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What role did the jester play at the royal court
What role did the jester play at the royal court

For a long time, persons were kept at the court of the rulers of the Old World, whose task was to amuse the owner and his guests. It was believed that a jester is a fool who was allowed a lot of things that were not allowed by etiquette even to the king himself.

Really a jester; the owner's alter ego. In a simple humorous and often allegorical form, he expressed the will of the sovereign. It is not uncommon for a clever jester to seek the favor of the mighty of this world and occupy a serious position. But even more often presumptuous jesters were executed.

Doomed to be a fool

Tsar Ivan the Terrible, like all monarchs of Europe, kept jesters at court. There were times when the gaze of a sovereign who had drunk heavily with the guardsmen rested on some nobleman: "Be you a buffoon!" The unfortunate humiliated boyar, despite his gentility, was immediately given a buffoon's cap with bells and a pipe. There is only one known case when Prince Repnin-Obolensky refused to dance at a feast in a buffoon's cap with buffoons, for which he was immediately executed.

Another well-born nobleman, Prince Osip Gvozdev-Rostovsky, did not find the courage to abandon the godless role of a jester, but this did not save him from death. Historian N.M. Karamzin reports how one day the sovereign, dissatisfied with some joke of Osip Fedorovich, poured a bowl of hot cabbage soup on him. The unfortunate man cried out in pain and tried to run away, but the drunken Tsar Ivan stabbed him in the back with a knife, which made him die on the spot. The sovereign called the dead jester a dog and resumed the fun that had stopped.

The most maddening, the most insane and the most extravagant

It is known that Ivan the Terrible liked to "joke" himself. He ordered the voivode, who was hiding from the tsar's anger in the monastery under the guise of a novice, to be put on a barrel of gunpowder and blown up. And when the order was carried out, he remarked: "Monks like angels must fly to heaven."

Some clerk, caught fishing from the royal pond, was drowned in this reservoir. And a nobleman by the name of Ovtsyn was hanged at the gate of his estate next to a real sheep.

In his residence, Aleksandrovskaya Sloboda, the tsar created a mocking parody of the monastery. His guardsmen dressed in monastic clothes, and he himself portrayed the abbot. Yernicheskaya prayers here alternated with bacchanals and cruel executions.

Emperor Peter I took over the baton of buffoonery from Ivan the Terrible. The most sentimental, all-drunken and extravagant cathedral - one of Peter's ideas, a kind of buffoonery "order organization", existed for 30 years. Here the rituals of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches were mimicked. Members of the "organization" were to participate in gatherings, swear and drink. All participants in the clownish action, including the emperor himself, had buffoons and obscene nicknames, to which they willingly responded. The main language of communication was mat.

However, time passed, and, unlike the mocking gulbis of Ivan the Terrible, no one was executed or tortured at cathedrals and assemblies - for this there was a place and time.

Balakirev - humiliated and kindly

History has brought to us the name of the most prominent jester, the nobleman Ivan Alexandrovich Balakirev.


He was a man of extraordinary abilities, at the behest of the all-powerful monarch who turned them solely for jokes and entertainment. Balakirev was sharp and very incontinent in his language. Perhaps that is why a denunciation was concocted against him, and Tsar Peter subjected the unfortunate man to cruel torture.

As a result, some secret information was obtained regarding the love pleasures of the sovereign's wife on the side.Balakirev was convicted as a non-informer, received 60 blows with batogs and sent into exile in a remote place for three years.

He received freedom by decree of Catherine I only after the death of the tsar. Since the empress learned that Balakirev did not want to testify against her, he was again enlisted in the staff of "fools" and was all the time at the court of first Catherine I, and then Anna Ioannovna. In the capital, he had a huge house, received awards, but he was also beaten with batogs.

Even during the reign of Peter I, Ivan Aleksandrovich received the buffoon's nickname "Khan Kasimovsky", but at the same time, not at all comic rich possessions around the city of Kasimov. After the death of Balakirev, all the anecdotes he composed were published in the form of books more than 70 times …

Here is just one story that testifies to the sharp mind of Ivan Alexandrovich. One of his relatives somehow angered the sovereign and was put on trial. The jester, of course, wanted to intervene, taking advantage of his proximity to the court. However, Peter I, seeing Balakirev walking towards him, loudly said to his courtiers:

“I know why he comes to me. But here is my royal word: I will not fulfill his request."

