Ivan the Terrible/Part 2/Chapter 5

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ivan the Terrible
by Kazimierz Waliszewski, translated by Lady Mary Loyd
Part II, Chapter V: The Struggle for the Empire of the Baltic
186837Ivan the TerriblePart II, Chapter V: The Struggle for the Empire of the BalticLady Mary LoydKazimierz Waliszewski




I.—Sweden and Poland.

Is the question of the possession of the Baltic provinces definitely settled even now? Such an assertion would certainly be rash. It may very possibly become one of the objects, at all events, if not the cause, of a fresh struggle—a conflict of powers far more formidable than those whose onslaught and fierce strife the sixteenth century saw. The elements of the problem have modified, to be sure; yet, great as the change has been, a certain amount of reality, living, or capable of second birth, may well linger amidst the memories I must now evoke. Herein lies the chief interest of this particular page of history. In some of the episodes I shall endeavour to set forth, Ivan's physiognomy stands out clearly, and this will be their only charm. For the sake of clearness, I shall point out, in the first place, the phases apparent in a succession of events so complicated and intervowen that a guiding thread of some sort is absolutely necessary. And beforehand, too, I claim my readers' patience; the thought of a possibly not far distant future will lead them to regard this return to an instructive past as interesting, or, at least, useful.

The first phase brings us down to the year 1564. Ivan, wavering between a Swedish and a Polish alliance, humours Denmark, and triumphantly holds his own against Poland. In the second phase, from 1564 to 1568, Sigismund-Augustus, by allying himself with Frederick II., drives Sweden and Muscovy into an agreement, and brings about a land war between Sweden and Denmark. The Tsar preserves the upper hand on land in Livonia; but while Poland is absorbed and paralyzed by her internal affairs, Ivan’s struggle with his boïars and the old régime also tends to distract his attention from the Livonian problem: this is the period of the Opritchnina. Third phase: The dethronement of Erik XIV. in 1568, and the accession of John III., brother-in-law of Sigismund-Augustus, bring about a reconciliation between Sweden and Denmark, thanks to the good offices of Poland. The fear of a coalition carries Magnus over to Ivan's side. Fourth phase: The death of Sigismund-Augustus, in 1572, places Poland temporarily out of action. Ivan puts forward his own candidature for the inheritance of the Jagellons. Fifth phase: The election of Batory ends in the triumphant reappearance of Poland on the scene, and the decision of the struggle in her favour, almost exclusively.

Germany, it will be observed, does not appear in the conflict, though the soil concerned was German, or, at all events, Germanized. Yet we shall catch a glimpse of her playing the part and wearing the expression, both of them neutral, which devolved on her at that time, not without making some ineffectual attempts at intervention. She stood by, and awaited the favourable moment, but of her rights, her ambitions, and her hopes she did not abdicate a jot.

For half a century, as I have said, ever since 1514, when Russia had snatched Smolensk from Poland, the relations between the two countries had been in a condition which could not be described either as war or peace. Now fighting, then negotiating, doing both at once sometimes, they disputed, theoretically, over the possession of that one town and the territory round it, but the quarrel really covered a much wider area. The negotiations, perpetually renewed, had ended by constituting a sort of protocol, in virtue of which every fresh parley began with the claim, on one side, not to Smolensk only, but also to Novgorod and Pskov, as the ancient patrimony of the Lithuanian Princes, and, on the other, with a demand for the cession of those three towns, and also of Kiev and all the Russian territories then under Polish rule, after which the parties separated, the envoys, Russian and Polish, declared the negotiations broken off, and took their leave, departing, in some cases, without further ceremony, but always allowed themselves to be brought back, and always, failing some final understanding, accepted a provisional arrangement of some kind. The question of the patrimonies was left to stand over; Poland would not recognise the Tsar's new title, and the Tsar, by way of reprisal, refused to give Sigismund-Augustus the title of King, so the difficulty was eluded by drawing up the terms agreed on in duplicate—one Russian copy and the other Polish—and signing a truce.

Into relations already most difficult Livonia had introduced a fresh subject of dispute, and one which seemed to admit of no compromise whatever. Yet in 1560, at the very moment when the treaty imposed on Kettler had imparted a decisive form to the King of Poland's intervention, Ivan took upon himself to despatch an important Ambassador, bearing very conciliatory proposals, to Warsaw. An event had occurred, the consequences of which have been exaggerated, but the influence of which on the Sovereign's mind, on the development of his character, and, to a certain extent, on the trend of his policy,cannot be denied. The Tsar had just lost his wife, that Anastasia whose beneficent influence as his guardian angel forms part and parcel of a legend I am sincerely sorry to weaken. Ivan loved the mother of his elder children dearly, and the delights of home life, which she alone seems to have taught him to enjoy, probably did something to soften his fierce and violent instincts, just as the grief the loss of his companion caused him may have produced a contrary effect. More than this cannot be asserted with any certainty. And neither his love nor his sorrow, indeed, can have been so very deep, for the monarch's first care, on the morrow of the disaster, was to seek another bride.

Sigismund had two unmarried sisters, and the chief object of the mission confided to Ivan's Ambassador, Vokolnitchyï Feodor Ivanovitch Soukine, was to obtain the hand of one of these ladies for his master. Somewhat ungraciously, and after much delay, the King allowed the Ambassador a sight of the two Princesses at church. Whether by accident or on purpose, the younger of the two, Catherine, turned round, and this was the prologue to one of the darkest tragedies of a period most fertile in dramatic episodes. Besides the personal charms which Soukine set himself to press on his Sovereign, the betrothed thus suggested had the advantage, in Ivan's eyes, of representing, with a brother who had no sons, a race which had reigned, and reigned by hereditary right, at Vilna. In her the Tsar of all the Russias would possess yet another right, newly acquired and most incontestable, to claim his Lithuanian patrimony. Fed, no doubt, by his passionate and stubborn temperament, this idea was to root itself so deeply in the monarch's mind as to become, in the course of the following years, the directing element of his whole policy.

But very probably Sigismund-Augustus sought nothing more on this occasion than to save appearances, and so gain time. From the Polish point of view, this question of the Lithuanian inheritance, quite apart from the difference of faith, was in itself an obstacle in the way of a marriage which would have threatened the integrity of the national possessions, and might compromise the success of that other union between the two Slav races of Poland and Lithuania which the last of the Jagellons was then labouring to complete. Besides all this, Catherine had already been almost promised to John, Duke of Finland, brother of the King of Sweden. In 1562, this promise became a reality, and immediately afterwards, hostilities between Russia and Poland began.

Just as in past days, they fought while they negotiated, and negotiated while they fought. Ivan wrote abusive letters to Sigismund-Augustus, and Sigismund-Augustus avenged himself by inciting the Khan of the Crimea to invade Russia. In February, 1563, the Tsar, in command of a numerous army, and carrying with him a coffin which, he declared, was to serve either for the Polish King's corpse or for his own, won a signal advantage. First Smolensk and then Polotsk, the chief town of a Polish-Lithuanian palatinate, and an important commercial centre, carrying on relations with Riga, fell into the hands of the Muscovites. Until Batory's time, their powerful artillery was always to tel] in a war of sieges. Ivan talked more than ever of taking back Kiev; with his usual vehemence, he jeered his unlucky adversary, who had appealed to the King of Sweden in support of his claim to Livonia, and called him his 'brother.' 'What King? What brother? … He might as well fraternize with a water-carrier!' But the next year, on a battlefield which, in 1508 and in 1514, had already proved fatal to the Russian arms, on the banks of the Oula near Orcha, the Poles had their revenge. Nicholas Radziwill, 'the Red,' cut the troops led by Prince Peter Ivanovitch to pieces, and the Prince himself fell in the fray.

