Deep in winter during the Little Ice Age, a frosty, bitter Empress Anna Ivanovna of Russia whose cheeks were like hams, commissions a palace of ice, the blocks carved from the frozen river and sealed together with water. It was to stage the humiliations of her broken heart – her uncle Czar Peter the Great having orchestrated a cruel imitation of her wedding purely in jest just two days after the ceremony and her husband dying two months after. Anna begged for new prospects for marriage. Peter turned away all future suitors.
As she remembered the dwarf ceremony her uncle had arranged as a way of mocking her wedding ceremony, she ordered the servants and artists to construct a thirty three foot high, eighty foot long ice palace. She would humiliate a man who had loved and lost someone, a Catholic, an infidel. They had been so happy and he so devastated when she died. Love was not possible said the dictates of Anna’s frozen heart and certainly he deserved the grief he received from choosing a wife outside orthodoxy. He would be an example of ill-fated, misguided love.
Up went blocks of ice, a bridal suite of an ice mattress, pillows, a frozen clock, and outside, a frozen tree with frozen birds, a frozen elephant inside which a man sat blowing a trumpet. Anna had chosen a servant woman to marry the broken hearted nobleman. She was old and unattractive. They were to sleep naked in the ice palace on the ice mattress. Though the lovers survived the beastly treatment of the Empress, the servant woman died several days later of pneumonia.
It is said to this day, though I’ve never visited this particular part of the world, nothing grows on the site of the palace during the warmer season. No grass, nor weeds. Only a flowering bush of roses where the broken couple huddled together in the palace, having purchased a coat from a guard and survived the night out of mutual compassion and care.
Anna was the worst ruler in Russian history. She hated lovers, Catholics, the physically disabled, the ethnically “undesirable.” She meted out her misery on others. A biography of her life can be bought at $400 for reprints are not desired and so copies are rare. There is nothing more to say.