THE CRIMEA REVISITED
In the spring of 1869, some 13 years after the Crimean War had ended in defeat for Russia, the Prince and Princess of Wales undertook a tour of the Eastern Mediterranean in the yacht Ariadne. Four days were to be spent in the Crimea visiting the battlefields and various national cemeteries and memorials. By order of Tsar Alexander II, ‘Aide de Camp General de Kotzebue, Governor of New Russia and Bessarabia, and Commander of the Military Forces of the District of Odessa’, had planned the programme for the royal visit and ‘in full uniform, his breast covered with well-won honours and orders’ accompanied the royal party. William Howard Russell, the Times reporter who covered the tour, admired the General’s tact as it was not easy for representatives of enemy sides in the conflict to visit the scenes of former carnage together. ‘No one … could be a more competent or accomplished guide to the Russian works than His Excellency … and certainly no one whatever could execute a task of which it is needless to point out the delicacy and difficulty with more perfect courtesy, grace, and feeling’.
From 1874 to 1880, the general served as governor-general in Warsaw, then capital of the Russian province of Vistula. That a German should hold such high office in the service of the Russian Empire was not considered unusual since the Germans were noted for their efficiency and incorruptibility. It is said that von Kotzebue himself always spoke German and slightly looked down on his Russian fellow officers, morally if not in fact, since in height he measured less than one metre fifty.
The interior base of the box is struck with the maker’s mark IIH crowned above a curious three-pronged symbol and between leaf fronds. This maker’s mark appears on a number of good-quality chased gold boxes (see Serge Grandjean, Les tabatières du musée du Louvre, Paris, 1981, no. 506, and other examples in private collections) in conjunction with the same leafy sprigs arranged in different groupings. In each example, the initial I is almost obliterated but the spacing of crown and symbol confirm that there is a third letter. The design and workmanship of the boxes would suggest a German origin, most probably Hanau or Berlin, and they seem to date from between roughly 1765 and 1780.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries it was quite common for economical royalty to adapt earlier or foreign-made boxes for presentation use and the British royal family frequently used the Court Jewellers R & S Garrard & Co. for this purpose as well as to create new boxes, sometimes in eighteenth century taste, such as the jewelled gold and enamel double portrait snuff box made by Garrards, London, 1911/12, for the coronation of George V and Queen Mary (Royal Collection IN4083).
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