In a ceremony held in the Armory Chamber of the Grand Kremlin Palace on Thursday, the Victorian Chain of Tsar Nicholas II was handed over to the Moscow Kremlin Museums by the Royal Collection Trust at the wish of Her Majesty The Queen.
The Royal Victorian Chain was established in 1902 by King Edward VII as an exclusive award which was granted to foreign monarchs, princes, heads of states and other elected representatives of the society (for example, the Archbishop of Canterbury).
The award was presented to Tsar Nicholas II, the last Tsar of the Russian Empire and a grandson of Queen Victoria, to honour the close relationship between Russia and Great Britain. According to the law, the Victorian Chain must be returned to Great Britain after the death of the recipient. However, when the Tsar and his family were tragically assassinated in 1917, the award was sold by the Bolsheviks, and its trail was lost.
The chain was discovered last year by Professor Andrei Khazin while he working on “European Orders of Knighthood”, an exhibition which was held at the Museums from April to August 2015. Further study determined that the chain belong to Nicholas II.
A Russian delegation subsequently contacted The Queen with a proposal to return the award. However, Her Majesty responded with a letter expressing her desire that the chain should remain in Moscow as a long term loan to the Moscow Kremlin Museums, which would allow the treasure to be seen in Russia and by Russians.
Vladimir Aristarkhov, the Russian First Deputy Minister of Culture, called the chain a “symbol of friendship and collaboration between Russia and the UK.”
“It is deeply symbolic that this is happening on the eve of the 100th anniversary of those tragic events in 1917 that caused the death of Nicholas II,” he said.
The intricately made award consists of three English roses, two Scottish thistles, two Irish clovers and two Indian roses on a double chain. At the centre of the chain is a medallion, with the royal monogram of the ruling monarch in red enamel in the middle.
During the ceremony, Professor Khazin signed a gift document with the British Royal Collection, which was represented by Stephen Patterson, Head of Information Management. Mr Patterson then handed the chain over the the director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, Yelena Gagarina.
“Russia and the UK have a very long history together. It was the personal choice of Queen Elizabeth: She wanted the chain to be seen in Russia and by Russians as a little part of common history,” Laurie Bristow, British Ambassador to Russia, said about the event.
“Of course there have been times in our very long history where we’ve been on the same side and fought together against common foes and there have been times when we’ve been in disagreement, but the underlying, the basic fact here is that we have a 500-year history between London and Russia and we need to think beyond today’s problems,” he added.
The ceremony coincided with the first day of the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature, a collaboration between the two countries that will feature a host of events devoted to British and Russian literature.