Experience the majesty of the courts of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I to Ivan the Terrible and the early Romanovs in a major exhibition at the V&A. From royal portraits, costume and jewellery to armour and heraldry, Treasures of the Royal Courts tells the story of diplomacy between the British Monarchy and the Russian Tsars through more than 150 magnificent objects.
A rarely-shown painting of Elizabeth I, Shakespeare's First Folio, a suit of armour tailor-made for Henry VIII and the legendary ruby-studded Drake Star reveal the spectacular world of kings, queens, merchants and courtiers from 1509 to 1685. At the heart of the exhibition is the beautiful English and French silver given to the Tsars by the British royal family, on exclusive loan from the Moscow Kremlin Museums in celebration of 500 years of Anglo-Russian exchange.
We were greeted on arrival by the Dacre Beasts, four huge heraldic animals carved reputedly from a single oak tree and painted in vibrant colours. Next to them were two smaller stone beasts, which had been lost on a campsite in France until the owner recognised what they were and sent them back to England.
Moving on, we had a lot of fun with the interactive version of The Almain Armourer's Album, also known as The Jacob Album, which reminded me a lot of pre-WWI catalogues for luxury cars. Would Sir like this style of armour in his own colours? Or maybe this, with his arms on it? Or how about this helmet, with that armour? ;-)
Many of the items in the exhibition had been lent by Russian museums, as they had been gifted by th eTudor and Stuart monarchs to the Russian Tsars and so escaped destruction following the execution of Charles I. The route taken by the ships of Muscovy Company was across the Arctic Ocean to Russia in order to avoid hostile encounters around the Baltic, and was only possible at certain times of year. The items included tableware, jewellery, miniatures, portraits, and a fabulous model of a royal coach.
There were also items of clothing on display that we really wanted to wear, and video presentations about the events depicted in the paintings. All well worth the ticket price.
After that we were rather Museumed-out and went for a late lunch at Côte in Kensington. Excellent food, and I think a trip to the Salisbury one is in order at some point.
Coming up, hopefully, we have other museum visits planned, and some Shakespeare (Richard III isn't on anywhere convenient that I can spot, but the Globe is threatening all three parts of Henry VI in one day if we have the stamina for it).
In related news, this discussion on little_details is rather fun, and a rather fun series that started on BBC2 last night was Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History .