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Robert Garrard II (1793-1881)

Emperor Alexander II of Russia's collar and badge (Great George) of the Order of the Garter 1867

Gold and enamel | RCIN 440084

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  • Emperor Alexander II was invested 'with the Ensigns and Habit' of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in the Throne Room of Tsarskoe Selo on 28 July 1867 (NS). He was invested by George Henry Robert Charles, Earl Vane (later 5th Marquess of Londonderry) (1821-1884), who had been appointed as Queen Victoria's Envoy Extraordinary to lead the Garter mission to St Petersburg.

    The Earl was accompanied by the eight other members of the Mission - which included the future Duke of Marlborough, three officials of the College of Arms; Deputy Garter, Chester Herald and the Rouge Dragon Pursuivant of Arms, and Major General Lord Henry Percy and Major Christopher Charles Teesdale – both of whom had won the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War. The inclusion of two recipients of the Victoria Cross was not insignificant because part of the rationale to appoint the Emperor to the Order was to help heal the wounds of the conflict some 10 years earlier.

    The insignia was supplied by Garrards. The cost of the insignia and other items, 3 silver gilt boxes, mantle, Garter Shield, seven velvet cushions with tassels (for the investiture ceremony), the silver underhabit, plume, materials for the banner in St George's Chapel, trunks for transportation, Garter ribbon and binding of the statutes came to £538-2–0 (RA/LC/AR/1867 p.8).

    The Mission left London on 18 July, arriving in St Petersburg on the 24th. The suite was received in Audience with the Emperor on 26 and 27 July. On the morning of the 28th they travelled in five royal state carriages with outriders and grooms in state liveries from the Alexander Palace to the Catherine Palace and were met by a guard of honour. They then processed to the Throne Room, with Major Teesdale bearing the hat, plume and star, Viscount Canterbury the collar, Lord Henry Percy the sword, the Marquess of Blandford the Mantle and cordon, George Adams (Rouge Dragon Pursuivant) the Garter, riband and George while the rest of the party carried the Queen's commission and a copy of the statutes of the Order.

    The Emperor wore his Garter Insignia at the time of the marriage of his daughter Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, in January 1874 and during his subsequent visit to London in May that year. They were, in sadder times, to form part of the display of the Emperor's insignia at his funeral after his assassination in 1881. Following the funeral, the insignia was returned to London with the star and badge displayed at Queen Victoria's command at Windsor Castle.

    The Garter insignia bear all the patterns and styles of investiture pieces supplied to the Lord Chamberlain's Office by Garrards in the late 1860's - subtle changes were introduced into the collar design by the mid 1870's. While the standard collar is of 48 links, 24 Garters and roses and 24 knots, in the 1860s collar lengths varied with Alexander II's being formed of 40 links; 20 Garters surrounding red roses and 20 'lover's knots'. Some knights of the period were issued with an additional four roses and knots to make up a collar of 48 links; however whether this was the case with Alexander II's is unknown. The Collar George (Great George) shows the saint in blue surcoat and skirt trimmed with red, gold and white with gold rope belt and red ribbon, he wears a blue cap. The horse is equipped with blue enamel harness and red saddle cloth.

    Beneath the horse's rearing front hooves, with its tail entwined around the horse's back legs, the green and red enamelled dragon rests on a flower-scattered ground which includes a green shamrock and red rose. Next to it lies a translucent black enamelled salamander. The figures stand above a red and white scrolled waved edge. The underneath of the badge is decorated with green enamel over a diaper pattern cut gold base.


    Issued to Emperor Alexander II of Russia by Queen Victoria 1867, returned to Queen Victoria 1881

  • Medium and techniques

    Gold and enamel

  • Alternative title(s)

    Order of the Garter (England). Alexander II of Russia's collar and badge