he who turns the other cheek has the last laugh

Anna Ivanovna was Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740. Anna was famed for her big cheek, “which, as shown in her portraits”, Carlyle says, “was comparable to a Westphalian ham“.

Cheeky Anna found here

She reigned for ten years and was, on the whole, not liked by her people. Anna also had an unhealthy interest in grotesque, foolish or malformed people. She even had her own private collection and liked to have a hand in the marriages of all her courtiers.

Todd Browning’s Freaks found here

And, it didn’t do to not ask her permission, as one poor prince was to find out. Prince Michael Alexievich Golitsyn made a terrible error when he fell in love with an ordinary girl and, in order to marry her, became a Catholic. A double faux pas because Anna herself was Orthodox. Unfortunately, his wife died not long after the wedding.

check out this Russian Prince here

Anna’s first punishment was to demote the prince to the role of jester, a great humiliation for him. She then decided to pick another wife for him. Looking to her strange entourage, she chose an ugly Kalmuk serving woman called Avdotia, who she had nicknamed ‘Bujenina’, after her favourite dish of pork and onions.

Recipe for onions stuffed with pork found here

Even this wasn’t enough revenge for Anna. She commissioned a palace to be built entirely from ice for their honeymoon. Though a cruel joke, the palace was an architectural marvel. It was the one of the coldest winters Europe had experienced for 30 years. All the major rivers had frozen over, including the Seine, in Paris, and the Thames, in London.

frozen Thames found here

The palace was designed, in a classical style, by the architect Peter Eropkin. It was 80 ft long and around 30ft high and located on the Neva River. The ice was specially picked for its transparency. Every block was expertly measured, cut and joined together with water, which froze instantly in the cold weather. Additions to the castle, also made of ice, included trees, some with ice fruit, birds and statues, and six cannons. Even the windows were sheets of ice. Inside the palace, the furnishings were made of ice – a four poster bed, mattress, quilt, pillows, a clock. There was even a life-sized elephant in the grounds, also made of ice. It spouted 24 ft of water during the day. At night, petroleum was used to make it spout flames.

ice elephant found here

On their wedding night, the couple took part in a procession to the palace. They were locked in a cage sitting on top of a real live elephant, and led by Anna’s entourage of strange people. 300 guests were invited to a fantastic feast and transported on sleds pulled by a variety of animals, including pigs and bears.

Russian car sled found here

When they arrived at the castle, they were taken to their ice bedroom and made to spend the night there. Guards were posted on the doors to make sure they didn’t escape. One story has it that the prince had drunk a fair amount and didn’t feel the cold as badly as his new wife. In another version she swapped a pearl necklace, which Anna had given her as a wedding present, for the guard’s fur coat. She used it to keep them both warm enough to survive the night.

pearl necklace found here

The couple found that they got on really well and lived a long and happy life together. Empress Anna died of kidney disease soon after the ice palace incident, at the age of 47.

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43 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Everybody loves a happy ending.
    Thanks for the link to the pork stuffed onions, I’ll be sure to try that.
    Have a great weekend.

    • Let me know how they turn out

  2. No wonder she was unpopular. What a meanie!

    • Barking mad, like so many monarchs

  3. Oooh – yummy. I must try those pork-stuffed onions.

    The rest of the tale shows that arranged marriages are not all bad.

    • A woman I once worked with had a very successful arranged marriage too.

  4. In Imperial Russia, revenge take you.

    • Take me where….?

  5. Everybody loves a pearl necklace…

    The King

    • Well I know I do. And my guess is queenwilly does too 🙂

  6. Petroleum flames
    Thermodynamic failure
    When shot through icy trunk

    i’m naming my next band “Petroleum Flames”…

  7. If you haven’t seen the movie FREAKS, I highly recommend it. You won’t be the same after as it is soooo creepy.

    • I have seen it, I like Todd Browning’s work.

      • I think it’s a wonderful film. So did the Ramones. Gabba gabba we accept you we accept you one of us.

  8. What an interesting story. I continue to be amazed by the things people in power see fit to do. I mean, she was the ruler of Russia, for goodness’ sake. Didn’t she have better things to do than worry about who her courtiers were marrying? And the expenditure of money to build this ice palace in order to have her revenge on the disobedient prince makes some of the things our government spends money on seem worthy in comparison.

    No wonder she wasn’t popular with her people. “Oh look, honey! See what is being done with the taxes we paid last year! an ice palace!”

    • See my answer to Syncy

  9. Anyone who wants to repeat the experience can book into the ice hotel in Sweden http://www.icehotel.com. Perhaps they could send us all a postcard?

    • That place is incredible, thankyou!!!

      The King

  10. Now, that’s what I call a Royal Wedding. Imagine the D.V.D. sales of the edited highlights!!!

    • As I was reading I wondered if Prince William and his betrothed might consider consummation on ice.(I think I just thought of a new cocktail!);-)

  11. I wouldn’t mind being a jester if the pay and conditions were right. And if there was a decent pension.

  12. Interested in grotesque and foolish people you say? Hmm… *rubbing grotesque chin in deep thought*

    • Is your chin making a scratchy sound? I love the sound of stubble being rubbed.

  13. Do you think she ever experienced orgasm?

    • If I could locate a Time Travelling Machine I’d send you back to find out. And rectify the situation if the answer was negative. I think you’d be the man for the job Jimmy.

  14. I wonder if Europe’s gelded monarchs would love to have a chance at that sort of lifestyle

    • Who’s been gelding the monarchs of Europe?

  15. I would love to have seen the ice palace!

    • The Swedish Ice Hotel sounds like an interesting alternative

  16. Some men love ham, and having cheeks comparable to Westphalian ham was probably a great compliment at the time.

    • It wouldn’t wash with me…..

  17. Maybe she was secretly an incurable romantic, and planned for the ice palace to bring the Prince and Pork and Onions Girl together.

    • It’s not like you to always look on the bright side Robin 😉

  18. cruel…

    • Nasty, mean, spiteful…..

  19. Speaking of obsessions with grotesques and the malformed, I strongly recommend the movie “Fur,” starring Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey, Jr. It’s a tribute to Diane Arbus and…a stupendous love story.

    • I saw it on a plane once, good film.

  20. London has a year-round ice bar…coats are available on the door…


    • Nick, you always have the BEST links

  21. Spiteful and petty, and strangely fabulously so.

    • Yes, she was evil on a grand scale

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