Instantly the Tsar, forgetting all his recent scorn, attempted to come to an understanding with Sweden. Erik XIV. had lost no time about sending an embassy to Moscow when he ascended the throne in 1561, and since that time, in spite of the rude treatment showered on him from that quarter, and against the advice of his recognised counsellor, Philip de Mornay, who urged him to prefer an agreement with Poland, he had persevered in his course, extending his own possessions in Livonia meanwhile. To these, in the year 1563, and thanks to the self-interested assistance of Christopher, coadjutor of the Bishop of Riga, who sought the hand of the King's sister Elizabeth, were added a number of towns—Wolmar, Wenden, Kezholm, Pernau, and Padis. Now that the Tsar was making him these unhoped-for overtures, Erik fancied his cause was won, and that they were to go halves. He had to lower his pretensions. Ivan began by claiming the lion's share, and would only give up Revel, Pernau, and Wittenstein. Then, quite suddenly, he tried to bring the Polish Princess, now Duchess of Finland, whom he had hoped to call his own, and whom even now he would not give up, into the negotiations. He wanted almost the whole of Livonia, and he wanted Catherine, too. She was married, but that was of no consequence to him. A Duke of Finland was nothing at all. He had married a wife himself, but that, too, was nothing; she was only one of his own subjects—a mere slave, therefore. At a later date he declared he had never intended to interfere with the freedom of the lady he coveted, nor tamper with the sanctity of the bonds into which she and he had both entered. He had believed Duke John to be dead. … He had not thought of marrying Catherine or making her his mistress. … He only wanted to hold her as a hostage. … His explanations are multifarious and most improbable. The brutal fact remains: his claim, impudently manifested and obstinately maintained, to get possession, with no honest intention assuredly, of this modern Helen, on whose account nations were making themselves ready to fight. As to the motive of his obstinacy, little doubt can be felt: far less than on the lady—though he thought of her too, no doubt—it was on Lithuania that the fiery despot's fierce desire was set.

Erik XIV. began by assuming an heroic attitude. He would not give up his sister-in-law any more than he would give up Livonia, and he was already talking of allying himself with Poland, with the Emperor, with all the German Princes, to bring this barbarous Russian to reason, when his threatening dreams were confronted by another and far more threatening reality. Negotiations had been going on since 1561 between Poland and Denmark; they had just been brought to a conclusion. On a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, signed at Stettin on October 5, 1563, had followed an agreement with Lubeck, whereby the Hanseatic League joined the coalition. Ivan, on his side, had also negotiated, and signed at Mojaïsk, on August 7, 1562, a treaty with Denmark, which bound the two Powers to act against Poland and Sweden, the Tsar recognising the Danish rights over Esthonia, Oesel, and Pilten. Sweden found herself alone; she was fain to capitulate. It may be that her sacrifice was too eagerly and too complaisantly made. Erik's envoys went to Derpt, agreed to negotiate with the Governor of Novgorod and Russian Livonia, Michael Iakovlevitch Morozov, only, and accepted almost all the conditions Ivan had previously demanded: they gave up Livonia, except for Revel, Pernau, Wittenstein, and Karkhus, and by a secret clause they undertook to give up Catherine's person. The Tsar, at all events, never ceased to claim the execution of this last engagement, concerning which, it must be confessed, we have no precise and absolutely reliable testimony. Erik had always been opposed to a marriage which carried his brother into the Polish camp, and the presence of Danish envoys in Poland at the moment of the wedding would seem to indicate that diplomatic arrangements, the vexatious effects of which Sweden was now called on to endure, were not unconnected with it. The question of the independence of Finland seems to have been put forward at the same time, and Erik, without waiting for any confirmation of his suspicions as to that matter, lost no time in making it impossible for his rebellious brother to realize them. After a shortlived struggle, he captured him, and shut him up in the Castle of Gripsholm. Catherine shared her husband's imprisonment. The King, therefore, was in a position to dispose of her according to his redoubtable partner's will.

Was this ever his intention? Or did his plenipotentiaries exceed their powers? The problem has never been solved. The one undoubted fact is that the Treaty of Derpt was not ratified at Stockholm. Fresh negotiations only resulted in the conclusion of a truce. However all this may have been, Erik, engaged in a double war against Poland and Denmark, was forced, whether he would or no, to become Ivan's ally, and this position set his foot on a dangerous declivity, to the bottom of which he was destined to slip. From this time forward two coalitions stood face to face, while Magnus, now reduced to Oesel, Dago, and a few strongholds, fought for his own hand in the general mêlée, and watched his opportunity to join whichever side promised him most.

II.—The Coalitions.

Sigismund-Augustus tried to draw in even the Low Countries, but he only succeeded in vexing the States by the measures he took to cut off the Narva trade. In 1565, while success and reverse were pretty evenly balanced in Livonia, the Poles taking Pernau and the Swedes harrying Oesel, two successive disasters overtook Sweden: in January, Frederick II. closed the Sound, and so cut her off from Europe; and in November, the Emperor Maximilian, yielding to the remonstrances of Frederick of Saxony—the real Agamemnon of this war between the nations—published a manifesto which laid the Swedes under a ban, as breakers of the peace, allied with a barbarous monarch. This paralyzed Erik's progress in Livonia, and his brother's party began to lift its head. Yet Maximilian was being constantly worked on in an opposite sense by the representatives of certain German trading-houses which had interests at Moscow. Their agents were busily employed in turning public opinion. One of them, Veit Zenge by name, the Duke of Bavaria's commercial envoy at Lubeck, went further than his fellows. Did not Ivan glory in his own German origin? This was, in fact, one of the Tsar's manias. Veit Zenge even felt sure he had Bavarian blood in his veins! In return for the honour of entering into closer relations with the Emperor, and receiving one of his orders, the Muscovite Sovereign would give 30,000 of his best cavalry to fight against the Turks, and a large sum of money into the bargain; he would even relinquish his claims to Livonia, and place his Church under the Pope's authority! Matrimonial arrangements might set a convenient seal on this agreement, so desirable in the interests of Christendom in general. Ivan had a son and daughter, both of marriageable age, and in the Moscow terems there were beauties who might well set all the Princes in Germany a-dreaming. These conceits, discussed at all the German Tagen, did not fail to produce their effect on the decisions of the Empire and its ruler, both of them already inclined to an indolent and prudent neutrality.

In 1566, Magnus, hard pressed by the Swedes, sought a reconciliation with Poland. His pretensions were high: he asked the hand of Sigismund-Augustus' second sister, with Livonia as her dowry. The last of the Jagellons did not take the proposal seriously, and set himself, in 1567, to strike a mighty blow, and personally lead a campaign against Livonia. There was a stir at Dantzig. This sea-coast town, which had scant taste for the Polish domination, and was discontented with its own lot, had shown a preference, from the very outset, for the hostile camp. The agents it employed at Warsaw soon calmed the agitation. 'The King had the gout in his right arm and his left leg, and that was the greater part of his equipment.' The campaign, indeed, turned out a miserable failure. The royal army, reckoned beforehand at 200,000 Poles and 170,000 Lithuanians, did not bring a tenth part of these numbers into the field. Nevertheless the Russians, after an unsuccessful engagement with some of these troops at Runnafer, manifested a desire to treat. Ivan's home difficulties were heavy on him; the Opritchnina was beginning. In Poland, the union with Lithuania, which, though an accomplished fact, had still to be finally organized, the strained relations with the Prussian towns, and internecine quarrels, combined to make peace earnestly desired. But Ivan laid claim to Revel and Riga, and began an epistolary argument with the Lithuanian nobles, which was not calculated to prepare the ground for pacific agreement.

