Peter the Great: Emperor of All Russia

By Ian Grey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLI
Emperor Peter the Great 1722-1725

PETER felt keenly the loneliness which is the greatest affliction of power. It was his nature to work as captain of a team, directing and himself a member of it. But in the years after Poltava, when he might have expected to share the fruits of victory with proven comrades, his isolation was, in fact, greatest.

Many of his officers and colleagues had died in action. Some, like Gagarin and Kikin, had been executed for corruption or treason. Others had grown old and died, like Romodanovsky, or were near to death like Prince Boris Golitsyn, who had become a pathetic figure, having lost his only son and being crippled with arthritis and gout. For him Peter found time to make a chair with his own hands, in which the invalid could be carried out of doors. Sheremetev was ageing and querulous, and in February 1718 he died.

Of those who were living many, like Menshikov, the family Dolgoruky, Vinius, and Shafirov, had all through dishonesty or greed or other good reasons lost Peter's confidence. He had sent them away from him or, recognizing their ability and experience and having no one to put in their places, he had kept them in office, but under his disappointed and watchful eye.

The trial of Tsarevich Alexei had been a crisis in Peter's isolation. He had seen his own son and the heir to the throne grow to be the very focal point of opposition to himself and to his work, and he had not failed to sense the silent but massive popular support

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