I listened to a lectures about the Romanovs today, if it were fiction you would think it far too far-fetched to be true. I knew that Peter the Great came back from his visit to western Europe and made all the aristocrats cut their beards off, but I didn’t know about his hobby of dentistry – as an after-dinner treat he might invite a luckless courtier to have his teeth checked, only to pull them out gleefully. And as for Catherine the Great, she had a man-taster as others might have had a food-taster. First the lady had dinner with him to see if his conversation and manners would pass muster then, if he passed that test, she would try him out in the bedroom too. As a result of her report, he might be invited to visit the Empress in her private apartments. And if she liked him, she’d keep him – for a while.
But what about the poor guys who didn’t pass the test. How embarrassing. Surely word would get about rapidly.