I have been trying to tidy up the manuscript of my work in progress, Fortune’s Price, a novel which can be read alone, but which follows on from Small Acts of Kindness, a tale of the first Russian revolution that was published in November last year.
Towards the end of the first part of the book I have written a scene that takes place on the Field of Mars, the great parade ground in Saint Petersburg where from the time of Alexander 1 most of the largest military parades took place. The Poles have rebelled against their Russian masters, and the tsar, Nicholas 1 decides to go to war. Before my character goes off to fight, I describe a parade at which the emperor says farewell to the departing troops. Chernetsov’s painting above depicts a similar scene, that took place over a year letter, when Nicholas ordered a another parade to celebrate the success of the campaign. The scene I depict in my book probably didn’t look very different from this.
When editing the piece I came to the following passage:
‘But now the emperor was arriving with his suite. All finely mounted, they were followed by the carriage of the empress and the dowager empress. The Imperial coach was deeply padded within, its top edged with carved gilded oak leaves, the box swathed with pale blue hammer cloths, decorated with gold tassels and fringes. The crowd clapped and cheered; the women in the carriage waved graciously; the Tsar gave a signal. The parade got under way.
When I read this, I was filled with a sense of unease that I could not immediately explain. Then it occurred to me to ask myself: Was Maria Feodorovna, the mother of the emperor, still alive in December 1831? I hurried to Wikipedia, only to discover that she actually died in 1828 at the age of 69. That means of course that she couldn’t have been rolling around in a carriage on the Field of Mars three years later, at least, not in corporeal form. I had better expunge her!
Mistakes of this kind are really easy to make, and I fear one or two such infelicities might have crept into Small Acts of Kindness, although I haven’t had the courage to look! Only one remedy….check, check and check again!