Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
The Grand Embassy 1697

ALL Europe speculated over the reasons for the Tsar's journey. The Austrian resident in Moscow reported to his Emperor that the embassy was "merely a cloak to allow the Tsar to get out of his country and travel in freedom, and has no other serious purpose."1 Another speculation was that he was fulfilling a vow to make a pilgrimage to the tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome. Other theories were advanced, but the real reason for the tour was simple, as were the reasons for most of his actions: Peter set out for western Europe to study shipbuilding and anything else that would help him to create a navy. The countries that he most wanted to visit were the naval powers -- Holland, England, and Venice. He was curious to see Europe at first hand, and to learn something about her ways of living and government, but it was to examine her dockyards and ships that he made the journey. At first sight it was a narrow purpose, but the tour proved a turning-point in his reign and, such were the consequences, Macaulay did not overstate when he wrote that "his journey is an epoch in the history, not only of his own country but of ours, and of the world."2

The embassy left Moscow on 9 March. At Pskov, as it was about to leave Russian soil, the ambassadors sent a courier to the Governor of Riga, Governor-General Dahlberg, and without waiting for his reply, they crossed the Swedish frontier. They were within five miles of Riga when the formal letter of welcome reached them. Governor Dahlberg assured them that everything possible would be done "with

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