"If the Russians knew their power, no one could compete with them."

In May 1553, three ships sailed from England under the command of Hugh Willoughby to find new lands for trade and establish relations with their peoples. But only one sailed to Russia - “Edward Bonaventure” (“Edward the Good Deed”) under the command of Richard Chancer. Two other unfortunate ships were carried to the White Sea. According to the Dvina Chronicle, a year later, local Karelians found them, overwhelmed with ice: “They are anchored in the camp, and the people are all dead on them and there are a lot of goods on them”.

Englishmen who visited Moscow in 1553 were surprised by the wealth of nobility

Having lost them and still hoping that there would be comrades soon, Chensler and his team of 27 people continued the journey. In August 1553, they landed on Russian soil at the mouth of the Northern Dvina and were soon invited by Tsar Ivan Vasilyevich to Moscow.


Approximate sea route of the expedition. Source: Pinterest

In the capital, Chansler and several of his companions spent 8 months. The English have a lot of impressions about this city and its people. Here is what Richard wrote among other things about his trip.

"The Russian people are in great fear and obedience": about Russia, Moscow and the royal power

“Russia abounds in land and people and is very rich in the goods that it contains. [...] The whole land is well sown with bread, which the inhabitants are bringing to Moscow in such an enormous quantity that it seems surprising. Every morning you can meet from seven hundred to eight hundred sledges, going there with bread, and some with fish. [...] Moscow itself is very large. [...] But it is built very rough and stands without any order. All houses are wooden, which is very dangerous in terms of fire. There is a beautiful castle in Moscow, the high walls of which are built of brick. They say that these walls are 18 feet thick, but I don’t believe it, they don’t seem so. [...] The king lives in a castle in which there are 9 beautiful churches and with them the clergy. I will not describe their buildings and structures and evaluate their fortresses, because in England we have castles better in all respects. However, the Moscow fortifications are well equipped with all kinds of artillery. "


Portrait of R. Chensler. Source: luminarium.org

“This prince [Ivan Vasilyevich] is the sovereign and king over many countries, and his power is amazingly great. He is able to put 200 or 300 thousand people in the field, and if he goes on a march himself, he leaves a considerable number of soldiers on all the borders of his state. [...] All his warriors are horsemen. He does not use infantrymen, except for those who serve in artillery, and workers; [...] The great prince himself is equipped over and above every measure richly; its tent is covered with gold or silver brocade and so decorated with stones that it is amazing to watch. I have seen the tents of the royal majesty of England and the French king, which are magnificent, but still not like the tent of the Grand Duke of Moscow. And when Russians are sent to distant foreign countries or foreigners come to them, they show great pomp. [...] I have never heard or seen people so luxuriantly decorated. But this is not their everyday clothes [...], when they have no reason to dress luxuriously, their whole daily life is mediocre at best. ”


Source: golos. io

“I think that there are no people in the sun who are so accustomed to a harsh life as Russians: they are not embarrassed by any cold, although they have to spend two months in the field at a time when there are frosts and snow falls more than a yard. A simple soldier has neither a tent nor anything else to protect his head [...]; and if it snows, the warrior rakes him off, makes a fire and lays down beside him. So does most of the warriors of the Grand Duke, with the exception of the nobles, who have their own special reserves. However, such a life in the field is not as amazing as their endurance, because everyone must get and carry provisions for himself and his horse for a month or two, which is worthy of surprise. [...] I ask you if there are many among our boastful warriors who could be in the field for at least a month. I don’t know a country near us that could be praised by such people [...]. What could have come out of these people if they practiced and were trained in the formation and art of civilized wars. If there were people in the lands of the Russian sovereign who would explain to him what was said above, I am convinced that two of the best and most powerful Christian sovereigns would not be able to fight him [...]. "


