CORONATION OF CATHERINE I. Fragment of I. Zubov's engraving. Early 18th century.
"I admit I could never expect to find the court here as splendid as that..," confided Friedrich Wilhelm Bergholz, gentleman of the bedchamber at the embassy of the Duke of Holstein in Russia under Czar Peter the Great (Peter I, 1689 - 1725). Such compliments fit squarely with the opinion of all foreign visitors to our country in the 18th century, as she was out to assert her status of a great power.
Czar Peter I assumed an emperor's title in 1721, and the following year he issued a legislative enactment that became known as the Table of Ranks and that particularized military, civilian and court ranks and offices. Such kind of hierarchy was no news to Russia; but the reformation-minded crown filled it with fresh substance by opting for Western models rather than Byzantine splendor.
The court staffs kept growing meanwhile. That was true of the "big" (czarist) and "small" courts (i.e. those of most august family members) alike. And so grew their maintenance costs. Thus, in 1785 as much as 3 million roubles was spent on the courts and retinue (compare: the sum total of the taxes collected every year from the privately owned landed estates was slightly above 5.5 million roubles). That was an exorbitant sum in those days. Was all of it spent on courtiers? Hardly. In fact, they were short of money all through the 18th century. For instance, during the reign of Empress Elizabeth (Yelizaveta Petrovna, 1741 - 1761/62) a maid of honor of the bedchamber got 1,000 roubles in salary, a maid of honor - 600 roubles, and pages of the bedchamber - a mere 110 - 140 roubles. Some categories of courtiers (like ladies-in-waiting, for instance) had to perform their duties gratis, without any emoluments. There were also numerous servants, retainers and men-all those stokers, boiler-men, grooms, sta-bleboys, tablecloth-makers, coopers, cooks, vodka distillers, confectioners, pastry-cooks, footmen, ... Читать далее