From wars fought side by side to grand dynastic marriages, Britain and Russia have joined forces on many occasions over the past 300 years. To celebrate its rich shared history, the Royal Collection Trust presents Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs. The exhibition includes miniature masterpieces by Peter Carl Fabergé and watercolours of Her Majesty The Queen. Conveniently for guests staying at The Rubens at the Palace, the pieces are on display in The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace, right opposite the hotel. Here, co-curator Stephen Patterson tells us about the show’s highlights.
Peter the Great was the first Russian ruler to set foot on English soil in 1698. Have you selected something special to mark his visit to London?
“While Peter was in England, his portrait was painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller and given to William III. This piece is the most important item in the collection and is one of the first things that visitors see. It hangs next to a bust of William III, which was purchased by Queen Elizabeth during the reign of her husband King George VI.”
Great Britain and Russia allied to triumph against the French forces of Napoleon in 1815. How does the Royal Collection touch on this?
“We have borrowed four paintings from Windsor Castle’s Waterloo Chamber. These were commissioned by George IV and feature the prominent allied rulers, commanders and statesmen who successfully warded off Napoleon.”
Several of the works displayed were commissioned as diplomatic gifts. Can you tell us more?
“Visitors will be able to spot a magnificent porcelain vase – known as the Peterhof Vase – which was presented to Queen Victoria by Emperor Nicholas I, following his successful visit to London in 1844. It is decorated with views of two of the Emperor’s palaces: Peterhof (from which it takes its name) and Tsarskoe Selo.”
We hear that the Royal Collection contains pieces crafted by Carl Fabergé?
“It certainly does. Visitors to Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs will be able to view some of Fabergé’s most exquisite works, from picture frames and cigarette cases to a diamond-set Fabergé brooch, which was given to the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary) by Nicholas II on a visit to England in 1909. Many Russian and British royals – including King Edward VII, Queen Mary and the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia – were great collectors of Fabergé’s works.”
Are there portraits of the British Royal family on display?
“Yes. The exhibition includes two watercolours, one of the then Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth) and one of Princess Elizabeth, now, Her Majesty The Queen, by Savely Sorine. Sorine was born in the Russian Empire in 1878 and went into exile after 1917. He was commissioned to paint the Duchess of York in 1923, the year of her marriage to the future King George VI, and the portrait of Princess Elizabeth in 1948.”
What’s your favourite exhibit at Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs?
“I couldn’t say. What I like most is the fact that we have been able to bring together this amazing group of materials for the first time. Through them, we can now tell so many stories about the links between the British Royal family and Russia.”
Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs will be on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace between 9th November 2018 – 28th April 2019. Combine your visit with a stay at Red Carnation Hotels’ The Rubens at the Palace, conveniently located right opposite Buckingham Palace.
Image Credits: All Images of Russians, Royalty and the Romanovs © Royal Collection Trust & Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.