greeted by local nobles.
But what did Ernst Johann Biron do when he returned to his homeland?
Back in 1738, according to the project of Rastrelli in Mitava, they began to build a palace on the site of the dismantled residence of the Dukes of Courland from the Ketler dynasty (and even earlier there was a castle of the Livonian Order). After Biron's arrest, construction ceased. In 1763, it was resumed, and the Danish architect Severin Jensen joined the work. And in 1769, the 79-year-old Biron transferred power over the duchy to his eldest son Peter.
Peter Biron in the portrait of Friedrich Hartmann Barisien
But the former favorite of Anna Ioannovna still managed to see how his palace was completed (in 1772).
Mitava Palace in modern photography
Biron lived in it for about six months - a former poor Courland nobleman, who became the favorite of the empress of a vast country and the ruler of a great state, now voluntarily refusing to manage the once-desired duchy.
Monument to Ernst Johann Biron, Jelgava (former Mitava)
In 1779, the famous adventurer Giuseppe Balsamo, better known as Count Cagliostro, was visiting the Biron Palace on his way to St. Petersburg. And now the Latvian Agricultural Institute is located here.
Peter Biron, son of Ernst Johann, became the last duke of Courland. In 1795, after the Third Partition of Poland, this territory was ceded to Russia.