Kourbski, after fighting bravely and winning brilliant successes with the Tsar's armies in Livonia, had allowed himself to be surprised under the walls of Nevel in 1562—an event apparently prepared, to some extent, by his previous and dubious relations with Poland. Since that time he had been kept in a sort of semi-disgrace, and the irascible boïar, thus all the more incited to rebel against his master's despotic tendencies, had ended by raising the standard of revolt after the Russian fashion—i.e., by crossing the frontier. The conclusion drawn in Poland was that the Opritchnina would shortly furnish more rebels of the same kidney, with whom it would be well to enter into relations, and thus Ivan became aware of a number of letters addressed to certain of his subjects by Gregory Chodkiewicz, Grand Hetman of Lithuania, by some other Lithuanian noblemen, and by the King himself. An and disturbed, his first idea was to convoke, in the year 1566, the assembly to which I have already referred (p. 136), and which unanimously pronounced against any concessions at all in Livonia, while the landed proprietors on the Lithuanian frontier declared themselves ready to die rather than give up an inch of ground. The Tsar, thus comforted and strengthened, undertook to dictate answers to the Polish correspondents. It would have been better, perhaps, to treat them with silent scorn; but Ivan was always sorely afflicted with the letter-writing itch. Wherefore Sigismund-Augustus, who had offered the Prince Ivan Dmitriévitch Biélski a splendid appanage in Lithuania, learnt what it meant to propose such bargains to the Tsar's subjects. 'I am fairly well provided,' wrote the Prince to the King, and addressing him as his brother, 'but you might do a wiser thing—give up Lithuania to my master, by which means you might make sure of keeping Poland as his vassal, and becoming, like myself, the subject of the best of masters!' The text of the other answers may easily be divined. They are curious specimens of the learning the Terrible knew how to apply to the service of his spite, calling his adversaries Sennaherim and Navkhodonosor (sic), and of that Oriental infatuation by which he was occasionally inspired.

At that moment the Tsar felt the wind was veering round in his favour; and, indeed, Erik had come back to the charge, and seemed inclined to give in altogether, provided Ivan left him free to settle his own account with Poland. He was even ready, if we may rely on Dahlman (Dissertatio de occasione fœderum regis Erici XIV. cum Russia, Upsala, 1783), who had access to the original diplomatic documents, to give up Catherine herself.

As early as in 1566, the King, we are told, invited deliberation as to the granting of this concession to the Tsar; and when his counsellors refused to agree to it, he instructed his envoy, Gyllenstjerna, to hold out till the very last, but yield the point if the alliance could not be had on any other terms. This information appears all the more likely to be true because it seems less possible, considering the circumstances, that Gyllenstjerna can have dared, this time, to exceed his powers. Now, on February 16, 1567, at the sloboda of Alexandrov, where the Opritchnina began its bloody orgies, the Swedish plenipotentiary certainly did sign a treaty of alliance, all the clauses of which were explicitly made to depend on this condition. Ivan joined his fate with that of Sweden, on the basis of the uti possidetis in Livonia and freedom of the contracting parties as regards future conquests (except Riga, which the Tsar reserved for himself); he promised his intervention in favour of a reconciliation between Sweden and Denmark and the Hanseatic League, and his armed assistance if his intervention failed. But all this only if Catherine's person was given up to him. The whole treaty was to be annulled if the Princess were to die, and the execution of the final clause thus to become impossible.

The admiration with which this diplomatic document has inspired certain Russian historians is not very easily justified. Ivan provided liberally for himself; the retention of Riga in Russian hands was the death-blow of the Swedish Revel, and deprived Poland of her best reason for disputing the possession of Livonia with her two rivals. The eventual support of the Russo-Swedish coalition by the Hanse towns also insured the undoubted inferiority of the Polish-Danish alliance. But Ivan, not content with these advantages, made them all depend on the performance of a condition which might prove impossible, and which was certainly disgraceful. Besides his share of Livonia, he demanded, not a wife indeed, nor merely a woman, but the heiress of the Jagellons, a part of Poland! And on this he insisted, against all reason and against all apparent possibility, for the lady was married, and even if she became a widow, was not very likely to consent to marry the man who had carried her off. Unmoved, he followed up his idea, and this proves that the mighty crisis in which he was then involved within the borders of his Empire did not disturb his mind so much as has been supposed; but he developed and applied his idea in a way which points to a certain weakening of the intellectual faculties corresponding with a simultaneous exasperation of the worst instincts of his nature. In the case of men of robust temperament, drunkenness produces this partial derangement, and Ivan, in the fierceness of his conflict, in the constant use and abuse of his strength, and the hideous stupefaction of the sufferings inflicted under his direction, was drunk for several years—drunk with rage, with pride, with blood—though he went his way, all the same, stumbling, and contrived, in spite of some falls and many extravagances, to maintain a marvellously complete sense of what he had to do, of his interests and his duties.

Fortune, which may be said to have favoured him on this occasion, forbade the execution of the treaty of the sloboda of Alexandrov. In May, 1567, a Muscovite embassy proceeded to Upsala to claim its ratification and the surrender of Catherine's person. Ivan, meanwhile, had bethought him of asking the hand of one of Erik's sisters for his son, now eighteen years of age. The girl was sixteen, and her beauty was already renowned. But the Tsar demanded Revel with her as her dowry. This was asking too much, and, further, the Russian envoys found an Opritchnina, in Erik's country, which, as to misconduct and excesses, quite rivalled their own. Wrestling with an aristocracy which could not forgive him his origin, and was disgusted by his violence, 'the son of the crowned merchant,' as Ivan had dubbed him, was raving too, and at the Castle of Gripsholm the scenes of a distressing drama were being enacted, one by one. For some time the ex-Duke of Finland, imprisoned within its walls, had been expecting death. A verdict pronounced in 1563 had condemned him, and the King's favourite, Persson, himself doomed to a terrible end, was pressing the execution of the sentence. Erik, though blood had flowed in torrents at his command, ever since 1562, had some scruples of conscience. To satisfy Ivan, he had endeavoured to separate Catherine from her husband, but the intrepid daughter of the Jagellons, proof alike against the most awful threats and the most tempting promises, showed the King's emissaries a ring engraved with the words 'Death only. …' The miserable monarch, at the end of his arguments and his resources, threatened himself by the rising rebellion around him, and, dreaming of a safe refuge in Russia, ended, as his most determined apologists admit (Celsius, 'History of Erik,' xiv., French translation, 1777, ii. 139)—though Persson denied it, even on the scaffold—by thinking the advice of his gloomy counsellor the best that offered. John's death would settle everything. The Muscovite envoys were actually making ready to receive their prey, when Erik's reason, already trembling on the steep abyss of his meditated crime, gave way completely. Confusing their mutual positions, he fancied himself the prisoner, restored the captive of Gripsholm to freedom, and besought his pardon. The attack lasted till towards the close of the following year, and Ivan's envoys still hoped to turn it to account for the attainment of their ends. But the Swedish Council continued its opposition, and in a lucid interval, Erik, instead of granting the Tsarevitch his sister's hand, thought he was doing quite enough when he offered him that of Virginia Persdotter, the daughter of one of his many concubines! Ivan was deeply angered, and in 1568, the last scenes of the drama approached: Catherine's husband ascended the Swedish throne, threw the brother who had so nearly been his executioner into a dungeon, and thus inaugurated a new era in the more and more complicated struggle of which Livonia continued to be the object. In this struggle, Magnus was about to claim a leading part.

III.—The Collapse of the Alliances: Magnus.

The new King of Sweden, married to a Jagellon, was the natural ally of Sigismund-Augustus and the chosen instrument of the Catholic reaction against Protestantism. The treaty of 1563 between Sweden and Russia was practically annulled, and the Swede passed over to the enemy's camp. A gifted politician, well trained in matters of war, though more of a theorist than a fighting soldier, John, by the struggle he was soon to begin with Moscow, by the heroic defence of Revel in 1570–1571, and the brilliant victory of Wenden in 1577, was to endow his country with a military glory which was to endure a century and more, until the disastrous day of Poltava. In November, 1568, at Roeskilde, he believed himself on the point of obtaining peace with Denmark and Lubeck, but he was unable to ratify the concessions his plenipotentiaries had allowed their opponents to wring from them. In the mediating hands of the Emperor and the King of Poland, the negotiations dragged on till 1570, and then the Danish cause was compromised by an understanding between Magnus and the Muscovites, while Sigismund-Augustus, who interfered with the preparation of the treaty, and demanded that Sweden should give up all her conquests in Livonia and make common cause against Russia, still further complicated the problem. For had not the Polish King just signed a three years' truce with Ivan, thus leaving the Tsar free to support Magnus against the Swedes?

