Peter the Great of Russia

Date: 1884

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A. M. Schuyler London 1884

The King’s Pride Goeth


GYLLENKROK: Does your Majesty intend to besiege Poltáva?

CHARLES: Yes, and you must make the siege, and tell us on what day we will take the fortress. That is what Vauban used to do in France, and you are our little Vauban.

GYLLENKROK: God help us, with such a Vauban as I! But, however great a man he may have been, I think that he would have been embarrassed if he had not had all he thought necessary for a siege.

CHARLES: We have enough necessary military material to take such a wretched little fort as Poltáva.

GYLLENKROK: The fort is itself not strong, but the garrison of 4,000 men, besides Cossacks, makes it strong.

CHARLES: If they see that we attack it in earnest, they will give up at the first cannon-shot fired at them.

GYLLENKROK: That seems to me improbable. I rather believe that the Russians will defend themselves to the last. I see that your Majesty’s infantry will be mined.

CHARLES: We shall not need to use our infantry, but will use Mazeppa’s Zaporavian [Cossacks].

GYLLENKROK: I beg your Majesty, for God’s sake, to reflect whether it is possible for such works to be carried on by a people that never have put their hands to such things; by men with whom no one can talk without an interpreter, and who will immediately run away if the work is difficult and they see their comrades fall.

CHARLES: I assure you that the Zaporavians will do everything that we wish, and that they will not run away, for we are ready to pay them well for their work.

GYLLENKROK: But even if the Zaporavians allow themselves to be used for the work, your Majesty has no cannon which can make a breach in the palisades.

CHARLES: If you can shoot one down you can shoot a hundred down.

GYLLENKROK: I am also of that opinion, but I fear that when a hundred are shot down we shall have no more ammunition.

CHARLES: You must not paint the thing so black. You are accustomed to sieges abroad, and consider such an undertaking impossible if you have not everything. But we must do with our little means what others do with great.

GVLLENKROK: I should be inexcusable if I made unnecessary difficulties, but I know that nothing is to be done with our cannon, and that therefore at last it will be the duty of the infantry to take the fortress, in doing which they will be entirely destroyed.

CHARLES: I assure you do storm will be necessary.

GYLLENKROK: But I do not understand how the town can be taken, unless perhaps some extraordinary piece of good luck favours us.

CHARLES (laughing): Yes, we must do exactly what is extraordinary; by that we will get fame and glory.

GYLLENKROK: Yes. God knows that this is an extraordinary undertaking, but I fear that it will also have an extraordinary end.

CHARLES: Make now all the preparations necessary, then you will see how soon all will be finished.

CHARLES TO PIPER: Even if the good God should send down an angel from heaven to tell me to give up Poltáva I would still remain standing here.

REHNSKJOLD TO GYLLENKROK: The King wishes to have a little amusement fill the Poles come.

GYLLENKROK TO REHNSKJOLD: It is a costly pastime, which demands such a number of human lives. The King could find some better employment.

REHNSKJOLD TO GYLLENKROK: If his Majesty’s will is so, we must be content with it.

GYLLENKROK TO CHARLES: I know that the world judges every undertaking according to the result, and everybody will believe that it was I that advised your Majesty to make this siege. If it should miscarry, I humbly beg you not to put the blame of it on me.

CHARLES TO GYLLENKROK: No, you are not to blame for it. We take the responsibility on ourselves, but you can be sure that the affair will have a speedy and lucky end.

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Chicago: A. M. Schuyler, ed., Peter the Great of Russia in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris (Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Co., 1951), Original Sources, accessed April 24, 2024,

MLA: . Peter the Great of Russia, edited by A. M. Schuyler, in History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, edited by Louis Leo Snyder and Richard B. Morris, Harrisburg, Pa., Stackpole Co., 1951, Original Sources. 24 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: (ed.), Peter the Great of Russia. cited in 1951, History in the First Person: Eyewitnesses of Great Events: They Saw It Happen, ed. , Stackpole Co., Harrisburg, Pa.. Original Sources, retrieved 24 April 2024, from