An 1825 Constantine ruble pattern from the Grand Duke Georgii
Mikhailovich Collection within the Smithsonian Institution’s National
Numismatic Collection is on temporary loan to Hillwood Museum for its
celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.
The silver pattern is one of five examples struck in honor of a
Russian czar who never was.
Hillwood Museum is located in Washington, D.C.
More than 10,000 Russian coins and 1,250 medals reside in the
collection once owned by Mikhailovich, nephew of Czar Alexander II of
Russia. The collection forms the basis for the National Numismatic
Collection’s Russian section.
Hillwood’s exhibition, “Pageant of the Tsars: The Romanov
Coronation Albums,” with which the 1825 Constantine ruble pattern will
be included, opened Feb. 16 and runs through June 8.
According to the Hillwood website www.hillwoodmuseum.org, “The
pomp and pageantry of imperial coronations were documented and
promoted in lavish albums that became almost as important as the
extravagant events themselves. To mark the 400th anniversary of the
founding of the Romanov dynasty in 1613, Hillwood presents a special
exhibition of the albums created over the course of the family’s reign.”
Hillwood was the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, a
businesswoman, collector, museum founder and philanthropist.
After the Dec. 1, 1825, death of Czar Alexander I from typhus, his
brother, Constantine Pavlovich, governor of Poland, was proclaimed
czar against his will, and pattern coins were prepared in secret at
the St. Petersburg Mint.
When Constantine declined to reign as czar, Grand Duke Nicholas
Pavlovich, Constantine’s younger brother, became czar. During the
regnal confusion, an unsuccessful coup was staged by the military to
overthrow Nicholas and usurp power.
Due to Constantine’s wishes and Nicholas’s elevation as czar, the
St. Petersburg Mint was left with five potentially embarrassing
patterns having Constantine’s portrait on the obverse as czar. The
patterns were subsequently secreted at the Ministry of Finance.
The existence of the pattern rubles remained a state secret until
1879, when Czar Alexander II requested the five pattern pieces from
the finance ministry. Pieces eventually were distributed to museums
According to exhibition curator Kristen Regina, the pattern ruble
is displayed in the section of material about “Nicholas I and
Alexander II.” Also in the exhibit with the pattern ruble is a gold
1856 coronation medal of Alexander II; a gold, enameled presentation
box bearing a portrait of Alexander II; and a diamond-encrusted and
enameled 19th century Order of St. Andrew badge.
The coronation album of Nicholas I is open to the page of Nicholas
embracing his brother Constantine (the moment in the album where they
show onlookers that they were indeed reconciled and Constantine agrees
that Nicholas is the rightful ruler).
Hillwood’s exhibition represents the most complete presentation
ever of the coronation albums, including two copies of the monumental
Alexander II album of 1856, one in its original binding, according to
the museum. ■