The jester, of course, heard, threw himself at the king's feet and shouted:

“I beg you, sir! Do not forgive this scoundrel, my relative!"

The tsar burst out laughing and, since he publicly gave his word that he would not fulfill Balakirev's requests, he waved his hand and forgave his dissolute relative.

Ice house

In 1730, Anna Ioannovna, daughter of the brother and co-ruler of Peter I, Ivan V, ascended the throne. This was the time of the first Russian "stagnation". State affairs were in decline, the army, the navy and the population were impoverished, denunciations, bribery and libel punishments acquired an unprecedented scale.

But huge funds were spent on the maintenance of the royal court, the organization of masquerades, balls and other amusements. One of the empress's whims was the construction of an ice house in the winter of 1739 on the Neva.


The winter that year was very cold. Huge slabs of ice were cut out right there on the river, stacked on top of each other and watered. The house came out wonderful - a real palace. At the behest of the empress, they arranged a buffoonery wedding of the demoted prince Golitsyn, turned into a jester, and a young lady, Kalmyk woman Buzheninova, named so because of her love for this product.

By the highest order, two people of both sexes of all peoples inhabiting the Russian Empire were brought to St. Petersburg, and at the beginning of February 1740 the couple were married. The young people rode along the main streets of St. Petersburg on an elephant. They were accompanied by a cavalcade of guests in national costumes, who rode on sleds harnessed by various animals: horses, donkeys, camels, deer, as well as goats and pigs.

After a plentiful lunch and dancing, the newlyweds were sent to the ice palace, where they were forced to lie in an ice bed. Sentinels were placed at the door so that the newlyweds, chilled to the bone, would not run away. Anna Ioannovna with numerous courtiers watched all this with great pleasure. This event is described in the novel "Ice House" by Ivan Lazhechnikov.

Berthold - the victim of the comprachikos

For the entertainment of the mighty of this world, and just the crowd, freaks were often used. As you know, demand creates supply. There were people whom Victor Hugo called comprachicos, who put the production of freaks on stream. They stole small children, put them to sleep with drugs, and then mutilated their faces. The unfortunate were sold to the rich and to the circuses for a lot of money.

Such fools were not considered human. While at court, they were forced to endure offensive jokes and even mockery from not only the monarch, but also the servants.

True, it happened that the victim of the komprachikos somehow escaped from the clown-circus slavery and even made a serious career. An example is a certain Berthold, who was abducted and mutilated in early childhood by the comprachikos.He went from a court jester to the terrifying first minister of Lombardy in the 6th century. Thanks to his position, this evil dwarf took revenge in full on all those aristocrats who had previously ridiculed him.

Stalin's jester

Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev, who is in the closest Stalinist circle, held fairly high positions. However, due to the liveliness of his character and the ability to play naughty jokes, he soon became the object of jokes of the "father of all nations." Stalin loved to play a trick on the drunk Nikita Sergeevich during numerous feasts.

Khrushchev played the role of a "fool", and for this he was forgiven a lot. He readily laughed at every Stalinist joke and danced the hopak at the order of the ruler. After Stalin's death, Molotov, Malenkov and Beria bestowed power on Khrushchev, since they believed that it was possible to twist ropes from him, but they miscalculated …

Khrushchev never stopped joking even in high office, but now his jokes were sometimes sinister in nature. So, for example, in response to criticism, he promised Mao Zedong to send a coffin with Stalin's body to Beijing, and in a conversation with American diplomats, he bluntly said: "We will bury you." Among the people, Khrushchev was remembered by planting corn in areas not suitable for this, by knocking his boot on the rostrum at the UN Assembly with a shout: "We will show you Kuzka's mother!" and a lot of jokes about him.

Many believe that Khrushchev spoke out so furiously with the exposure of Stalin's personality cult primarily because he wanted to somehow recoup all the humiliation he experienced as the object of jokes.

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