Chanceler's ship "Edward Bonaventure." Source: commons. wikimedia.org

“We can say that the Russian people are in great fear and obedience, and everyone must voluntarily give up his estate, which he collected in pieces and scrawled all his life, and give it away to the will of the sovereign. Oh, if our brave rebels would be in the same submission and would know their duty to their sovereigns! Russians cannot speak like some sloths in England: “I will find the queen for a man who will serve her for me,” or help friends stay at home if the final decision depends on money. No, no, this is not the case in this country; they humbly ask that they be allowed to serve the Grand Duke, and whom the prince most often sends to the war, he considers himself to be in the greatest favor of the sovereign. If the Russians knew their power, no one could compete with them, and their neighbors would not have peace from them. But I think that this is not God's will: I can compare Russians with a young horse who does not know his strength and allows a small child to control himself and behave on a bridle, despite all his great strength; but if this horse were conscious of it, then neither the child nor the adult man could have done it. ”

“It is much more fun to live in prison”: about Russian laws

“Russian laws on criminals and thieves are the opposite of English laws. According to their laws, they cannot hang a person for the first crime, but they can keep him in prison for a long time, often beat him with whips and impose other punishments on him [...]; If it is a thief or a crook, there are a lot of people here, then if he gets caught the second time, they cut off a piece of his nose, burn a stigma on his forehead and hold him in prison until he finds guarantors in his good conduct. And if they catch him for the third time, they hang him. But for the first time he is punished cruelly and is not released, unless he has good friends or some nobleman wishes to take him to the war [...]. Russians are by nature very prone to deception; only strong beatings hold them back.

Russia seemed mighty to foreigners but poorly governed

Similarly, by nature, they get used to the harsh life, both in terms of food, and in terms of housing. I heard one Russian say that it is much more fun to live in prison than on the outside, if only he had not been subjected to severe beatings. There they get food and drink without any work, and even enjoy the charity of good people, and at liberty they do not earn anything.

The British wrote how in Russia officials “know how to do black by white”

There are innumerable poor people here, and they live in the most pitiful way. I saw them eat herring pickle and all smelly fish. And there is no such stinky and rotten fish that they would not eat or praise, saying that it is much healthier than any other fish and fresh meat. In my opinion, there is no other people under the sun who would lead such a harsh life. ”

Square in the city in front of the church. XVI century. (A. Vasnetsov). Source: moscowchronology.ru

“Scribes surprisingly know how to make black white and white black”

The second captain of Chansler’s ship, Clement Adams, also wrote about Russian laws: “Russians don’t have the greatest of all republican evils — lawyers, and every lawyer for himself [...]. The emperor himself examines disputes, especially the most important ones, and, having considered the case, pronounces the sentence. It must be said that the Russian Prince solves litigations with extraordinary impartiality: in the supreme government official, this deserves, in my opinion, the greatest praise. However, no matter how pious the Prince’s intentions may be, clerks are surprisingly able to make black white and white black; but really, if they are convicted, they are punished very severely. [...] If someone is caught stealing, they imprison him and flog him. For the first guilt do not hang, as we have, and it is called the law of mercy. Whoever gets caught another time, they cut off their nose and brand their foreheads; for the third guilt hang. Wallets that are pulling out of their pockets are so numerous that if justice did not pursue them with all severity, there would be no passage from them.

That's what they say, Sire, your Englishmen who have just returned from Muscovy. ”


Moscow in the 16th century A. Vasnetsov. Source: Pinterest

Expedition result

According to the Dvina Chronicle, Ivan the Terrible, "the ambassador of the Knights of the Knights and guests [note: that is, the merchants] of the English land, came to his Russian state with bargaining on ships and ordered them to go safely on ships and buy and build yards safely." So trade relations were tied with England. In London, arrived Chensler was warmly welcomed, as the British opened up excellent trading prospects. In 1555, a Moscow company was opened, which soon began actively trading with Russia - they brought in cloth, weapons, sulfur and nitre, which were necessary for the manufacture of gunpowder, lead and other metals, bought flax, fat, wax, valuable furs and ropes from Russians valuable to English shipbuilding. Both the Russians and the British began to get to know each other better.

Sources: Chansler, Richard. The book is about the great and powerful tsar of Russia. 1553. / Trans. 1937; Adams, Clement. English journey to the Muscovites. 1553. / Trans. 1937;
Photo for the announcement on the main page: luminarium.org / Photo lead: infagrad.ru

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