Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
Peter at Play 1682-1689

PETER was a healthy boy with tremendous energy. Eager curiosity enlivened his movements and showed in the quick expression of his face. The secretary of the Swedish embassy saw both Tsars at a formal reception in 1683. They sat side by side on their elaborate silver throne, wearing ceremonial robes which glittered with precious stones; on Peter they were impressive, but they seemed too heavy for Ivan. He had pushed his crown forward on his head, lowered his eyes, and sat motionless, seeing nothing. Peter was alert and upright. When the Swedish ambassador presented his credentials, and etiquette obliged both Tsars to stand together and speak, Peter did not allow time enough for his brother to rise with him. He leapt to his feet and rapidly spoke the customary greeting: "His Royal Highness, our brother Charles of Sweden, is he in good health?" Peter was then eleven years old, but to the Swedish secretary, he seemed in build and intelligence like a boy of sixteen.1

The seven years of Sofia's regency formed an important period in Peter's development. There is nothing to suggest that he was unduly restricted or unhappy at this time. Sofia was preoccupied with her own affairs and apparently paid no special attention to him. He carried out his formal duties as Tsar, which involved taking part in church festivals and numerous special services in honour of the saints and of members of his family. He spent countless hours fulfilling these religious duties, which formed the basis of his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures. He also made his appearance on diplomatic occasions. These functions completed, he escaped to pursue his own interests, and then he was more or less his own master.

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