95. Things imperial
“The state is a reasonable non-freedom that Poles will never accept... “Polish Affair.
“Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc” 
“I wonder what the poor people are doing…”
“I look at human life as a service, as everyone must serve.”
Strictly speaking, neither Alexey nor Charles had been excited about the candidacy of Frederick August and, as far as Alexey personally was involved, putting him on the PLC throne was a waste of time and effort. However, for the Baltic League this was a matter of prestige. On a personal level, for Charles this was a matter of a given promise (and even in his fifties Charles stuck to the principles of a personal honor and honesty, which most of the European monarchs would consider either obsolete or plain ridiculous) and for Alexey this was a part of his father’s legacy which could not be easily abandoned. So, both of them started with the very low expectations and August III not just lived to these expectations but almost immediately proved that they were quite optimistic. One of his most meaningful acts in the PLC was ordering a new set of the Polish Royal Regalia.
To be fair, he also supported financially an orphanage in Warsaw founded in 1732 by a French priest. In his personal life, Augustus was a devoted husband to Maria Josepha, with whom he had sixteen children. Unlike his father who was a notorious womanizer, he was never unfaithful and enjoyed spending time with his spouse. 
After the Pacification Sejm
in 1736 de facto
confirmed Augustus III as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania he made it his purpose to spend as little time in the PLC as was practically possible and while he was forced to be there to spend as much time hunting in Belovezhskaya Pushcha  as he could. To be fair, while in Saxony he was also mostly focusing on hunting, the opera, and the collection of artwork at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister
. Affairs of the Commonwealth had been delegated to Heinrich von Brühl
, who served in effect as the viceroy of Poland. Brühl in turn left the politics in Poland to the most powerful magnates and nobles, which resulted in widespread corruption. Political feuding between the House of Czartoryski
and the Potocki
paralyzed the Sejm
), fostering internal political anarchy and weakening the Commonwealth
Brühl was a skillful diplomat and strategist; Augustus could only be reached through him if an important political feud arose. He was also the head of the Saxon court in Dresden and was fond of collectibles, such as gadgets, jewellery and Meissen porcelain, the most famous being the Swan Service composed of 2,200 individual pieces made between 1737 and 1741. It has been described as possibly "the finest table service ever produced". He also owned the largest collections of watches, vests, wigs and hats in Europe, though this cannot be accurately assessed. Brühl was depicted by his rivals as a nouveau-riche materialist, who used his wealth to gain support. His lavish spending was immortalized by Augustus' reported question to the viceroy "Brühl, do I have money?"
Under their join leadership, the Saxon army kept deteriorating due to a permanent shortage of the funds and its size dwindled to less than 18,000 of a dubious quality. Saxony’s usefulness as anything besides being a major supplier of a fine porcelain had been speedily dwindling.
Consequences of such a (mis)rule spread beyond the PLC borders. While Sweden was pretty much isolated due to the short and easily controlled border, Russia was in a much worse situation because the bands pf the Polish szlachta had been regularly crossing the border. Usually, not by a political reason and not even necessarily for the loot but as a show of some drunken bravery or to settle the family feuds with the neighbors who after the LNW ended on the other side of a border. Of course, there were also the cases of a revenge for the estates lost in that war. These were, of course, the pinpricks and the Russian troops felt themselves totally free to cross the border for the punishing expeditions, but this was a permanent annoyance economically damaging the border regions. The voices at the imperial court demanding the drastic measures were not, yet, loud but they were heard.
On a balance, Charles’ reluctance to commit what he considered an “unjust act” and Alexey’s hesitance to disturb the regional situation to a degree which could impede his plans for Asia had been winning the day. For a while.
On the East.
In October 1735 Yongzheng Emperor died suddenly at the age of 56.
It is generally accepted that he died while reading court documents, and it is likely that his death was the result of elixir poisoning from an overdose of the elixir of immortality he was consuming in the belief that it would prolong his life. According to Zhang Tingyu, Yongzheng on his deathbed exhibited symptoms of poisoning, and in the wake of his death, his successor the Qianlong emperor evicted all Taoist priests from the palace, possibly as punishment for this incident. The Yongzheng Emperor was interred in the Western Qing tombs 120 kilometres (75 mi) southwest of Beijing, in the Tai (泰) mausoleum complex (known in Manchu as the Elhe Munggan).