I am tempted to fear my readers' heads must be beginning to swim, but I am helpless. I am simplifying and abridging to the best of my ability, though my efforts, no doubt, make little show. Was Magnus acting as the representative of Denmark in Livonia? This point, which is still disputed, was unendingly discussed in those days. There were perpetual diplomatic gatherings and congresses, the litigious question of the dominium maris Baltici, and the quite as thorny one of the navigation of the Narova, were both called up, and the end of it all was a treaty, signed at Stettin in February, 1571, in which almost the whole of Europe, the Empire, and, through the Emperor's agency, France, Spain, England, Scotland, and even the Hanse towns—though they were not overpleased—figure alongside of the contracting parties, and express their agreement—which treaty was not put into execution any more than its fellows had been.

Theoretically, this arrangement, which reconciled Sweden and Denmark, left Ivan at war with the Swedes and the Poles, who would now be free to join all their forces against him. But, in exchange for the free passage of the Sound granted by Denmark, and that country's proffered mediation with the Tsar and Magnus, Sweden had undertaken to respect the traffic on the Narova; now the King of Poland was to interfere, and Sweden was soon to break her promise. The Emperor had undertaken, on his side, to buy back the territories Sweden had been holding in Livonia; neither he nor his successors ever thought of doing this, any more than Livonia ever thought of acknowledging the Emperor's suzerainty. Denmark emerged triumphant from the struggle, and kept an apparent supremacy over the Baltic; but the key to the dominium maris Baltici remained in Livonia, and through Magnus, whom he was soon to convert into his tool, Ivan still held the dominant position there.

Neither Poles nor Swedes could contrive to check him. Sigismund-Augustus' dreamt-of fleet continued a dream, and the German and Flemish corsairs the Emperor managed to equip were always fought by others, sent out by the Tsar under a famous leader, Kersten Rhode, who pushed on as far as Dantzig. Thereupon Denmark intervened, and seized the bold pirate's person; but Denmark's attempts to gain a footing on the Livonian coast were fruitless, likewise. Ivan exchanged artillery fire with Erik's successor in Finland, whither he sent an army and Ambassadors; but the Swedish envoys found themselves checked by the Tsar's claim for the execution of the 1567 treaty in its integrity. First of all they were kept at Novgorod, and then dragged from Moscow to Mourom, and from Mourom to Kline, in a state of genuine captivity, embittered, according to their own reports, by the most odious acts of violence. Under the twofold pretext of the Swedish failure in keeping the undertaking, and of some affront of which the Russian envoys would seem to have had to complain when they reached Stockholm, the unlucky messengers of peace were treated as if they had been captives of war. Their hands were tied behind their backs, they were marched through the streets amidst a hooting mob, and threatened with the bastinado if they did not give the Tsar satisfaction on every point, including the surrender of Catherine's person. The ex-Duke of Finland was not dead, since he was a reigning Sovereign, and Catherine had become Queen of Sweden; but Ivan pretended to know nothing about that. So many stories were going about the world!

In the midst of his struggle with the internal crisis his reforms had evoked, the Tsar had just had to endure another and a terrible trial. From 1563 to 1570, he had vainly striven to stem the Tartar invasion with which Poland threatened him. In vain had his envoys, Nagoï and Revski, carried conciliatory messages and splendid gifts to the Khan. Poland did as much, and more, and the Sultan, irritated by the conquest of Kazan and Astrakn, supported Poland. In 1569, a combined Tartar and Turkish expedition threatened Astrakan, and Simon Maltsev, the Tsar's envoy to the Tartars, who had been taken captive by the Cossacks, was a rower on one of the Moslem galleys. In 1570, Ivan agreed to pull down a fort he had lately built on the Terek, but Selim II. instantly claimed Kazan and Astrakan, and the Tsar's acceptance of his suzerainty. Naturally enough, the negotiations were broken off, and in May, 1571, the Tartars, having crossed the Oka unopposed, appeared before Moscow. This time Ivan followed the tradition of his ancestors, and took refuge first at the sloboda of Alexandrov, and finally at Rostov. The capital, thus left to its fate, was put to fire and sword. According to testimony which is probably exaggerated, 800,000 men perished in the flames, while the Metropolitan, shut up with part of his clergy in the Cathedral of the Assumption, waited for death; and Prince Ivan Dmitriévitch Biélski, who had been left in charge of the defence, was stifled in the cellar in which he had sought refuge. The Tartars, as was their wont, shrank from the assault on the Kremlin, and retired with 150,000 prisoners; this figure, again, seems improbable. but allowance must be made for the fact that on such occasions as these the whole of the neighbouring population would flow into the capital.

In any case, the disaster was tremendous and the humiliation extreme. On his homeward march the Khan wrote to the Tsar: 'I have ravaged your land and burnt your capital for Kazan and Astrakan, and you, who call yourself the Muscovite Sovereign, have not appeared in their defence! If you had possessed any valour or any decency, you would have shown yourself! I want no more of your riches now, I want Kazan and Astrakan, and I have seen and known every road in your Empire!' Ivan swallowed the insult. It was not only as a fugitive that he remembered his ancestors, and his madness, as I have already said, admitted of a great deal of method between his fits of extravagance. His reply was both humble and cunning: he begged a truce, and offered to give up Astrakan; but his instructions to Nagoï, who still remained in the Crimea, imparted a doubtful meaning to this concession. Astrakan was to be ruled by one of the Khan's sons, who was to receive a resident boïar chosen by the Tsar, just as in the case of Kassimov. Kassimov was one of the small Tartar khanates which had acknowledged the Moscow suzerainty in this manner, and was being slowly absorbed into Russia. These overtures were accompanied by an offer of money; Ivan went so far as to accept the shame of an annual tribute!

Both sides began to treat. The Khan would listen to nothing unless he was given Kazan and Astrakan, without any conditions whatever. As the negotiations dragged, he demanded an instalment of the tribute—2,000 roubles—which he needed, so he said, to buy plate and other merchandise for some family festival. But Ivan had already taken his measures, had swiftly mobilized all his forces, and, on pretext of the exhaustion of his finances resulting from the recent campaign, sent 'all he had in hand'—200 roubles. Mehemed-Ghireï realized at last that the Tsar was only trying to gain time, and in 1572, he recrossed the Oka. But on the Lopasna, 50 versts from Moscow, he came into collision with the troops commanded by Prince Michael Ivanovitch Vorotynski, and was forced to beat a retreat. Whereupon Ivan forthwith changed his tone, withdrew all previous concessions, and sent jeering messages instead of his former humble missives. 'The Khan still wanted money? What? Had he not professed his scorn for riches?' The Tsar's whole soul is revealed in this trait.

Yet the frightful turmoil had thrown him into a state of irritation which he was quite unable to control. He ascribed the catastrophe to his boïars, who had been guilty of connivance with the enemy, and one of them, at least—Mstislavski—was to acknowledge his guilt; he multiplied executions, and vented his rage, incidentally, on the unlucky Swedish envoys. Yet in 1571, on his way to Novgorod, whither we shall have to follow him, and where we shall see him presiding over hideous hecatombs, he did consent to see the Ambassadors—in the street—and have an explanation with them as to Catherine. 'If she had been sent to him, everything would have been arranged. It was John's marriage with that Polish woman which had spoilt the whole business in Livonia. Since that time, the Tsar had persuaded himself she was a widow; otherwise he would never have dreamt of parting a wife from her husband and a mother from her children. But the mischief was done, now, and either he must have the whole of Livonia or the war must go on.' When the Tsar came back from Novgorod he was calmer, as if the shedding of blood had appeased him. He invited the Ambassadors to his own table, and very suddenly caused his representatives to question them as to King John's daughter. She was said to be fair, and he desired her portrait.

The Tsar was not thinking of his son, this time. He had married again, several times over, since Anastasia's death, and to the end of his life he was to interest himself in matters of this kind, much after the fashion of Henry VIII. and the tale of Bluebeard; and the report of this Swedish embassy, drawn up by its chief, Paul Junsten (Beitrage zur Kentniss Russland's, Derpt, 1816), abounds in details of a not less singular nature. Though the inclination he now manifested towards Sweden was so particularly friendly, Ivan resorted, at the same time, to his favourite system of epistolary polemics, and threw himself into them with all his usual spirit.

