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On 24th April 2015 the ‘European Orders of Knighthood’ exhibition will be opened in the One-Pillar Chamber of the Patriarch’s Palace. This exhibition presents insignia of European Orders of Knighthood, from the collection of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, from the prominent private collection of Andrei Khazin and pieces of insignia of the Order of the Garter from the Royal Collectionbestowed upon Emperor Alexander II. The other contributors to this project are the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire (now a part of the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation) which is lending rare documentsand the State Historical Museum which is lending portraits of members of the Russian Imperial Family.

The exhibition ‘European Orders of Knighthood’ introduces visitors to the honours systems of Great Britain, the Austria-Hungarian Empire, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, the Holy See and France. For the first time more than three hundred signs of the highest orders of XVII-XX centuries are exhibited in one exhibition space in Russia.

"The exhibition ‘European Orders of Knighthood’ continues the tradition of showing in the Moscow Kremlin Museums exhibitions dedicated to the insignia that was started in 2004. This subject constantly evokes high level of interest among the visitors, since orders are not only symbolic signs of exclusiveness, nobility, of the heroic and zealous service to ones country and people, but also a wonderful piece of jewelry, made by the best masters and jewelry firms - noticed Elena Gagarinа, General Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums - Today we are pleased to present the exhibition that is a complete display of the honours systems of a number of European countries and includes some virtually unique pieces that one can seen only in the Moscow Kremlin during the exhibition".

An important part place of the exhibitions display is the orders of knighthood of Great Britain. The British honours system is one of the oldest in the world, is has existed for six and a half centuries without interruption. The British system has had a significant influence on the development of honours and award systems of the European countries, including the Russian Empire.

Particular attention is given to the Russian Emperors who were Knights of the Order of the Garter as well as to the dynastic alliance of the Romanovs and the British Royal Family. The appointment of Russian Emperors as Knights of the Order of the Garter reflected the position of the Russian Emperor and the diplomatic and dynastic connections between Russia and Great Britain through the nineteenth century. First to be appointed, in 1813, at the end of the Napoleonic wars, was Emperor Alexander I. His appointment as a Garter Knight - alongside the sovereigns of the other victorious allies - was an acknowledgement of the contribution of Russia to the defeat of Napoleon.

The insignia of the Order of the Garter of the Emperor Alexander II, who died tragically at the hands of terrorists, are kept with care as part of the British Royal Collection at the behest of Queen Victoria. The insignia, which occupies a central place in the exhibition has been generously lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and returns to Russia for the first time since the revolutionary event.

An important discovery was made while working on the exhibition. It was revealed that in the collection of Andrei Khazin there is an award which once belonged to the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II - a Royal Victorian Chain, founded in 1902 by King Edward VIIof Great Britain as an award of honour reserved for foreign monarchs, princes and heads of state. It was sold by the Bolshevik governmentafter it was removed from the Armoury Chamber where it was passed from Petrograd with other evacuated imperial possessions, to Gokhran (the State Repository of valuables).By lucky circumstances, nearly a century later it is returning to the Moscow Kremlin to be displayed in the exhibition.

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