To prevent a succession crisis like he had faced, the Yongzheng Emperor was said to have ordered his third son Hongshi
(an ally of Yinsi) to commit suicide. His fourth son Hongli, then still known as "Prince Bao (of the First Rank)", succeeded him as the Qianlong Emperor
Upon the accession Qianlong
faced the weakening of the immediate support of the dynasty - the military class of the "bannered" Manchus. The gradual landlessness and devastation of soldiers and junior officers of the "banner" troops continued. The latter mostly did not have the opportunity or did not want to acquire from the treasury its former lands that it had bought from private owners since 1729. In an effort to restore the former economic situation of the "banners" class, Qianlong
decided to create new agricultural "banner" settlements in Southern Manchuria for ruined soldiers and officers, relocating several thousand Manchu families there from Beijing. The program required money and the treasury was already short of them due to the military expenses of the previous reign so the “obvious” solution was to raise taxes.
Arbitrary overstatement of tax rates caused the Miao uprising in 1735 in eastern Guizhou. The rebels captured a number of districts and counties. Troops from Sichuan, Yunnan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces were thrown against them, but all of them were defeated. The non-resisting part of the miao was subjected to repress. Among those executed, there were more than thirty foremen who showed submission. However, this not only did not intimidate the miao, but also increased their resistance.  In 1736, the suppression of the uprising was entrusted to the extraordinary commissioner of these provinces Zhang Guangsi. With promises and threats, he inclined some of the rebels to submission, and threw punitive troops against the rest. In eight directions, they moved to the mountains, putting everything to fire and sword. The government troops killed 10,000 people, more than 400 thousand died from hunger and cold in the mountains. Then Zhang Guangxi ordered to deal with those who had previously succumbed to his persuasion and stopped the fight. In this action, up to 16,000 people were executed and 1,224 villages were burned. Nevertheless, the Miao continued to fight. They retreated to the western regions of Hunan and resisted until 1739. A new Miao uprising broke out in 1740 in the border areas of Hunan and Guangxi provinces. Here they were joined by the Yao and Dong peoples. Zhang Guangsi, at the head of a 13,000-strong army, drowned the main hotbeds of resistance in blood. The rest was completed by detachments of rural militia and "volunteers" recruited by local officials, landlords and shenshi  from among Chinese paupers and lumpen. Fearing to provoke Miao again to fight, the Qing authorities exempted them from taxes and restored traditional legal proceedings in Guizhou.
Which was, indeed, an interesting way to raise the state revenues and it told a lot about modus operandi of the new emperor. It was seemingly a matter of time when he is going to try to “review” the terms of Urga Treaty, at least regarding the Dzungar lands, so the Russian position there has to be upgraded both by channeling more resources into Siberia and by strengthening the Dzungar ties to the Russian Empire.
On a positive side, the events in Guizhou proved to be quite “educational” for Galdan Tseren and he did not waver in his cooperation with the Russian authorities. On a negative side, conquest of the CA khanates had to be postponed until the Russian control over the Kazakh and Dzungar territories is strengthened to a degree which excludes a serious opposition and the military presence (with a necessary “economic backup”) increased to a degree allowing to conduct a new conquest while having a reserve adequate for repelling a potential Qing attack.
It was also unclear how things are going to turn on the South where Nader just won a war against the Ottomans, kicking them out of the Iranian Caucasus and, while he was willing to stick to the Russian-Persian Treaty of Resht (which defined border by the Kura River), it was anything but clear what would be his next ambition and Russia had to be ready for any eventuality.
Which meant that dealing with the Polish “issue” has to be postponed until unidentified future.
Back at home
. When Peter “upgraded” Russian status by proclaiming it an empire, he had neither time nor inclination to deal with the “imperial trappings” of his court. Partially because Peter himself disliked the official ceremonies and had rather simple (to put it mildly) tastes or because he considered epatage as being an useful part of his own image, or because he just did not give a damn, the Russian imperial court was a rather bizarre mixture of the western and Russian features with the Russian component tending to gravitate toward the “bottom of the hill” cultural level and the western one being a confusing combination of the upper-class dress code and luxury items with the low-middle class habits and entertainment.
While being heir to the throne, Alexey, just as his father, more than once travelled to the West but thanks to his lower status he did not have to spend most of his time on the military and diplomatic issues and, thanks to the better education (and personal inclinations), he was more than his father interested in the “social” subjects.
On the top of all of the above, a proper organization of a major royal/imperial court was a complicated task requiring a meticulous attention to the details, something that Peter openly hated.
Now Alexey was on his own and backed both by his wife and the widowed empress in his idea to make things right and to have a court which is going to be treated by the rest of Europe with a respect rather than curiosity. The main principles had to be borrowed from France with the useful ideas, especially regarding nomenclature of the court positions, picked from Austria, Prussia and elsewhere. The jesters and dwarfs had been gone but the court “araps” (the black servants) had been retained and gained an official position of “Arap of the Imperial Court”.
