The ever-fascinating subject of cultural diplomacy and trade between Britain and Russia, starting with their origins in 1555 when the Muscovy Company was founded, provides the impetus for this exhibition. The show reveals the pageantry of royal courts between the times of Henry VIII and Charles II, and Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) and the early Romanovs, exploring how monarchs sought to strengthen their power against a backdrop of religious and social upheaval. Some 150 objects are on display including the Barbor jewel – a pendant of enamelled gold set with an onyx cameo of Elizabeth I – a hand-coloured map of Muscovy from 1570 and contemporary literature including Shakespeare's First Folio. Key displays include items of British and French silver given to successive Russian Tsars as well as examples from Charles I's collection sold by British merchants of the Muscovy Company to Tsar Alexis. Held in the Kremlin Armouries since this time, they would have been melted down to finance either the English Civil War or the reign of Louis XIV had they remained in Britain or France.
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