THE ORDER OF ST. GEORGE EGG: A FABERGÉ IMPERIAL EASTER EGG PRESENTED BY EMPEROR NICHOLAS II TO HIS MOTHER THE DOWAGER EMPRESS MARIA FEODOROVNA AT EASTER 1916
egg engraved and enameled with a trellis of green leaf-tips
and with small St. George crosses under a shell of translucent
oyster enamel, draped with the ribbon of the Imperial Order
of St. George enameled black and translucent orange, one side
with the white and red enamel Badge of the Imperial Order
of St. George suspended from a ribbon bow of the Order, and
opening by means of a small button to reveal a portrait miniature
of Tsar Nicholas II, the other side of the egg with a silver
St. George medal with the profile of Nicholas II, the border
inscribed in Cyrillic, “His Majesty Nicholas II, Autocrat
of all Russia” suspended from a similar ribbon bow and opening
by means of a small button to reveal a portrait miniature
of the Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaievich, the reverse of the medal
inscribed in Cyrillic, “For Bravery, 4th Class,” the top of
the egg applied with the silver Imperial cypher of the Dowager
Empress MariaFeodorovna encircled by a wreath of berried leafage
enameledtranslucent green and red between edges of white enamel,
the bottom of the egg applied with the silver date 1916 within
a similar wreath, the bottom of edge of the St. George
medal engraved Fabergé in Cyrillic. With
original fitted velvet-covered egg-shaped case, the interior
lining gilt-stamped in Cyrillic within an oval and below the
Imperial eagle K. Fabergé/Petrograd/Moscow/Odessa/London.
Together with an associated gilded silver wirework stand.
On October 17, 1915, Nicholas received the following telegram: “Telegram to the Name of His Imperial Majesty from the Commanderin- Chief of the Armies of the Southwest Front:
“I most humbly petition an award decoration for His Imperial Highness, the Heir and Grand Duke Alexei Nikolaievich, of a silver medal of the 4th degree on a St. George ribbon in memory of the visit by His Imperial Highness, on the evening of the 12th of October, to the wounded in the neighborhood of the Klevan Station in a zone of distant enemy artillery fire, and also for his presence on the 13th of October in the encampment area of the Corps Reserves of the 9th and 11th Armies. Apropos of this I most humbly dare to report to Your Imperial Majesty that, by such an award decoration, you will deign again to make the armies of the southwest front happy, in whose hearts these joyful feelings of utmost devotion to their supreme leader and readiness to lay down their lives for Tsar and country have been eternally imprinted, and which sentiments they experienced during your visiting the armies [Signed] General-Adjudant Ivanov.” 1
With reference to this prestigious award, the proud Tsar wrote in his diary that evening:
“Saturday (GHQ-Mogilyov): Got up rather late. Read through papers until 11 a.m. and went to reports with Alexei. Upon the petition of Gen. Adj. Ivanov, I awarded Alexei the Medal of St. George – 4th class in remembrance of his visiting the armies of the SW front, which were close to enemy positions. It was good to see his joy. After lunch I received with Alexei one of the English officers and then Gen. von Ropp. We went off around 3 pm. Along Gomelskii Highway to the second station and then took a walk around the sites, which reminded me of the shkerries [in Finland]. At 6.15 we went to vespers. After dinner I received Polianov for a long while. At. 10:30 we took a ride in the train with Alix and the daughters. Had tea and returned with Voeikov and Sabin (on duty) at 11:30.” 2
Eight days later, on October 25, the Tsar himself was awarded the same coveted distinction. The introduction to the chapter on the conferring of the Order published in 1916 reads:
“The Conferring on the Sovereign Emperor of the Order of St. George “On the 25th of October in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, in the presence of the Chancellor of Imperial and Tsarist Orders, General- Adjutant Baron Fredericks, General-Major Prince Baryatinskii of His Majesty's Suite was received, having arrived from the Active Army, and who is attached to Commander-in- Chief General-Adjutant Ivanov. At this ceremony Prince Baryatinskii had the good fortune to confer on bended knee to His Imperial Majesty the decree of the local Georgievskaya Duma and the Military Order 4th degree of St. George, Great Martyr and Conqueror.” 3
On the same day, Nicholas cabled General Ivanov, thanking him warmly:
“Today General-Major Prince Baryatinskii of My Suite handed over to Me the Order 4th degree of St. George Great Martyr and Conqueror, as well as the request, supported by you, from the Georgievskaya Duma of the Southwest Front that I wear it on Myself. Unspeakably touched and overjoyed with this distinction unmerited by Me, I consent to wear Our high Military Order and with all my heart I thank all of you St. George Knights and troops, whom I deeply love, for the White Cross, earned for Me by their heroism and lofty courage. October 25, 1915. Nicholas” 4
As usual, such a great event was faithfully recorded by the Tsar in his diary:
“Sunday (GHQ – Mogilyov): An unforgettable day for me receiving the Cross of St. George – 4th class. In the morning we went to Mass as usual and had lunch with [ Grand Duke ] Georgii Michailovich. At 2 p.m. I received Tolya Baryatinskii, who had arrived on N. I. Ivanov's orders with a written account of the petition of the Georgievskaya Duma of the SW Front that I put the White Cross on myself! After this I walked around the entire day in a daze.... Georgii returned to congratulate me. All of our people were touchingly overjoyed and kissed me on the shoulder. Received Gen. Shuvayev and Ignatyev – the Minister of Education. Petrovskii (on duty) for dinner. Read the whole evening.” 5
Tsar Nicholas II, in his capacity as Supreme Commander in
Chief of the Russian forces, was awarded the Cross of the
Imperial Order of St. George (fourth class) on October 25,
1915 upon recommendation of Major General Prince Anatole Bariatinskii.