The first step had to be organization of a proper financing. Peter had quite relaxed attitude toward the finance issues considering treasury a single pool of money from which he could take whatever he needed for whichever purpose he had in mind. This attitude had to go. From now on the imperial court was going to have its own budget composed out of the income from the personal lands of imperial family and a certain amount of money allocated from the general state budget.
Newly-established Ministry of the Imperial Court had to take care of supporting all aspects of the court’s functioning. The Ministry united all parts of the court outside the control of the Senate or any other higher institution. It was headed by the Minister of the Court, who was under the direct jurisdiction of the sovereign. The Minister of the Imperial Court received all orders directly from the sovereign and in cases requiring the highest permission, he also had the right to enter with the report directly to the sovereign. This position of the Ministry of the Imperial Court was explained by the fact that the subjects of its activities were not of a national nature, but concerned exclusively the imperial house.
The most important part was the Hofmarshal part, which was in the management of palaces, contentment and organization of ceremonies. It was also fully engaged in servicing the imperial table, and other tables of three classes. First class: Hofmarshal (or cavaliers) table for officials on duty and guests of the court, table of Ober-Hofmeisterine for court ladies, table of the chiefs of Guards companies. Second grade: tables for guard officers on duty, adjutants on duty, pages, etc. The third grade was intended for senior servants of the court.
The second part was the Stallmeister, which was in control of stables and palace crews.
The emperor also had yachts listed under the naval department.
The Royal Hunt was in charge of the Ober-Jägermeister Office.
In addition, there were also palace offices in major cities of the empire (e.g., the Moscow Palace Office, which was in charge of the palaces and museums of the Kremlin, the St. Petersburg Palace office, which was in charge of the imperial residencies on the Baltic coast, etc. ), the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty (which managed the personal property of the emperor) and the Department of Estates.
Court ranks make up a separate section in Peter's Table of Ranks. The bulk of court ranks were in I-III classes, equated to general ranks, and were appointed directly by the emperor. The main way to reach these ranks was other careers of the Table of Ranks - civil or military. A distinct privilege of the court officials, even those assigned to the lower classes of the Table of Ranks, was the right to be admitted to the court.
Separately, it is worth mentioning the pages held at court, which could be the sons and grandchildren of the people having ranks of the first three classes of the Table of Ranks. They studied in the privileged Page Corps, and the best received the ranks of chamber pages, and were distributed for duty under the emperor and ladies of the royal family.
A separate system of ranks (also related to the Table of Ranks) was intended for women who served at court (ober-Hofmeisterina, Hofmeisterina, State lady, chamber lady and lady-in-waiting).
Below this group (comprised exclusively from the nobility) there were numerous servants of the court
who also were divided into the lower and upper ranks.
As a result, while a total number of the courtiers during the reign of Peter I amounted to few dozen, it immediately jumped to over two hundred and, because many of the court positions were the purely honorific ones not bearing any real functions and not requiring a permanent presence at the court (but giving a right
to be present at court events), this number was doomed to grow.
The court ceremonies evolved into the elaborate affairs with the strict ceremonial, rules of precedence and dress code.
As a very prestigious carrot
, merchants who constantly supplied goods to the court received the right to be called "Supplier of the Court of His Imperial Majesty". To obtain such a title, which in itself meant serious advertising, it was necessary to comply with a number of conditions: conscientious supply to the yard "at relatively low prices" of goods or works of its own production for 8-10 years, absence of complaints from consumers, etc. The title of Court Supplier was awarded not to the enterprise, but to the owner personally, in case of change of ownership, the new owner or heir was required to receive the title again.
The Guards had been renamed into the Life Guard with the addition of the Cavalry Life-Guards regiment
and Cavalerguards regiment.
To sum it up, until it becomes a major nuisance, the PLC could keep going its own way.
 “We gladly feast on those who would subdue us” The Addams Family's motto.
 A huge forest in the Belorussian part of the PLC (Brest-Grodno area) with a lot of a wild life including a large population of European bison
 Needless to say that both Louis XVI and Nicholas II also were the devoted family men, which did not make them good monarchs.
 I’m obviously missing something fundamental in the logic of Chinese statesmanship of that period. Execution of the loyalists to scare the disloyal subjects… Perhaps, somebody can write TL about the American Revolution in which the Brits are implementing such an idea?
 Families whose heads or offspring passed state exams and thus received state (community) positions.
 “Drunken Synod”, cruel practical pranks, court jesters and dwarfs, etc.