They say that the winter of 1740 was the coldest one on record in Russia. On February 17 (under the Julian calendar) it was piercingly cold in Saint Petersburg, and wedding was celebrated. It was real wedding, though Empress Anne married her two fools – jester Prince Mikhail Golitsyn and Kalmyk maid Avdotya Buzheninova. Middle-aged and unattractive Avdotya liked baked ham (buzhenina in Russian) and therefore received such a surname. Prince Mikhail Golitsyn was not young either. He was degraded to jesters due to serious guilt: widowed prince married an Italian woman and even accepted Catholicism. Golitsyn kept his marriage in secret, yet the cat came out of the bag, and he was disranked to jester, who was to sit in a basket with eggs and serve kvass to the Queen. Specifically for the wedding night, the authorities of the capital built an ice house between the Admiralty and Winter Palace. This building was described in detail by writer Lazhechnikov 100 years later. However, he invented nothing, but quoted verbatim the book published in 1741 – Authentic and detailed description of ice house built in Saint Petersburg in January 1740 with all household articles and figures in it, as well as with certain commentaries about rigorous cold weather in Europe in 1740, composed for those who like natural history by Georg Wolfgang Kraft, professor of physics and member of the Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Sciences. Let us quote an extract from it: “The pure ice was being cut into large square slabs, which were decorated with architectural ornaments, measured by the ruler and proportional divider, put one onto another with the help of levers, and showered with water that froze up and served as strong cement. Six fine-cut ice cannons were standing in front of the house. Each of them was equipped with a cradle and wheels also made of ice. The cannons were like the copper three-pound ones in dimensions. These cannons fired off several times. To do that, four pounds of powder and balls were put into them. Finally, two dolphins were standing alongside with the cannons near the gate. Each of these dolphins was spewing burning oil from its mouth with the help of special pumps for public entertainment…”
It is impossible to tell everything, yet it is clear from the suggested extract that the house was built not just for fun or public entertainment, but for the purpose of scientific experiments in the field of glaciology and other natural sciences. Besides, the wedding of jesters was of interest from ethnographical point of view. Specifically for this event, the representatives of all nations living on the territory of the Russian Empire were brought to Saint Petersburg, and they marched in front of the house dressed in folk costumes. Fortunately, the empress’s joke had no fatal outcome. Avdotya Buzheninova exchanged the necklace presented by Anne as a wedding gift for a sheepskin coat and warmed up her husband with the coat and her body. By April, the palace melted, while the empress died by October. As for Golitsyn family, it staged a comeback, and not as jesters.