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.