'You ought to tell us whose son your father was, and what was his grandfather's name! Was he a King? What Sovereigns were his friends and allies? The Emperor of the Romans is our brother, and other great Sovereigns are our brothers likewise. Can you say as much?'

Then came fresh explanations about Catherine. 'If he had known John was alive, Ivan would never have dreamt of taking his wife from him. He had always intended, indeed, to give her back to the King of Poland in exchange for Livonia. Unhappily, blood had now been shed in torrents, in consequence of this misunderstanding, and the Tsar's envoys had been ill-treated at Stockholm. Now they were great lords, not peasants, like John's envoys!' John himself, much addicted to correspondence wrote back in his best ink, but Ivan insisted.

'Yet it is an absolute truth that you come of a family of churls!' And once again he began his cross-examination.

'Your father, Gustavus, whose son was he? … When our merchants used to go to Sweden, in your father's reign, with wax and tallow, did they not see him put on his gloves and go as far as to Wiborg to turn the merchandise over, and haggle about the prices? … And you talk of the Kings who were your predecessors! … What Kings? Where did you find them? In your larder?'

The Tsar declared himself ready, indeed, to treat with the tallow-merchant's son, but on condition he begged his pardon, humbled himself, and submitted. He would then be treated as a relative. If not, he would find out what happened to the Khan of the Crimea without the Tsar's having even condescended to draw his sword to chastise him as he deserved. His boïars had quite sufficed for that business. And so letter followed letter, some described as 'severe orders,' others as 'comminatory warnings,' till Ivan, tired, or possibly put out of countenance by some particularly sharp reply, suddenly declared he did not intend to enter into any epistolary dispute.

'You have taken a dog's throat to bark at me. It does not suit me to fight with you in this fashion! If your taste leans to that sort of conflict, take another peasant like yourself for your adversary!'

These letters have been published (Drevnaïa Rousskaïa Vivliofika, vol. i., part i., p. 23, etc.; part ii., p. 52, etc.). They cannot have inspired King John with any desire to continue the negotiation they accompanied, nor given him much hope of its success. All the more so as the Tsar, to his certain knowledge, was meanwhile entering into a correspondence with Erik in his prison, and favouring an arrangement with Magnus.

This arrangement was the work of two Livonian renegades, Taube and Kruse, the first a former councillor to the Bishopric of Derpt, and the second a member of the Livonian deputation sent to Moscow in 1557. These two men, who had been the Tsar's captives, and had been won over to his side, had become active agents of his propaganda. In 1568, they had raked up an old attempt at an agreement between Albert of Prussia and Ivan's father, and made it the basis of a new arrangement, to which the King of Poland's present vassal seemed favourably inclined. In 1570, again, having been rewarded, in spite of their failure—one with the title of Prince and the other with the rank of boïar—they hit upon their right road and found their man. Ever since 1567, Ivan had been desirous of placing a member of the late Order as Governor in Livonia. Fürstenberg and Kettler both refused, and the name of Magnus occurred to the renegade pair.

Driven out of Revel in 1560, recalled the following year by his brother, who hoped to get him elected coadjutor in the rich Bishopric of Hildesheim, again dismissed, and sent back to Livonia, where he was to see the Swedes and Poles dividing up the territories he longed to possess, this Prince-adventurer—missshapen, one-eyed, and club-footed, according to the not very reliable report of the Catholic writers—having vainly essayed to ally himself with one side or the other, now found himself at the end of all his resources and expedients. His joy may be imagined when Taube and Kruse offered him no less than the sovereignty of Livonia, as the Tsar's vassal. As a matter of form, he applied for Frederick II.'s consent, assuring him his new kingdom would remain dependent on Denmark—an untruth and a piece of nonsense. As a matter of form, too, his elder brother made a few objections, and the matter was settled. Magnus' plenipotentiaries brought back unhoped-for and magnificent conditions from Moscow. The throne, together with that of Denmark, if male heirs failed in that kingdom, was to be hereditary in the new King's family; all conquests in Livonia hitherto made or to be made by Russia were to be given over to him, and the Tsar promised to help him to retake Riga, Revel, and other towns—all in return for a simple undertaking to serve with the Russian armies in time of war. In May, 1570, Magnus proceeded, with a suite of 400 persons, to Moscow, and there received, not his crown only, but a bride—Ivan's own niece, Euphemia, on whom the Sovereign bestowed a dowry of five hogsheads of gold! Livonia was to preserve her religion and her institutions, and the Tsar undertook not to introduce any Russian officials into the country.

It was a dream! But it was nothing more! When Germany and the whole of Europe expressed a certain emotion, the King of Denmark disclaimed all responsibility—Magnus, he said, had acted without consulting him. Nevertheless, Frederick II.'s agents laboured, underhand, to turn the course of opinion; it was the Emperor's fault if Livonia was a prey for anybody to take; and besides, there was the precedent of Albert of Prussia! When Magnus sent his brother an official announcement of his accession, Frederick replied by a letter of congratulation. But the new King of Livonia made a bad beginning; he attempted, at the head of a body of mercenaries and Russian auxiliaries, to take Revel from the Swedes, but after a siege lasting thirty weeks—from August 21, 1570, till March 16, 1571—he was forced to beat a retreat, burn his camp, and dismiss his troops, while Taube and Kruse fled to Derpt, and there laid plans with the Poles for an attempt, which very nearly proved successful, against the Russian garrison.

The career of these two rogues is instructive: after intrigues, desertions, and treacheries innumerable, they were one day to find grace in the eyes of Batory himself. Taube, having been forced with a high hand on the Livonian landtag, which had refused to receive him, passed away in peace on his own country property, and Kruse was on the point of performing a mission to Prussia for the King when death overtook him. Such was the morality of those days!

During the siege of Revel, Magnus had vainly expected help from Denmark. Just at that moment, as my readers will remember (vide p. 198), the Treaty of Stettin was in course of preparation. After the signatures had been exchanged, Sigismund-Augustus once more claimed the aid of Denmark against Muscovy. On September 17, 1571, he published a manifesto, according to the terms of which he undertook to cut off the trade of Narva, blockading the town, and giving more scope and means of action to his privateers than formerly, and thus seemed on the eve of that great effort which had so long been expected from him. Taube and Kruse, no doubt, had already discounted the effect produced. But their calculations were upset, for a time, by an unexpected incident. On July 7, 1572, the last of the Jagellons died of a chill. The extinction of the dynasty and the inauguration of the system of an elective monarchy in Poland were once more to alter the conditions of the fight, and the positions of the adversaries in the long struggle.

IV.—Ivan's Candidature for the Polish Throne.

In Livonia, as in Poland, the inheritance left by Sigismund-Augustus was not an easy one to take up. With Kettler, with the Scandinavian Powers, with the Khan, his diplomacy had been a brilliant success. But his natural indolence, alas! had conspired with the idle and anarchical tendencies of his subjects to turn his successes into mere illusions, for there never was any sufficient display of material strength to enforce them. The union with Lithuania had likewise been a triumph over Moscow, but the struggle begun in the heart of Catholic Poland at that very time against Protestantism, and incidentally against every dissident form of faith, had evoked a feeling of resistance amongst the Orthodox populations of the annexed provinces, which drove them towards Russia's outstretched arms. The eager proselytism of the Jesuits, already installed in the Bishopric of Wilna, only quickened the current, and the extension of its sphere of action to Livonia introduced a fresh element of complication. In the absence of a fleet, the blockade of Narva, though it raised difficulties with all the neighbouring maritime Powers, even with Dantzig, threatened to become a farce; and there being no regular army, any chance of checking Ivan's far superior forces on land appeared most doubtful. Wherefore Sigismund Augustus had hardly closed his eyes in death ere in Lithuania, and even more especially in Poland, a current of opinion began to flow in favour of a solution likely to insure the heirless kingdom something more than the benefits of the most advantageous peace. F. Voropaï, the Polish-Lithuanian envoy, was deputed to announce the vacancy of the throne to Ivan, and to inform him at the same time of the desire felt to see his son Feodor appear as a candidate for the late King's succession.

