Russian Tsars relics coup for Harrogate museum

A £20,000 collection of historic mementoes from the final days of the Russian Tsars is coming to Harrogate after the town's museum beat its rivals in a high-stakes bidding war.

Friday, 3rd March 2017, 1:52 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:07 am
Victorian gem - the christening present that the final Russian Tsarina sent to a twin baby girl in Harrogate.

Working in conjunction with the London firm of Wartski, Harrogate Museums eventually triumphed over all its rivals in the Dorset salesroom with a bid of £20,000 in its bid for the Victorian relics.The key part of these new treasures, which will form a great new attraction for the public at the Royal Pump Room Museum, is the formal christening present that the final Russian Tsarina sent to a twin baby girl in Harrogate 1894 after she became Empress of Russia.

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It's a major coup for Harrogate Museums, though the actual price pales into insignificance to the £135,000 they paid for Victorian artist William Powell Frith's 1881 classic painting Private View at the Royal Academy.Jane Sellars, Harrogate Borough Council's curator of cultural services, said it was one of Harrogate Museums' most important ever purchases."We knew it would go for a high price and we undertook fundraised in advance accordingly."Eventually it went for twice the top estimate."The clear connection between the Russian Tsarina and Alix Allen of Cathcart House in Harrogate is what makes this item such a significant to the museum collection and exhibitions."Having raised a 'war chest' with the help of the Friends of Harrogate Museums, the Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery, the Art Fund and the V&A Purchase Fund, the end result was well worth it.As well as the christening gift of a cutlery set made by the Imperial Russian jewellery firm Grachev, Harrogate Museums's exciting new acquisition includes fascinating historical scrapbooks which shed fresh light on the story of the Russian Royal family’s Harrogate connection. Princess Alix (who was to become Russian Tsarina in November 1894) came to Harrogate to undergo a cure for sciatica. She stayed in the town from mid- May until the 19th of June 1894. The Princess took lodgings at Cathcart House, on Prospect Place in Harrogate, run by Mr and Mrs Allen. Princess Alix discovered that Mrs Allen had very recently given birth to twins and asked to stand as their godmother and that the children should be named after her and her husband to be, the Russian Tsarevich.The cutlery set is in beautiful condition and is still in the original presentation box that has the inscription “Presented to Alix Beatrice Emma Allen by her Godmother Her Imperial Majesty The Czarina of Russia 21st May 1895”.The scrapbook contains many letters and news clippings from the time of Princess Alix of Hesse’s visit to Harrogate and clearly documents the connection between the Russian royals and the Allen family of Cathcart House in Harrogate. The scrapbook also includes telegrams from Queen Alexandra to Princess Victoria. Original documents from both royals and Faberge that evidence a connection between them and Harrogate make this a very significant item for the social history of Harrogate.

Princess Alix on the day of her engagement to the final Tsar Nicolas.
Princess Alix on the day of her engagement to the final Tsar Nicolas.