January 01, 2013

Crowning Achievements

Four hundred years ago, on February 21, 1613,* the Romanov dynasty was inaugurated with the election of Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov to the Russian throne, bringing to an end the 15-year interregnum known to history as the Time of Troubles.

The Romanovs ruled Russia for 304 years and 12 days, ending with the abdication of Nicholas II on March 2, 1917. Over those three centuries, each Romanov coronation was an occasion for the public expression of state power and tsarist legitimacy. Starting in the eighteenth century, that expression included the creation of a coronation album.

Coronation albums are part of the book genre known to collectors as "festival books." Since the European Renaissance, such historic books were used to announce and document significant events – e.g. births, christenings, marriages, deaths – in royal lives. They were eyewitness accounts presenting a particular point of view that included event highlights and information, such as who followed whom in a procession, what people were wearing, as well as images of regalia. They ranged in style from modest leaflets to lavish manuscripts and were often published in numerous languages. While elegant and impressive in their documentation of the crowning of a sovereign, Russian coronation albums, as in Europe, were not typically meant for mass consumption. They were instead remarkable gifts given to select foreign dignitaries, aristocratic groups and high-ranking individuals.

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