The desire was by no means unanimous, nor were those who expressed it entirely sincere. The choice of Feodor was only a compromise, accepted by the mass of the influential electors because they could not agree as to Ivan's own candidature, which was strongly supported in some quarters, and as vehemently opposed in others. This, in Poland, as in Lithuania, was absolutely repugnant to the great nobles, who were persuaded, and rightly so, that the accession of such a ruler was incompatible with the maintenance of their oligarchy. The Radziwills are even said to have plotted to poison the Tsar's Ambassador to the Diet of Stezyça; but the only authority the Russian historian who has espoused this story (Oumaniéts, La Pologne dégénérée, 1872, p. 71) can put forward to support it, is the copy of a letter of doubtful authenticity. The lesser nobles could not be swayed by these reasons, or rather those very reasons led them to prefer the Muscovite candidate. In Poland, at least, the Szlachta was enthusiastically in his favour. Did the Szlachta know nothing of the Terrible's temperament and character? That is not likely. We have proof to the contrary, indeed, in the electoral manifestoes published at the time. In these the faults and virtues of the wished-for Sovereign were laid in the balance, and the excesses of the Opritchnina were appropriately remarked on and discussed. Yes! Ivan was a severe and pitiless ruler, but in Muscovy he had to deal with subjects whose treason justified the treatment he meted out to them. Things would be quite different in Poland, where his electors' loyalty would disarm his wrath, while his contact with their superior culture would soften his manners. And in him they would have a firm and energetic Prince, one who would be bold and enterprising. They went crazy about him, in short, and, as Ivan's Ambassadors were to perceive, everything in Warsaw—dress, carriages, harness, arid so forth—rushed beforehand into the Russian fashion ('Collections of the Imperial Historical Society of Russia,' lxxi. 763, etc.).

In Lithuania opinion seemed more divided. The country gentlemen, who had only lately been initiated into the immunities, liberties, and privileges of the Polish system, and found them much to their liking, were still more alarmed at the idea of losing their benefits. But they had not shaken off the impression produced by the recent and easy capture of Polotsk, and between the two terrors—of having Ivan for their master or their adversary—the great nobles themselves, though they hated him, and reckoned on defeating his hopes, accepted the Muscovite candidate. Taking it all in all, Ivan had the advantage of numbers, and it must be admitted that in this particular crisis the balance of political wisdom and breadth of view was heaviest in the ranks of the small nobility, of which Voropaï had constituted himself spokesman. It had already resolutely undertaken, single-handed, a reform of the national institutions, and now, single-handed again, it had conceived the hope of insuring the success of this reform by the assistance of the dreaded but powerful monarch to whom it appealed, and of creating, under his ægis and on a Polish basis, a great Slavonic Empire, strong enough to fulfil a mission in history which neither Poland nor Russia could undertake alone.

The idea of this last union was not a new one. As early as in 1506, when, after the death of Alexander Jagellon, a shadowy election had taken place in Poland, Ivan's father, Vassili, had come forward. The son remembered this fact, and gave Voropaï a hearty reception. But why was there any talk of Feodor? That would only perpetuate the antagonism between the two countries! Lengthily, with many an argument and metaphor, the Tsar set forth his theory and pleaded his own cause. 'He had only two sons,' he said, 'and they were the two eyes in his head. Was he to be robbed of one? He had been given an evil reputation for severity in Poland and Lithuania. He did not propose to deny it. Severe he was, in good sooth, but to whom?' Voropaï had to listen to the detailed story of all the misdeeds of which the Tsar had reason to complain on the part of his boïars. Were the Poles likely to treat him and betray him in the same way? No, indeed! and he would treat them accordingly. The Tsar-King would respect their privileges and liberties, would even increase them. He knew how to treat good men well. 'Look,' he said to the envoy, 'to a good man I would give the jewelled collar about my neck and the gown on my back. …' And as he spoke he made as though he would take them off. 'Even if Poland would not have him to reign over her,' he went on, 'he was still ready to sign a peace, and give back Polotsk and all the lands belonging to that place, in return for the cession of Livonia up to the banks of the Dvina. Peace, and the settlement of the questions in dispute between the two countries, were the only really important matters, and Feodor's election could not serve them in any way.'

The Polish and Lithuanian oligarchs knew that well enough, and for that very reason, too, they had adopted this bastard solution, which, as it presented no serious advantage, was less likely to come to anything. As the mass of the electors held to their original idea, and made their preference for Ivan more clearly felt, the nobles went further still. Within a few months, a fresh Polish-Lithuanian envoy, Michael Haraburda, appeared at Moscow, and offered Ivan his choice between his own candidature and that of his son, but burdened it with conditions which Voropaï had not mentioned. The auction mart at Warsaw was open by this time, and the Ambassador of Henri de Valois, Montluc, was soon to defy all other competitors, 'If they ask me to induce the future King to throw a golden bridge across the Vistula, I shall reply, "In what kind of gold would you like it—red or green?"' Haraburda was less exacting, and only claimed such a rectification of the frontier as would give Poland possession of Polotsk, with Smolensk, Ousviat, and Oziérichtché as well.

Instantly a misunderstanding, destined to be of long duration, and in itself an obstacle to the success of the Muscovite candidature, arose between the parties. Ivan had no idea of soliciting the Polish vote, much less paying for it. Did he want Poland? No; it was Poland who wanted a King to suit her. If he was the King she wanted, she must behave in a proper manner, be humble and suppliant, like all the other folk who came to beg favours of the Tsar. On this point he was quite immovable. Never would he consent to exchange his part for that appropriate to Poland, and he spoke quite clearly to Haraburda, though he mingled his refusal, reasonable enough in itself, with observations which were less so. 'If the Emperor and the King of France laid themselves out to please the electors, that was no reason why he should imitate the example of Sovereigns none of whose ancestors had reigned in their respective countries for as much as two hundred years. He was descended from the Roman Caesars of the very earliest centuries—everybody knew that!'

Nevertheless, as the idea itself was very agreeable to him, he seemed inclined, for a moment, to make due allowance for the susceptibilities of Poland and grant her Feodor. But the very next day he sent for the envoy and reset the question in its real terms: No effectual union of the two countries could be insured save under his own sceptre, and it was only right the mutual advantages should be fairly balanced. Poland, therefore, should have Polotsk and Courland, but she must give up her claim to Livonia and cede Kiev. And, further, the title of 'Tsar of all the Russias' must take precedence of the title of 'King.'

He was asking too much this time, perhaps, but his cunning intelligence and sure instinct may have guessed the nature of the Polish magnates' game, and also the consequences of his own succession to the throne for which he bargained after this fashion. These petty rulers, who cared for nothing but their own privileges, were only trying to fool him, and prevent his reopening hostilities during the interregnum; and what figure would he cut, once he had passed those Caudine Forks, their pride and their pretensions? His last word, as he dismissed Haraburda, seems to betray the existence of such an inner thought. 'After weighing it all well, he thought the best thing the Poles could do was to elect the Emperor's son; and so long as their choice did not fall on a French Prince, the Sultan's friend, he should declare himself quite satisfied.' On his way home the envoy was overtaken by a courier, bearing still less acceptable conditions. Whereas the idea at Warsaw had been that Ivan would turn Catholic, he announced his intention of being crowned there by his own Metropolitan, in the absence of the Polish Bishops, who were to be excluded from the ceremony; he reserved his right to build as many Orthodox churches as he chose in the country, and himself retire into a monastery when he grew old!

Thus was the way prepared for the success of Henri de Valois. Yet on the very eve of the election, as is proved by divers witnesses belonging to the hostile camp, Ivan's name continued popular, (see the 'Memoirs' of Montluc's secretary, Choisnin, coll. Michaud et Poujoulat, p. 429; Lippomano's narrative in the Hist. Russie Monumenta,' Turgéniév's edition, i. 270; and another Italian narrative in the Manuscripts of the Bibliothèque Nationale, 15,967, fol. 21). The lesser nobles stood by their candidate, and they swayed the poll. But a speech from the Tsar's envoy, which further accentuated his master’s haughty and unyielding attitude, spoilt everything, and, the wind veering suddenly round, the French candidate obtained the advantage. 'Decidedly,' thought everybody, 'Ivan was nothing but the barbarian he had been reported to be.'

