Unknown facts about the crown of the Russian Empire revealed by the Presidential Library

22 September 2022

260 years ago, a large imperial crown of the Russian Empire, the main dynastic regalia and an attribute of the power of Russian monarchs, was created. For the first time, Russian subjects saw it at the solemn coronation of Catherine II, which took place on September 22 (October 3, according to a new style), 1762. From then until the fall of the monarchy, the large imperial crown witnessed the most solemn state ceremonies and significant events. It was crowned by all Russian monarchs from Catherine the Great to the last Russian emperor Nicholas II. The Presidential Library’s materials illustrate the history of the crown of the Russian Empire.

One of the first known attributes of supreme power - the legendary Monomakh's Cap - appeared in the 14th century, under Ivan Kalita, and perhaps much later, is noted in the video lecture Russian State Heraldry (2014) available on the library’s portal by Gleb Kalashnikov, Candidate of Historical Sciences , executive secretary of the Heraldic Council under the President of the Russian Federation.

Approximately by the 16th century, a set of attributes that designated the supreme ruler of Russia, was formed. The main of them was considered the royal crown. For a long time, the royal regalia were treated, on the one hand, with great respect, and on the other, consumerism. There were many crowns, their number fluctuated, some were lost, in particular, 3 or 4 - in the Time of Troubles, some were created in connection with important events. So, to this day, the Kazan cap has been preserved, similar to Monomakh’s Cap, but taller and richly decorated, which, apparently, was created for Ivan the Terrible after he took Kazan.

All Russian tsars were crowned with hats up to two brothers who ascended the throne at the same time - Ivan Alekseevich and Peter Alekseevich, the future Emperor Peter I. It was impossible to use old hats for their coronation, they were great for young tsars, so two identical hats were specially made.

The imperial crown for Peter the Great was never made - when the royal title was changed to imperial in 1721, he did not need a second coronation. This is stated in the article of the art historian, director of the State Hermitage (1918-1927) Sergei Troinitsky Coronation Jewels from the collection Diamond Foundation (1925), which is stored in the electronic collections of the Presidential Library. The position of Ekaterina Alekseevna, nee Marta Skavronskaya, a former peasant woman who became the first Russian empress, was completely different. The crown was specially made for her. It was "composed" of diamonds, among which was "a great number of amazing magnitude". There was only one colored stone in the crown - a ruby ​​or yahont, the size of "larger than a chicken egg and therefore notably the most valuable of the rubies that are known to this day", - reported the description of the coronation of Catherine I, published in St. Petersburg under the Senate.

The first imperial crowns, as well as the royal crowns, were also treated pragmatically - after the coronation they were taken apart, and the jewels that adorned them were used for various other purposes. From the crown of Catherine I, only the skeleton remained, the fate of the crown of Peter II is generally unknown.

The first imperial crown that has survived to this day is the crown that was made for the accession to the throne of Empress Anna Ioannovna in 1730. Stones from the crown of Catherine I went to decorate it, including, according to historians, the very “notably the most valuable of rubies”. The crown was made by the most skillful jewelers in a very short time and so high quality that it still did not need restoration.

Starting with Catherine II, according to Gleb Kalashnikov in a video lecture, the approach to crowns has changed: an understanding has come - the crown cannot be a utilitarian object, it must be eternal, like the Tsardom of Russia itself.

The large imperial crown for the sacred coronation of Empress Catherine II, according to Sergei Troinitsky, was made by the court jeweler Jérémie Pauzié. According to his recollections, Catherine instructed the chamberlain Betsky to break the outdated state-owned jewelry and use them for a new crown. Pauzié selected everything that could be useful for the crown - the largest stones, brilliant and colored, "which amounted to the richest thing that Europe has". In addition to stones, 1 pound of gold and 20 pounds of silver were allotted for the manufacture of the crown. As a result, despite the efforts of the jeweler to make the crown light, it turned out to be "five pounds in weight". What the work of the crown cost, not counting the stones that were state-owned, is unknown. But according to the book Diamond Foundation Pauzié’s total bill for work related to the coronation was 50,000 rubles, which was equal to the entire amount allocated for the coronation as a whole.

Catherine the Great wished that this crown remained in the same form after her coronation. And so it happened. The large imperial crown was never taken apart (it was only “customized” according to the personal measurements of the future monarch) and was not altered (except for the replacement, at the behest of Paul I, of part of the pearls with larger ones). The large imperial crown was considered sacred.

The last time the crown, along with other imperial regalia, was used in 1906 in the St. George Hall of the Winter Palace at the opening ceremony of the First State Duma. This event is available on the Presidential Library’s portal in the unique restored footage of the newsreel Opening of the First Convocation of the State Council and the State Duma on April 27, 1906.

Today, the large imperial crown is located in one of the halls of the Diamond Foundation of the Russian Federation in the building of the Armory of the Moscow Kremlin.