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On 26 August 1856, the coronation of Emperor Alexander II took place in Moscow. 

The enthronement happened at the height of the Crimean War. For this reason, the coronation was held only one year and a half later after the Treaty of Paris had been signed. The Emperor arrived in the capital on 14 August 1856 by the Nikolaevskaya railway and stopped at the Petrovsky Palace. His solemn entry to Moscow on 17 August demonstrated the luxury, which wore off the impression of Russia's weakness and backwardness, aroused by the war events. For the first time the deputies of the nations, subject to Russia, participated in the ceremony, there were the Bashkirs, the Circassians, the Abkhazians, the Kalmucks, the Tartars, the Mingrelians, the Kara-Kalpaks, the Dagestanis, the Armenians, the Gurians, the Georgians, the Kurds - all of them wearing their traditional clothes. The Sovereign rode a horse accompanied by the grand princes, foreign princes, numerous retinues and the convoy. The uniforms with gilded needlework and gorgeous carriages made Tverskaya street look like ‘a golden river’. The procession made a stop at the Iverskie Gates and then moved through Red Square to the Spassky Gates, where the monarch gave an example of an ancient ritual – he took off the helmet before passing through the gates. While visiting the Assumption Cathedral, the sovereign kissed the icons of the Saviour and the Virgin of Vladimir. When the service was over, he went to the Archangel and Annunciation Cathedrals followed by the sounds of the hymn ‘Lord, save the Tsar’, which was first performed during the coronation festivities. After that, he ascended the Red Porch, turned himself, and bowed three times to the triumphal shouts of people. 

The next day in the Armoury Chamber for the first time the new Banner of State was consecrated. On the same day, the Emperor with his spouse moved to the manor of Count D.I. Sheremetev in the Moscow suburbs, where they stayed till 25 August. At that time in Moscow, the day of future coronation was announced: to the hymn sounds the heralds handed the printed copies of the announcements to the people. 

During the ceremonial procession to the Assumption Cathedral on 26 August, the adjutant generals held the canopy above Their Majesties. The representatives of peasants participated in the procession for the first time. They were allowed to go around the Assumption Cathedral and then wait in the Synodal Chamber till the ceremony was over. The priority in the church was given to Metropolitan Philaret, who laconically expressed the thought of the present ceremony when the sovereign entered the Assumption Cathedral. He said: ‘With the prayer of love and hope Russia addresses you. With the prayer of love and hope the Church accepts you’. Tsars’ thrones were installed in the cathedral: ‘ivory throne’ for the Emperor and the ‘golden’ throne of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich for the Empress. A special place was prepared for the Dowager Empress – the ‘diamond’ throne of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich was delivered from the Armoury Chamber. For the first time since the coronation of Emperor Peter I, the mantle was fastened by the precious agraffe – a golden clasp with two faceted emeralds, which consisted of two parts joint by the silver hook. This agraffe was passed to the Armoury Chamber after the coronation and later was used as a clasp for the coronation mantles of Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II. L. Zeftigen, court jeweller, created for Empress Maria Alexandrovna a Minor Imperial Crown and four pins for it, which the maids must have fastened to Empress’s hairstyle.

During the meal in the Faceted Chamber, the cavaliers of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called served the dishes, the chamberlains waited at the table, and the oberschenks served the cups. Glasses were raised to the sounds of trumpets and kettledrums and followed by the canon shots. New groups of the nation were allowed to participate in the congratulatory audiences that were held in St. Andrew’s Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace. The delegation of peasants’ foremen presented ‘bread-and-salt’ on the silver dish, and the Emperor thanked them for their devotion and zeal, demonstrated during the war. All in all, there were presented 81 dishes of gold and silver with ‘bread-and-salt’. On 5 September, they were displayed on special ‘estrades’ in the Georgievsky Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace during the dinner for the ambassadors, members of the State Council, the Senate, and possessory persons from the Caucasian and Trans-Caucasian regions. 

Two thousand people, from the nobility to the petty dealers, participated in the masquerade that took place on 9 September in the Grand Kremlin Palace. The Emperor and the grand princes had for the first time appeared in the uniforms of the rifle battalion of the imperial family. The costume was made in the national style: wide Cossak trousers above the high boots, the Russian caftan and a black astrakhan hat. The Empress and grand princesses were dressed in luxurious national costumes and impressed the public with glittering brilliants. For the first time, in 1856, the Khodynskoe field became the place of public festival due to the coronation. Earlier, in 1775, this field witnessed the festival that Catherine II ordered to carry out commemorating the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca with Turkey. The festivities finished on 17 September with the ‘illuminated concert outdoors for the broad masses’.

Портрет Александра II


Unknown artist. Russia, second half of the 19th c

Oil on canvas. 

Emperor Alexander II is represented in general’s uniform with aiguillette and retinue epaulettes, with the monogram of Emperor Nicholas I. On his chest, there is a blue moire ribbon and the star of the Order of St Andrew the First-Called, awarded on his christening; the star of the Order of St Vladimir of the first rank; the merit badge for the irreproachable service in officership and the badge of the Order of St George of the fourth rank. The half-length portrait of Alexander II is a fragmentary copy of the grand full-length ceremonial portrait, created by Franz Krüger in 1847 upon the order of Emperor Nicholas I when Alexander Nikolaevich had yet been a heir to the Russian throne. Even before coming to Russia, F. Krüger became well-known in his motherland as an author of portraits and military parades scenes. In Berlin, he assumed the rank of pictorial art professor and court artist of Prussian king Frederick William III, the father of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. He painted portraits of the imperial family members many times. The original of the exposed art piece was a part of the family gallery, that located in the Major Enfilade of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, and served an officially approved example for the copies that must have been placed in state public offices. Under the existent copying practice, the artists reproduced Krüger’s original altering the image of Alexander II according to the current time. Varying the orders, uniforms, backgrounds and size of the portrait, they left unchanged Krüger’s lucky find - the half face of Alexander, which underlined the beauty of his features and excellence of military bearing.

Плафон от подвесного коронационного балдахина


Russia, 1724 (?); renovationsthe 18th c.first quarter of the 19th c

Velvet, taffeta, galloon, gilded braid and cord, brocade, silk; weaving, needlework, applique work, braiding.

Traditionally in Russia, several canopies were used for the coronation festivities -  one was assigned for the throne place in the Assumption Cathedral. It was an enormous rectangular construction on the chains, which were hung under the cathedral’s dome with the help of big iron hooks. The canopy consisted of an oak frame, covered with plafond of crimson velvet with embroidered coat of arms of the Russian Empire in the centre. Along the edge, eight hanging inner and outer pands of crimson velvet were attached to the carcass. Each pand was covered by the gilded fringe with festoons and tassels. Besides, eight large gilded tassels were hung on the cords at the corners and in the centre of each pand. For the first time, similar canopy appeared during the coronation of Empress Catherine I in 1724. It was created by French ‘bed master’ Ivan Rochebot, who also embroidered the coat of arms on the plafond after the drawing of artist Ivan Adolsky. The velvet for this canopy was bought in Venice, and the gilded galloon of several types – in France. The archive documents give grounds to state that the same canopy, though with significant renovations, was being used up to the coronation of Emperor Nicholas I inclusive.

Мундир из коронационного костюма Александра II


Cloth, woollen fabric, silk; weaving, needlework, chasing.

Three months after the enthronement Emperor Alexander II started the reform, which resulted in the new style of guards' uniform. Preserving their inherent elements, the uniforms of the tail-coat type were substituted by the double-breasted one, cut at the waist, with long straight folds. Emperor Alexander II was crowned in the new general’s costume. The uniform of dark-green cloth with red collar and cuffs has gilded buttons with coats of arms and gilded embroidery along the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps. Two Orders of St Andrew the First-Called and St Vladimir are pinned on the chest. On the shoulders, there are epaulettes with thick twisted general's fringe and a brooch with the monogram of Emperor Nicholas I, as well as the aiguillette with silver tips. The brooch and the aiguillette were the distinctive badges of the imperial retinue and were awarded to Grand Prince Alexander Nikolaevich on his 21st birthday(the age of majority) together with the rank of  aide-de-camp to Emperor Nicholas I.

Брюки из коронационного костюма императора Александра II


Russia, 1856. 

Cloth, gilded galloon, cotton fabric, weaving, needlework, casting.

The set of Alexander II's coronation uniform included the trousers of scarlet cloth with golden stripes and leather straps, which were worn over the boots.



Сапоги императора Александра II


Russia, 1856. 

Leather, copper; silvering.

The set of Alexander II's coronation uniform included leather boots with silver-plated copper spurs, nailed to the heel, and short bootlegs made of lacquered leather.



Коронационная мантия императрицы Марии Федоровны


Saint-Petersburg, ‘I.P. Likhachev’ manufactory, 1856; silk — France. 

Gilded glazet, silk, ermine fur, gold threads, braid, tassels; weaving, needlework, applique work. 

Starting from 1724, the complex of the coronation regalia, laid upon the monarch in the Assumption Cathedral, officially included the mantle. In Russia, mantles were made of smooth gilded brocade and were decorated with ermine fur and imperial coats of arms embroidered with spangles and coloured silk. New mantles were created for each coronation and kept in the Armoury Chamber after the ceremony. Then they were taken from storage for a short time as a sample for the next coronation. In 1856, after the coronation of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Мaria Alexandrovna, the museum received three coronation mantles, one of which had belonged to Dowager Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, who had also participated in the ceremony. All three mantles were produced by manufacturer Ivan Likhachev. He used French golden glazet and decorated it with embroidered coats of arms and ermine fur. The mantle preserved the strings made of silver cords with tassels and ‘agraffes’.

Саккос Московского Филарета


Russia, 1856.

Brocade, glazet, taffeta; weaving, needlework.

This sakkos, made of gold and silver brocade with the pattern, is a part of the ceremonial hierarch’s vestment that was produced for Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow on the occasion of Emperor Alexander II’s coronation on 26 August 1856. Despite the tradition existing since the 18th century, Emperor Alexander II gave priority at the coronation not to the metropolitans of Novgorod or Saint-Petersburg, but to ‘the oldest and the most popular hierarch of the first capital’ Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow. His figure takes a special place in the row of Russian hierarchs of the 19th century. For more than forty years he was determining the direction of church policy in the Russian state. Consistently developing the idea of the divine origin of tsar power, the metropolitan played a crucial role in the ecclesiastic and ideological grounding of Russian autocracy. A brilliant polemist and delicate diplomat, Philaret had recognized competence not only in the questions regarding the church but also national policy. No wonder Emperor Alexander II put him in charge of the famous Emancipation Manifesto of 19 September 1861, which brought an end to serfdom in Russia. Upon the supreme order, the vestment of Metropolitan Philaret was delivered to the Synodal sacristy ‘to preserve it for the descendants’.



Russia, 1856. 

Velvet, silk, gilt threads; weaving, needlework.

The epigonation is a part of the ceremonial hierarch’s vestment of Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow. It is made of red velvet and decorated with gilded braided lace and plated silver openwork crosses and stars.



Посох митрополита Московского Филарета.


Saint-Petersburg, 1856. Master I. L. Smedberg

Gold, rubies, emeralds, pearls; casting, chasing.

Golden staff, decorated with rubies, emeralds and pearls, was awarded to Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) of Moscow by Emperor Alexander II on the day of the holy coronation - 25 August 1856. Up to 1868, the staff had been in the sacristy of the Chudov monastery. The shape and the décor of the staff trace back to the samples of the 17th century, which were often made of precious metals and decorated with numerous precious stones.


Медаль в память коронации императора Александра II


Saint-Petersburg Mint, 1856. Medallists V. Alexeev (the obverse), R. Hannemann (the reverse). 

Gold; chasing.

On the obverse, there is a portrait of Emperor Alexander II; on the reverse – the minor coat of arms of the Russian Empire. It depicts the two-headed eagle under three crowns with charters. It holds a sceptre and an orb in the claws; the coat of arms of Moscow framed by the chain of the Order of St Andrew the First-Called is on its chest, and the coats of arms of tsardoms and grand princedoms of the Russian Empire are on its wings. The coat of arms was drawn anew according to the rules of West European heraldry. In particular, the rider on the coat of arms of Moscow started to look leftwards. The drafts of the coats of arms were approved in 1857, however, the image of the minor coat of arms had been placed on the reverse of the coronation medal yet in 1856. Such decoration of coronation medals’ reverse became a tradition, which was followed in the medals of the succeeding monarchs - Alexander III and Nicholas II.

Жетон в память коронации императора Александра II


Saint-Petersburg Mint, 1856. 

Silver; chasing.

On the obverse, there is a monogram of Emperor Alexander II under the imperial crown. The reverse side has an inscription under the imperial crown in three lines: CROWNED/IN MOSCOW/ 1856. The counter came from the Archives in 1883.


Жезл коронационного герольда


Russia, the 19th c. 

Silver, bronze; casting, enamel, gilding.

Starting from the 18th century, the inventories of the Armoury Chamber, namely the section of the coronation items, comprise the heralds’ batons. Their quantity and the material they were made of changed over the time. At the same time, the appearance of heralds’ merit badges, in contrast to other batons used in the coronation, had been preserved for two centuries almost unchanged. It is a smooth, terete tube with gilded balls at the ends and the two-headed eagle at the top.  In 1856, the bronze ‘coloured’ eagles were approved for the silver batons of heralds for the coronation of Alexander II. Eagles’ feathers were painted black, while the coat of arms on its chest and the badges of imperial power were covered with red, white, blue and pale green enamel.

Иллюминация в Московском Кремле по случаю коронации 1856 года


Russia, 1856. 

Paper, cardboard; water-colour, whiting, lacquer.

The water-colour painting shows the illumination of the Moscow Kremlin in celebration of the enthronement of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Fyodorovna. The illumination took place on the coronation day 26 August, and on 27 and 30 August 1856. An enormous crowd spread out by the walls of the ancient Kremlin, on Red Square, around the corner tower Arsenalnaya, at the entrance to the Alexander garden. Flaring with the unseen lights, the Kremlin became a gigantic decoration for the colossal theatrical performance. Its familiar silhouette transfused by red and pink light was impressively underlined by the gleaming evening sky. The walls and towers of the Kremlin, the grille of the Alexander garden, the Arsenal decorated by the radiant disk with the monogram of Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Fyodorovna – everything was brightly illuminated. One of the contemporaries left the following reminiscences in the album, dedicated to the coronation of Emperor Alexander II: ‘In the evening, the whole city was illuminated with joyful lights: churches, walls, towers, houses were burning with colourful fires thus performing a unique spectacle on buildings of the beautiful first capital. The monograms of the guests of honour were gleaming on all of the houses. The streets were flooded with light…’



Poznań, circa 1660. Master Stanislaw Szwarc

Silver; chasing, casting, pouncing, gilding. 

The jug in the form of an eagle with an open beak and spread wings attracts attention by its imposing size and ingenious artistic decision. This beautiful sample of representational tableware is the brightest of the preserved artworks by well-known Polish silversmith Stanislaw Szwarc, who had noblemen among his clients and assumed the rank of master in 1634. No wonder this jug was included in the list of the luxuriant diplomatic gift of Rzeczpospolita, brought to Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich by ambassador Cyprian Paweł Brzostowski after concluding the Truce of Andrusovo of 1667, which brought an end to the Thirty Years’ War between Russia and Poland. On the reverse of the jug’s base along the edge, there are two engraved inscriptions of the 17th century: about its presentation to the tsar as a gift and its weight.  In the photograph of the 1870-ies, this gorgeous jug is well seen in the central part of the lower tier of the ceremonial stand that was installed in the Faceted Chamber due to the arrival of Emperor Alexander II in Moscow. The same way the central pillar of the Faceted Chamber was decorated during the coronation festivities.

Украшения напольные


Wschowa, 1676—1686sMonogrammist VК. 

Silver; chasing, casting.

These monumental vases in the form of two female figures-caryatids in the antique garments are bright examples of interior decorations of the High Baroque. They stand on the high base, opulently decorated with chased flowers, and hold vases on their heads. Original Polish art pieces appeared in the tsar treasury in 1686 due to the Treaty of Perpetual Peace between Russia and Rzeczpospolita. They were a part of ambassadorial gifts presented to Tsars Ivan and Peter Alexeevich by Polish ambassador, voivoda of Poznań Krzysztof Grzymułtowski. Along the edges of the vases’ base, there is an engraved inscription with the state-owned number and weight. By the reason of their artistic value and significant dimensions, these masterpieces were often included in the solemn exposition in the Faceted Chamber during the coronations in the 19th century. These unusual decorations are well seen on the chromolithography (central part of the stand’s upper tier) made after a drawing by F.V. Timm, which depicts the dinner in the Faceted Chamber due to the coronation of Alexander II in 1856; as well as on the photograph of the Faceted Chamber, made due to the coronation of Nicholas II in 1896.