“Why have you not taken over his body?” As Voltaire persuaded Catherine II to the war

9 Aug 1779 in St Petersburg with Russian merchant vessel ashore unloaded 12 boarded up wooden boxes are incredibly large.

According to accompanying documents, the value of the goods amounted to 135 thousand French livres, four sous and six deniers. But its recipient, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great, rightly considered the contents of these boxes are priceless: a black Board hiding 6902 volume personal library of françois Marie Arouet, more known under the name Voltaire.

Diderot in Russia. Of a mixture of “French with Nizhniy Novgorod”

It would seem that a great thing? Russian Queen wanted to buy the library of your favorite author. A logical desire, especially when you consider that Catherine has long corresponded with Voltaire. But this seemingly harmless act almost put Russia on the brink of war with France. And around the books themselves began to turn a real detective story.

Epistolary detective

However, a scandal in France flashed before. Namely, 30 may 1778, when he died, “the Patriarch of mankind”, as he called Voltaire. The insanity of the authorities has reached the point that “atheist” were persecuted even after death. With the acquiescence of the “Christians of the king” Louis XVI Parisian priests refused to bury Voltaire, saying that he is worthy to be thrown to the wasteland. Friends had to put the dead man in the carriage, to sit on the sides and a body to move from Paris to Troyes for a really taciturn traveler.

Just received the news of the death and the posthumous adventures of Voltaire, Catherine writes to his permanent European correspondent Baron Grimm a curious Epistle, and in such a way that its content will be known all over Europe: “After the public celebration in a few weeks, deprivation of burial, and any person! The first in the nation, its undoubted glory. Why haven’t you captured his body, and, moreover, on my behalf? You ought to send it to me… But if I don’t have his body, you will certainly be a monument to him. If possible, purchase his library and all that was left of his papers, including my letters. I willingly and generously pay to his heirs, who probably don’t know the prices…”

Just Fick. As a poor German girl was Catherine the great

Read more

Of course, such a statement Catherine, especially in the part where she regretted that the body of “atheist” have managed to steal, brought the French court into a frenzy. But even more pissed at the fact that the “Russian barbarians” are going to lay hands on the legacy of Voltaire. The French Ambassador in St. Petersburg stated a formal protest, insisting that the library is the rightful heritage of France and cannot leave its boundaries. But Catherine is very toxic he said: “there is No need to maintain books of a great man in the country, which he himself denied a grave.”

Imperial trivia: Catherine introduced the fashion of a premium watch and the samovar

Anyway, but the niece of Voltaire to Madame Denis, yielding to the requests of the Russian Queen, agreed to give the library his uncle for the gift, graciously agreeing to take over from Catherine return gift. When this hypocrite broke altogether dissimilar price, so that the Baron Grimm, and count Shuvalov had to bargain. In addition to money Denis received Russian Sables, diamonds and box with a portrait of the Empress.

Finally, the Secretary of writer Wagner drove to Petersburg. During these six months he’s so worried that, barely having time to hold goods personal librarian Catherine court adviser Alexander Luzhkov, became ill and went home. Luzhkov, justifying the name, showed himself a good Manager and quickly discovered that the library lacks important items – personal letters of Catherine to Voltaire.

Whether Ms. Denis was dishonest, whether the thieves worked perfectly, but the letters, the publication of which the Empress was afraid of fire, disappeared. But not without a trace. As soon as it turned out, the kidnapping of correspondence headed by none other than master Pierre Beaumarchais. Catherine writes, asks, conjures not to print her revelations, but the author of “the marriage of Figaro” cynical and happy to publish all the correspondence.

Minerva or the Minotaur?

Usually when the topic comes up “Catherine the Great and the European enlightenment,” the mother Empress is depicted as a two-faced bitch.

Operation “Successor”. Why Peter the Great had not prepared a substitute?

Read more

“Your Crimea”. So wrote Potemkin to Catherine II in 1782

The friendship of the Empress with Voltaire gave her significant political PR – Europe spoke about the “Northern Minerva” and the “enlightened monarch”. Detractors never tired of repeating that Catherine from the ideas of the enlightenment are far and in fact is a cruel ruler who greedily looks at the neighbors in the hope to snatch a piece palakole. Usually in the light of God in such cases recovered Greek project of Catherine under which Russia was to expel Turkey from the Balkans and to move the capital to Constantinople released. Such a project really existed. For “Novolipetskogo” the throne of Catherine prepared the grandson of Constantine – even the name was chosen on purpose. But here’s the trick. It is believed that this idea was suggested to Catherine by none other than Voltaire. He threw the Empress letters of this nature: “If they start a war with You, they will suffer the fate that has destined them Peter the Great, who had in mind to make Constantinople the capital of the Russian Empire. I swear to You, they will be defeated. I beg Your Majesty’s permission to come, to fall at Your feet and spend a few days at court, when he will be in Constantinople, as I am convinced, what exactly the Russian is destined to drive the Turks from Europe.”

Unfortunately, still there are people who mindlessly repeat the words of the French historian Jules Michelet, who noticed the portrait of Catherine in the castle of Voltaire: “I’ve seen in the wild monster, a huge tropical spider, black, with long hairy legs. I’ve seen some horrible octopus… I saw them hamotzi and tentacles that are drawn to you, trembling. But I didn’t see anything like the infamous Russian Minotaur, whose image is in Ferney”. Perhaps Catherine herself, being a woman is wise, they did not react to such an attack. But I think Voltaire would have done otherwise – one of the books of his library is on the sidelines of the dark spot. Himself an educator about left him a note: “This is the trail of spit that I send dear author”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *