Image: Grigory Sedov
It was a choice no man should have to make. It was a choice no woman should find herself subject too. Mother had insisted I put myself forward. The Tsar had announced that all eligible women of marrying age in the village were to present themselves to the royal court as the Tsar was seeking a bride.
My mother had not long finished reading Miss Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and saw her own daughters as falling to the same unwed fate of the Bennet girls. So I was dressed in our finest and paraded before the Tsar.
We waited for such a long time and our feet grew tired, our backs ached and around me the other women were as glum as I was. Though it became more of a ruse to put others off by appearing disinterested when in fact most of them were keen to be selected.
Selection meant an escape from the drudgery of village life, an opportunity to mix and live within the royal court to look down on those who once thought themselves above you.
The Tsar entered the room and appeared embarrassed. He was nervous and yet polite. He spoke to each of us asked us our names and what we did with ourselves. My seamstress life didn’t appear of interest to him as he moved to the girl on my left and repeated the same question. When finished he left the room and we were all dismissed.
Thankfully I wasn’t selected, as polite as he was I had heard stories of the royal court and knew it wasn’t the life for me. Poverty and serfdom seemed to work satisfactorily for me.