Would he have been wiser to be more conciliatory at the time, and to have shown, later, what sort of a King he must needs be in Poland if he was to continue to be Tsar of Muscovy? Batory was very soon to prove himself more pliable, but Batory had no boïars to govern, nor had he to support the principle of absolute power in his own country, nor uphold his claim to the Empire of all the Russias in the face of these very Poles. In spite of certain incoherences peculiar to his mental constitution and his natural temperament, the conduct of the conqueror of Polotsk and the head of the Opritchniki is easily understood—and justified.

None the less, the election of Henri de Valois was a sharp blow to him. Apart from that friendship with the Porte, the nature and consequences of which he was apt to exaggerate, this event upset the political chess-board, on which his moves were already difficult enough, and on which fresh complications were soon to arise. John III., isolated by the rupture of the family bonds which had insured him the Polish alliance, but released, at the same time, from the considerations they had imposed on him, was seeking an agreement with Spain, while France, which dreamt of checking this latter Power by the help of Denmark, of establishing her own protectorate over Livonia, and cutting off the trade of the Low Countries with, the Eastern markets, showed herself inclined to support Frederick II. in stronger measures yet. When this hope failed her, she was to endeavour to find the same support and make the same bargain in Stockholm, through the marriage of one of the Valois Princes to a Swedish Princess (Forsten, 'The Baltic Question,' i. 624, from the Copenhagen Archives).

Ivan's judgment of the situation and the way he faced it prove his possession of close insight and all the qualities of a great politician. At that moment Poland did not count. The new King had work enough to do in getting settled on his throne, and the commander of his troops in Livonia could not muster 200 horses, and was waiting in vain for the payment of a draught for 3,000 florins (Mittheilungen aus dem Gebiete der Geschichte Livlands, Riga, 1847–1858, iv. 178, etc.). The Tsar, thoroughly well-informed and quite collected, hurried on, choosing as his first task that of crushing the Swedes in Esthonia. The Poles' turn was to come later, and meanwhile, though he did not fail to move his troops about threateningly on the disputed frontier, he agreed to prolong his truce with the new King, and was playing the kindly friend, when the flight of Henri de Valois once more destroyed all his plans.

Everything had to be begun over again. Ivan could not turn his back on the new election, all the more so as Poland and Lithuania were sure to play the game which had already answered their purpose so well with him. And the business now promised still better. Both in Lithuania and in all the Russian provinces under Polish rule the Muscovite current, fed by the twofold influence of the Catholic propaganda, which exasperated the population, and the before-mentioned military demonstrations. which alarmed it, appeared to be growing stronger. Magnus himself had done his share, in Livonia, towards terrorizing the unhappy country, groaning in the throes of King-birth. The Tsar's treatment of the Danish adventurer had not been over good-natured. He had married him, indeed, to one of his nieces, Maria Vladimoroyna, sister of that Euphemia whom he had intended for him, and who had died. Her father, the Tsar's first cousin, had just been put to death by him! At the nuptial ceremony, which was of the most pompous description, Ivan himself had led the chants, taking up his position at the choir-desk, leading the orchestra with his iron-shod stick, and now and then beating time on the performers' heads. Peter the Great's feats of imperial virtuosity at a later period were a mere imitation. But the promised dowry—the five hogsheads of gold—remained a promise and no more. Magnus, reduced to a very modest appanage in his little town of Karkhus, must earn the money and the royal state for which he was still waiting. He did his best, with a body of Tartars added to his German troops, left the Swedish possessions, which were better defended, alone, and turned all his efforts to those of Poland, striving to obtain the capitulation of the Castle of Salis, and threatening Pernau and Riga. The great Polish and Lithuanian lords took this to be a further reason for persevering in their stratagem, and 'amusing' their terrible Russian neighbour with the bait of a crown they intended ultimately to refuse him. But the lesser nobles made a rhyme, 'By byl Fiodor jak Jagiello—Dobrze by nam bylo' ('With Feodor as with Jagellon—We should be happy'). The reports of the Nuncio, Vincenzo Laureo, confirmed by the testimony of the Dantzig agents, very reliable as a rule, leave us in no doubt as to the feeling thus manifested (Vierjboiski, Vincenzo Laureo, 1888, pp. 69, 238, 257; and Forsten, 'The Baltic Question,' i. 627).

But Ivan's knowledge of the ground on which he had to manœuvre was not sufficient to enable him to turn this feeling to account. The enormous difference between the politic life of the two countries escaped him. Deceived by appearances, and interpreting the wishes expressed in his favour and the messages which seemed to summon him to Lithuania and Poland, and place both countries at his disposal, by the light of his half-Asiatic ideas of sovereignty, the Tsar, instead of sending an embassy to receive the votes of these electors, already won over to his side, expected them to send an embassy to him. Great was the surprise of the preparatory Diet of Stezyça (May, 1575) to behold nothing but a mere courier from the Tsar—a courier, too, who had nothing to offer, nor even a promise to make. Better things were hoped for at the Diet of Election in November. The Primate Uchanski, head of the temporary Government, who had been so won over to the Russian candidature that he had furnished Ivan with copies of letters to be addressed by him to the chief magnates, was quite sure the Tsar was going to announce himself a convert to Catholicism. Deputies and senators were scanning the horizon, and sending out couriers to meet the Muscovite mission and the brilliant proposals and splendid largesse it was certain to bring with it. A bitter disappointment! With the decisive hour came a solitary letter from Ivan, couched in haughty terms, and announcing for a later date an embassy of moderate rank, as was befitting, seeing there was no monarch to whom it could be accredited.

What had been happening at Moscow? The embassy in question, which had been despatched in the month of August, 1575, under the leadership of Lucas Zakhariévitch Novossiltsov, had orders to appear before the Diet. Its instructions were to press Feodor's candidature, and support it by promises of money and honours to be distributed among the chief nobles. But it had halted on its way, delayed by the Tsar's order. It had occurred to Ivan, at the same time, to send a confidential man, Skobeltsyne, to Vienna, and commission him to sound the Emperor as to an agreement between the two Powers concerning the Polish-Lithuanian inheritance. As the conditions of the Tsar's candidature for the vacant throne were not such as he would have desired, as neither the Lithuanians nor the Poles seemed to be bringing him the crown on a golden charger, Ivan made as though he would let them have their way, but fell back meanwhile on another idea, already discussed several times and in various quarters—that of a partition of the escheated inheritance. The Emperor's son Ernest was one of the candidates; let him take Poland, and the Tsar would withdraw his own candidature and take Lithuania. Skobeltsyne came back empty-handed: the Vienna authorities believed their cause in Poland safe. But Ivan had since heard that the Emperor regretted his reception of the Russian envoy, and that an Imperial mission was on its way to Moscow. It was for the issue of this negotiation that Novossiltsov must wait.

And this time, by too easily concluding that things really unaffected by his absolute power would bow to his will, Ivan thoroughly missed his calculation. The Diet did not wait. In September, 1575, the Sultan pronounced against any Muscovite candidate, and in favour of Batory, and supported his view by marching out an army of 120,000 Tartars. There was a panic at Warsaw, and on December 12, Batory was elected, together with the Emperor Maximilian himself, on whom part of the votes fell, to the exclusion of his son Ernest.

This division evidently left some margin for the arrangement already suggested by Ivan; but the conferences begun at Mojaïsk in January, 1576, with the Imperial envoys Cobenzl and Printz von Buchau, bore no fruit whatever. Maximilian, instead of forestalling Batory in Poland, as he should have done, insisted on sending his son there, and requesting the Tsar's support for his candidature. He further claimed the evacuation of Livonia and an alliance against the Turks, and, in exchange, he offered Ivan Constantinople and the Empire of the East!

The game had been played—and lost.

V.—The Election of Batory.

