Arts & Culture

Buckingham Palace Explores the Relationship Between the Romanovs and the British Royal Family

The Queen's Gallery is hosting a new survey of artworks gifted between the two monarchies.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES/JOHN PHILLIPS
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Today, we have endless text chains and group selfies to prove that we're close. Back in the 1600s, they had art—lots and lots of art.

That's the (somewhat simplified) conclusion of "Russia, Royalty and the Romanovs,"a new exhibition at the Queen's Gallery in Buckingham Palace. A collection of nearly 300 works, ranging from Fabergé eggs to jewelry, paintings, and letters, explores the interconnections between the Romanov dynasty and the British royal family.


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An installation view of the exhibition, with Nicholas I's vast portrait on the far right.

Not unlike how the royals have taken to sending photos of themselves to fans as a thank you, in 1847, Russian emperor Nicholas I gave Queen Victoria an 11 1/2 foot portrait of himself. "We feel it holds the wall," said exhibition's co-curator Stephen Patterson to The Guardian. It certainly does.

Behind the objects on display is some interesting history. Take a portrait of a young Peter the Great, gifted to William III during the tsar's secret 1698 trip to England. "This is the first time a Russian ruler has left Russian soil," explained co-curator Caroline de Guitaut. "He wants to find out about the rest of the world, he wants to know how they build ships, he wants to make Russia an enlightened place."


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An art worker examines a Faberge Kovsh in the exhibition.

In some crucial ways Peter did succeed in "westernizing" his country. Over time, the two monarchies' cultural output began to look similar. "They were using the same artists; British artists going to Russia, Russian artists coming here," said de Guitaut.

The relationship between the Romanovs and the British monarchy are not ancient history for the Windsors. Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Philip is related to the Romanovs through both his mother and his father. Through his father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Philip is the grandnephew of Alexandra Romanov, Nicholas II's wife, and the last Tsarina of Russia. Through his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, Philip is also a cousin to the Russian royal family. Philip's children and grandchildren, including William and Harry, are therefore related to the Romanovs as well.

In fact, when the remains of two children thought to be Maria and Alexei Romanov were found in a field in 2007, it was Prince Philip's DNA that was used to identify them, news which was revealed in 2016.

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*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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