Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
The Aftermath of Narva 1700-1702

THE months following Narva showed Peter at his best. Few monarchs have suffered a more crushing and humiliating defeat, and have risen to greatness out of it. The prestige he had won at Azov was instantly dissipated. Europe laughed at him. He had lost not only prestige, but all of his artillery, and the defeat had faced him brutally with the fact that his army was no more than a horde of untrained peasants, incapable of standing against Western troops.

But, although astonished by the magnitude of the disaster, Peter was neither depressed nor deterred. He indulged in no recriminations; he accepted the mistakes made as his own and he learnt by them. He had determination and courage and, when necessary, he had patience.

Meanwhile the defeat had whipped him into a frenzy of activity. He pressed on with his efforts to train and equip his army. He did not hesitate to apply every diplomatic and military expedient that might win him an advantage, no matter how small or temporary. To England, Holland, and Austria he protested his anxiety for peace; at the same time he made strenuous efforts to induce the Poles to enter the war against Sweden; he ignored all cost in binding Augustus to him in their alliance; he ordered his generals to lay waste Livonia, and they acted with terrible thoroughness.

His immediate fear was that Charles would follow up his victory by marching on Moscow. Nothing stood in his way; the whole of

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