Ivan tried to cut into the game again, and this time rather awkwardly. At that moment the Opritchnina had set his head in a whirl. He wrote separate letters to the Polish and Lithuanian lords, recommending Ernest to some, with the most terrible threats of reprisals if they gave the preference to the Sultan's candidate (Batory), and proposing himself to the others, either as King of Poland or as Sovereign of Lithuania apart from Poland. Unfortunately, Novossiltsov, whom he had at last allowed to proceed, strengthened him in his mistaken course. Chodkiewicz and Radziwill told the envoy that nothing would induce them to accept Obatura (sic). They had only voted for Maximilian in despair, when they saw the Tsar made no sign. Ivan fancied he was still master of the day and the morrow. Any man, indeed, might have been deceived. As late as in April, 1576, the Nuncio Laureo wrote to Rome that if a fresh election was rendered necessary by the division of the vote, the Russian candidate would certainly win the day, because Ernest was so hated. But both Maximilian and Ivan should have made haste. For while they were each wasting precious time, the Emperor parleying with the Poles, and the Tsar sending Prince Zakhar Ivanovitch Sougorski to Vienna to reopen the negotiations begun at Mojaïsk, Obatura hurried to Warsaw, and had himself crowned there.

Even then Ivan did not despair, and invited the Emperor to join him in common action against 'the usurper.' But when anybody spoke the word 'Poland' to Maximilian, he answered with the word 'Livonia,' and after his death, which occurred during that same year, his successor, Rudolph, followed in his footsteps. So that, the election being a settled thing, the Tsar was brought back to the Livonian problem, the solution of which to his own advantage, he might imagine would now present fewer difficulties. Batory was King indeed, but, like Henri de Valois, his kingdom kept him very busy. A revolt at Dantzig, which refused to recognise him, brought him a heavy extra task, and the check the French influence had received at Warsaw had been reflected at Stockholm. Turning his back on all his past fancies, and resuming possession of his brilliant powers, Ivan set himself at last to turn circumstances to his own profit. The previous year, in his desire to have free play in the Polish business, he had loosened his hold on Sweden, and agreed to a curious truce, which put a stop to hostilities in Finland and in the province of Novgorod, only. Immediately after this, concentrating all his forces in Livonia, he besieged Pernau, an important strategic point which Sigismund-Augustus had made a stronghold for his privateers. Here the Tsar lost 7,000 men; but the town was taken, and one after the other, Helmet, Ermes, Rujen, and Purkel shared the same fate. Then, leaving the Poles, and going back to his old plan, which consisted, as my readers will recollect, in settling his account with the Swedes first of all, Ivan made his way into Esthonia. Within a few weeks, in the course of the spring of 1576, Leal and Lode, Fikel and Hapsal, fell without a struggle. At Hapsal, on the day of the capitulation, the inhabitants gave banquets and dances. 'Strange folk, these Germans,' said the Russians; 'if we had given up such a town, without any reason at all, we should not have dared to look any man in the face, and the Tsar would not have been able to devise a torture sharp enough to punish us!' … Oesel was abandoned; Padis surrendered after a month's siege, and the Swedes made an ineffectual attempt to recover the town.

But these triumphs came to anend. In 1577, the Russians, commanded by Prince M. F. Mstislavski and by I. V. Chérémétiev, appeared at Revel, but were fain to retire, after a six weeks' siege, before the heroic resistance offered by the Swedes. Chérémétiev had sworn to take the town or perish, and he was killed. This Swedish nut was decidedly a hard one to crack! It broke Ivan's teeth, and he thought it wiser not to be too obstinate. If needful, he could go shares with these competitors who refused to be driven off the field. So, rallying all his forces at Novgorod, the Tsar took the field in person, and, instead of renewing his unsuccessful attempt on Revel, as everyone expected, fell suddenly on Polish Livonia. This was as easy as cutting cheese. In the course of a few days the whole country, except for Riga, was in the invaders' hands.

And it was abominably handled. Ivan, between his last humiliation at Revel and his former one at Warsaw, was in a fury. At Lenewarden he had the eyes of the aged Marshal, Gaspard von Münster, torn out, and then had him whipped to death (Karamzine, 'History of Russia,' ix. 465, note). Other men who had commanded fortified towns were impaled, quartered, hacked to pieces. At Ascheraden the screams of forty virgins, violated all at once in a garden, rang across the Dvina, from one bank to the other, for four hours (Forsten, 'The Baltic Question,' i. 667). The new feats of arms performed by Magnus served to exasperate the Tsar. He suspected his partner of having made terms with the Poles. This was going rather far. The 'King of Livonia' had not reached this point yet; but between the Tsar and him, the Livonians unhesitatingly chose the lesser evil, and Magnus took advantage of their feeling to act as if he were master, and make his shadowy kingdom a reality. Without orders to that effect, he occupied Kokenhausen, Ascheraden, Lenewarden, Ronneburg, and Wolmar, on his own account, took possession of Derpt, and went so far as to claim that the Russians were not to molest his 'faithful lieges' there. This was but another dream, and the awakening was bitter. Ivan hurried to Kokenhausen, had fifty of the 'King's' Germans put to death, and ordered him to appear before him. 'Obey, or go back whence you came! We are not far from each other, and I have soldiers and biscuit!' The wretched man tried to negotiate a reconciliation. Ivan had his emissaries whipped, and repeated his order. The next morning Magnus cast himself at his feet. 'Idiot!' shouted the Tsar. 'Beggar, whom I received into my family and fed and shod! Do you think you can hold out against me?' He had him shut up in a hut, and kept him there, lying on straw, for several days. Then, from Ascheraden, where his soldiery behaved in the manner I have already described, he dragged him to Wenden. The town surrendered, and the garrison blew itself up with the fortress. Ivan had one of the notable inhabitants, George Wicke, impaled in presence of his fellow-townsmen, and then proceeded to Derpt with his prisoner, who expected the same fate.

Contrary to all expectations, he was pardoned. The Tsar, who now thought his final victory assured, was inclined to mercy. But Magnus, though obliged to content himself with a few small towns, had to undertake to pay a sum of 40,000 gold florins, and he had not a crown to his name! Very soon Oberpalen, the last bulwark of his ephemeral royalty, fell into the hands of the Swedes, and that was the end of his strange adventure. He fled, reached Pilten, and offered himself, with all his possessions beyond the Dvina—his in name only, indeed—to Batory, who refused to enter into any definite arrangement with him. Until 1583, when he died, the ex-King led a miserable life, reduced sometimes to the extremest poverty, assisted at others by his brother, by the Elector of Saxony, and the King of Poland, who all tried to make use of him in their turn. His widow, a poor creature, of whom Frederick II. used to say that anybody who gave her a little sugar and an apple could make her quite happy, went back to Moscow with her two-year-old girl, and mother and daughter both died in the Monastery of the Trinity during the reign of Ivan's successor.

But Ivan was soon to perceive he had made a terrible mistake. He thought he had finished with the Poles, and that all he had to do now was to treat with the Swedes. He should have followed the contrary course, and his first plan had been the best. Batory would probably have agreed to an arrangement; at the time of his election to the throne of Poland a powerful conspiracy was promising him that of Hungary (Szadeczky, Batory Istwan, in the Szazadok of December 15, 1886, and in the Ungarische Revue, April–May, 1887). To a Transylvanian, Hungary was worth more than any Livonia. But Ivan, in a way, had bereft him of his freedom of choice by forcing him to turn his back on this hope, and face an aggression which no King of Poland could leave unpunished without shutting himself out from all possibility of remaining at Warsaw. Thus war with Muscovy was forced on Maximilian's lucky rival, and when, in 1577, the submission of Dantzig insured him quietness in that quarter, he prepared to cast his sword, his genius, and his fortunes—the fortunes of a crowned parvenu—into the balance.

As an excuse for Ivan, it may be urged that nothing, either in the past history of Poland or in the former career of her new ruler, furnished any reason for anticipating the tremendous impetus with which she and he were to fall, like a hurricane, on the Tsar and his Empire, at a moment when both were still suffering from the effects of the painful internal crisis through which they had lately passed. This crisis certainly had a considerable effect on the incidents of the struggle now nearing its end, and on its final solution. Therefore, before I come to this closing episode, I must show how Ivan had come to be weakened and half-disarmed within the borders of his own country.