Menzikoff, Alexander

, was a prince of the Russian empire, deeply concerned in the politics of his time. The general opinion of the origin of Menzikoff is, that his father was a peasant, who had placed him at Moscow with a pastry-cook, and that he carried little pies about the streets, singing as he went. In this situation, he was seen by the emperor Peter, who, pleased with the wit and liveliness which on examination he found in him, took him about his person, and thus opened the way to his fortune. Others, however, say, that his father was an officer in the service of the czar Alexis Michaelowitz, and that, as it was not extraordinary for gentlemen to serve in the stables of the czar, Menzikoff was there employed as one of the head grooms, and that in this situation his talents were noticed by the czar, and his advancement begun. | Whatever may in this respect be true, it is certain that when he had begun to attend the emperor, he soon made himself agreeable, and finally necessary to that prince, whose projects he seconded with great address; and, having studied several languages, was able to be useful in various situations. Being appointed to the government of Ingria, his services in that situation obtained him the rank of prince, with the title of major-general in the army. He signalized himself in Poland in 1708 and 1709; but in 1713, he was accused of peculation, and condemned to pay a fine of three hundred thousand crowns. The czar, however, remitted the fine, and having received him again into his favour, sent him with a command into the Ukraine in 1719, and ambassador to Poland in 1722. When the czar died, in 1725, Menzikoff had already contrived the means of continuing and increasing his own power. He was aware of the design of Peter, to give his throne to his empress Catherine, and therefore to secure her gratitude, MenzikofF prepared all parties to acquiesce in this arrangement. Catherine was not insensible of her obligations to him, and agreed that her son, afterwards Peter II. should marry the daughter of Menzikoff, which she made an article in her will. At her death in 1727, the prince being then under twelve years, Menzikoff was also one of the regency appointed by her will, and the most active member in it.

Soon after the accession of Peter II. that prince was affianced publicly to the daughter of Menzikoff, who then thought himself almost at the summit of happiness and elevation; he was made generalissimo by sea and land, duke of Cozel, and had the chief appointment in the household of the czar. Intoxicated at length with this extraordinary elevation, he behaved with a haughtiness towards the young czar, and with an imprudent ostentation in himself, which gave his enemies, particularly the princes Dolgorucki, the means of supplanting him in the affections of his sovereign, and compassing his final overthrow. His disgraces now followed fast upon each other. The emperor removed from the palace of Menzikoff, where he had hitherto resided, and he was ordered to quit Petersburg!), and pass the remainder of his days at Oranienburgh, a petty town on the frontiers of the Ukraine, which he had built, and partly fortified. On his departure, he added to his other imprudences, that of setting out in great pomp; but on his journey he was overtaken by an order to seal up | all his effects, and leave him nothing but necessaries. Many complaints being now preferred against him, he was condemned to live altogether, for the rest of his life, at Beresowa, situated on the most distant frontiers of Siberia. His wife, grown blind with weeping, died upon the journey. His three children fell sick of the small pox, and one of them, a daughter, died of it. Menzikoff bore his misfortunes with more firmness than might have been expected. He even recovered his health for a time, which, had been injured by a grossness of hahit; and being allowed ten roubles a day, he not only found them sufficient for his wants, but saved enough to build a small church, at which he worked himself. Yet he did not long survive his disgrace, for he died Nov. 2, 1729, and, it is said, of a plethora, there being ho person at Beresowa skilful enough to open a vein. Some time after his death, the Dolgorucki’s being in their turn disgraced, his surviving son and daughter were recalled by the czarina Anne; the son was made an officer in the guards, with a restoration of the fifth part of his father’s fortune; and the daughter had the appointment of maid of honour to the empress, and soon after married advantageously.

Menzikoff had a very strong attachment to Peter I. and to his maxims for civilizing the Russian nation. He was affable and polite towards strangers, that is, to all who were submissive, and not ambitious of eclipsing him in wit, or other talents. His inferiors, in general, he treated with gentleness, and never forgot a service rendered to him. His courage was incontestible, and proved on many trying occasions. His friendship, when once fixed, was steady and zealous. On the other hand, his ambition was boundless; he could not bear a superior, or an equal; much less a rival in any quality or advantage. He was not destitute of wit; but for want of an early polish it was rather coarse. His avarice was insatiable, and led him into several difficulties, even with his indulgent master Peter I.; and when he was disgraced, he was found to possess the value of three millions of roubles, in jewels, plate, and money, besides his vast estates. There are many features of resemblance between Menzikoff and Wolsey, not only in his rise from a low origin, but more particularly in the imprudence, haughtiness, and ostentation, which accelerated his fall. 1

1 Manstein’s Memoirs of Russia. -Univ. History.