Alexander I Commerative Medal

Russian Medal

January's Object of the Month has been chosen by Nia Lewis, a work experience student, and is a commemorative medal depicting Tsar Alexander I of Russia by T Halliday. It dates from 1814 and is an untraced find, catalogued by the museum in 1978. The medal shows a laureate bust of Alexander I on the front and on the reverse, it reads ‘Hospes Britanniae MDCCCXIV’ (Guest of Britain 1814. This medal was created to celebrate the visit of Alexander I to London in 1814 following the defeat of Napoleon.

Prior to this visit, Anglo-Russian relations had been variable; particularly after Alexander I signed the Treaty of Tilsit with Napoleon on 7 July 1807 which ended war between the two. Relations improved after the Russian capture of the French capital on 31 March 1814 and Napoleon's subsequent exile. A victory celebration began in England, the highlight of which was the reception of European monarchs from 6 to 27 June.Alexander hoped to emulate his predecessor Peter the Great’s much publicised 100 day visit to Britain.  Alexander arrived in a noticeably different style, with a large suite of ‘celebrities’ in tow. Everywhere he went, he was cheered. The Prince Regent, later George IV, was undoubtedly upstaged by Alexander as the same amount of respect was not afforded to him by the British public.

Even in private company, the Russian delegation was still able to upstage and upset the British. At one lavish ball held in London the Grand Duchess Catherine Pavlovna horrified British high –society when she asked the band to stop playing as music made her ill.Alexander continued his grand tour of the country and paid visits to Oxford and Portsmouth. In Oxford, he stayed at Merton College where he was presented with odes in Greek and Latin. Although Alexander did not have a maritime interest, he visited Portsmouth. Here he joked and drank with British sailors as Peter had done before him. Upon his departure, he left them £50, which would have been enough money to buy a small ship.

Alexander continued his grand tour of the country and paid visits to Oxford and Portsmouth. In Oxford, he stayed at Merton College where he was presented with odes in Greek and Latin. Although Alexander did not have a maritime interest, he visited Portsmouth. Here he joked and drank with British sailors as Peter had done before him. Upon his departure, he left them £50, which would have been enough money to buy a small ship. Although the British government was happy to see the Russians set sail on 27 June, they left a positive impression on British art. Alexander and his suite had a large representation of paintings, coins, jewellery, crockery and medals. British poets sung Alexander’s praises, Poet Laureate Robert Southey calling him ‘…the Great, the Good, the Glorious, the Beneficent, the Just…’

Nia says, ‘The medal interested me because I was unaware of the event it commemorated. As I am going to study History and Russian Studies at university, this piece caught my eye when looking through the archives. The research I have done has allowed me to explore an interesting period of Anglo-Russian relations. It was fascinating to find out about Alexander’s visit,  as Tsars of Russia did not often visit Britain.’

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