New Edinburgh exhibition celebrates centuries of links with Russia

A new exhibition in Edinburgh will chart more than 300 years of diplomatic links, political alliances and dynastic ties between Britain and Russia.

The exhibition will showcase more than 170 works.
The exhibition will showcase more than 170 works.

More than 170 art treasures will be brought together for the first time in the city to celebrate the connections between the countries and their rulers.

Drawn largely from the Royal Family’s art collection, the show at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, will feature a host of little-seen diplomatic gifts and personal mementos.

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Dating back to the 1698 visit to London of Peter the Great, the first Russian leader to set foot on British soil, it will span the Napoleonic Wars, the reign of Catherine the Great, and the last visit of Emperor Nicholas II, in 1909, before the Russian Revolution.

Highlights of the Royal Collection exhibition, which will run from June to November, include a portrait of Peter the Great by Sir Godfrey Keller, presented to William III before his departure, and a portrait of Catherine the Great believed to have been a diplomatic gift to George III around 1765.

Portraits specially-commissioned by George IV of Russian military leaders, such as General Fedor Petrovitch Uvarov, who helped the allied forces finally defeat Napoleon in 1815 will be on display, plus a Russian-style dress worn by Princess Charlotte along with the insignia of the Order of St Catherine – the most prestigious award for women in Imperial Russia – at a banquet in 1817 attended by the future Emperor Nicholas I.

The exhibition recalls how Queen Victoria’s eldest son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, married Princess Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, three years before Alexandra’s sister, Princess Dagmar, married Tsesarevich Alexander, the son of Emperor Alexander II, linking the three families.

In 1874, Queen Victoria’s second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, married Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, the daughter of Alexander II, as recorded in Nicholas Chevalier’s painting of the ceremony.

Two of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, the Princesses Elizabeth and Alix of Hesse, were married to Grand Duke Sergei, son of Alexander II, and the future Nicholas II respectively.

A spokeswoman for the Royal Collection said: “The earliest links between Britain and Russia were formed in the mid-16th century through trade.

“These links developed into political and military alliances, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. In the 19th century, dynastic marriage and family ties dominated relations between the two countries.

“Works of art of all kinds – from grand diplomatic gifts to intimate and personal mementos – have richly documented the relationship.

“Beginning with the visit of Peter the Great, they mark significant moments of contact between Britain and Russia.

“These works of art are exhibited together for the first time to tell the story of the complex interconnection between two great countries and their rulers.”

VisitScotland regional director Paula Ward said: “Almost two-thirds of visitors are attracted to Edinburgh for its history and culture and this exhibition will tell the story of Britain’s historic royal links with Russia.”

Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs is at the Queen’s Gallery from 
21 June.