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Treasures of the Royal Courts - V&A Museum

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
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The V&A's Exhibition of British and Russian Connections
If you have seen photographs of the late Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, you will be aware of his resemblance to his cousin, George V. Hundreds of years before the family connection began the English and the Russian courts enjoyed diplomatic connections and exchanges that lasted between 1509 to 1685. This is the crux of the V&A's new exhibition. Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars.

Treasures of the Royal Courts
George V and Nicholas II (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Henry VIII came to the throne in 1509 on the death of his father (Henry VII, who had become king on the death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth). Edward VI, Elizabeth I's half-brother, who died at the age of 15, had shared diplomatic relations with Tsar Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible). There are also letters in existence (written between 1613 and 1649) from Tsar Michael and his father, Philaret and the responses of the Stuart kings, James I and Charles I and the young Prince Charles (Later Charles II).

The V&A is not revealing a huge amount of what will be on display, except to say that there will be more than 150 objects that will include processional armour and heraldry, jewellery, luxury goods and royal portraits that will demonstrate the relationships between the English and Russian rulers.

Treasures of the Royal Courts
Ivan the Terrible Showing his Treasures to Elizabeth's Ambassador Painted in 1875 by Alexander Litovchenko (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)

The website has disclosed a few snippets, promising to display the English and French silver (loaned to the V&A by the Moscow Kremlin Museums) that was presented to the Tsars, as well as a Shakespeare First Folio, the Drake Star and a custom made suit of armour that belonged to Henry VIII. I'm also assuming that some items that are already in the museum's Tudor and Stuart collections will be displayed, including some of the miniatures painted by Nicholas Hilliard and his protégé, Isaac Oliver.

The purposes of the miniatures were to demonstrate loyalty to the monarch, as well as serving as a means of propaganda. Many of the queen's wealthier subjects wore her image and these, like the larger portraits, served to emphasise her youth in old age, long after her child bearing years had passed.

Treasures of the Royal Courts
Hilliard Miniature Portrait of Elizabeth I when she was aged around 53, but portrayed as much younger

Treasures of the Royal Courts
Hilliard Miniature of Elizabeth I three years before her death

Also on display will be the Hampden portrait of Elizabeth I, possibly the first full length likeness of the monarch that was painted during the 1560s, within a few years of her accession to the throne

Treasures of the Royal Courts
Hampden Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I circa 1560s

And possibly this Royal Writing Desk

One his accession to the throne in 1603, James I also used Hilliard and Oliver to produce miniatures of himself and his family.

Treasures of the Royal Courts
Hilliard Image of James I 1604

Treasures of the Royal Courts
Oliver's Portrayal of Anne of Denmark (wife to James I) 1612

The Tudors and Stuarts are no more and neither are the Russian Tsars and Romanovs, but these treasures have been collected to demonstrate two nations who were formerly ruled by rich and powerful families.
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Why? To learn about the diplomatic exchanges between two powerful royal families
When: 10.00 - 17.45 daily and 10.00 - 22.00 on Fridays
Where: The V&A
Cost: From £9.20
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