This highest and most desired Imperial military order, created
by Empress Catherine the Great on November 26, 1769, had four
classes. 6 The first and second,
which could only be awarded by the Emperor, had respectively
six and eight holders, the third had thirty and the fourth
three hundred and seventy-two. The latter was awarded upon
recommendation of the army for bravery in battle, or military
achievements, distinctions, which, as Nicholas pointed out,
did not technically apply to him or his son. The Tsar was
proud of this order and took the cross with him to Siberia
in 1917. It was found hidden in the bathroom of the Ipatiev
House, the Imperial family's last abode at the time of their
assassination on the night of July 16/17, 1918. The Tsarevich
had been awarded he Medal of St. George (fourth class) to
be worn on a ribbon eight days earlier, on October 17, 1915.
Hence the inclusion on this egg of both his and his father's
portrait, each surrounded by the order's black and orange
Nicholas must have commissioned the Order of St. George Egg for his mother in late 1915, shortly after receiving the award. Mindful of wartime austerity,
Fabergé gave it a modest design and executed it in the less expensive silver, without the usual intricate surprise. Similarly, his wife's egg, the 1916 Steel Military Egg (Kremlin Armory Museum,Moscow), was made of oxidized steel. Nevertheless, the cost of the two eggs was not inconsiderable: Fabergé's August 5, 1916, invoice for them totaled 13,347 rubles. Maria Feodorovna effusively thanked Nicholas for her egg: “I kiss you three times and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your dear postcards and the delightful egg with the miniatures that dear Fabergé himself came with. Amazingly beautiful... It is so sad not to be together. I wish you, my dear Nicky with all my heart, all the best things and success in everything. Your warmly loving, old Mama. ”
The Dowager Empress took the Order of St. George Egg with her when she traveled to Kiev in May 1916, thus escaping from the increasingly unpleasant situation at Court and the turmoil of the February and October 1917 Revolutions in St. Petersburg. In March 1917 she was ordered to take up residence in the Crimea by the Provisional Government. There she lived at the palace of Ai Todor but also at Dulber and Kharaks with her two daughters and their families until she was obliged to flee on March 29, 1919 on board the dreadnought HMS Marlborough . In due course, she settled in her house at Hvidore in Denmark, where she died on October 13, 1928. Her collection of jewels was spirited away to England by an emissary of King George V and valued by the jeweler R. G. Hennel & Sons for a total of £100,000. The sale of the jewels, a few of which were acquired by Queen Mary, raised £136,624. Not included in this dispersal, the egg was inherited by the Dowager Empress' eldest daughter, Xenia. After her death in 1960 the egg was sold at auction by her son Vassilii at Sotheby's in London for the equivalent of $30,910 to (Tom) Lumley acting on behalf of the Fabergé Company.
Incorporating the ribbon of the Imperial Order of St. George
in the egg's design follows a Russian tradition established
by Catherine the Great, who ordered four large porcelain services,
each painted with the star, badge and ribbon of an order.
The Order of St. George service for sixty was ordered in 1777
at the Francis Gardner Porcelain Factory near Moscow and completed
in 1780 at a cost of 6,000 rubles. 8
The service was added to during all following reigns. The
Hillwood Museum in Washington has fifty plates, a pair of
candelabra, nine covered ice-cups, ten leaf-shaped dishes
and over ten baskets or basket-shaped dishes from this order.
The Order of St. George Egg is decorated with a trellis pattern
of green laurel leaves and red berries that also forms part
of the decoration of the porcelain service.
The feast of St. George the Martyr, at which the eponymous porcelain service was used, was celebrated on November 26, in commemoration of the consecration of the Church of St. George in Kiev. The Great Hall of St. George in the Great Kremlin Palace measures 61 by 20 by 17 meters and is decorated with the insignia of the Order, with a replica of the badge of the Order suspended there from its orange and black ribbon.
The Military Easter Egg presented to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in 1916 also alludes to the Order of St. George. The (originally oxidized) steel body resting on four shell casings is applied on one side with a gold lozenge-shaped openwork plaque representing St. George slaying the dragon. The surprise, a rectangular frame surmounted by a miniature crowned cross of the Order and its entwined orange and black ribbons, contains a miniature of the Tsar and his beloved son in military uniform at the Front.
1. “Ego Imperatorskoye Velichistvo
Gosudar Imperator v deistvuyoshchei armii” (Iyul' 1915g. –
Fevral' 1916g). Izdaniye Ministersva Imperatoskogo Dvora,
Petrograd 1916. Original Russian text and translation of the
telegrams kindly provided by Dr. Stephen de Angelis.
2. “Dnevniki Imperatora Nikolaya
II.” Fond 601 GARF; Orbita, Moscow 1992. The Diaries of Tsar
Nicholas II are being published by Dr. de Angelis, who has
kindly provided the original text and a translation.
3. “Ego Imperatorskoye Velichistvo
Gosudar' Imperator v deistvuyoshchei armii” (Iyul' 1915g.
– Fevral' 1916g). Izdaniye Ministersva Imperatoskogo Dvora,
Petrograd 1916, p. 83. The Russian text and its translation
were kindly provided by Dr. Stephen de Angelis.
4. See Note 1.
5. See Note 2.
6. Maximilian Gritzner, Handbuch
der Ritter-und Verdienstorden , 1893 (Reprint 1962),
7. Ulstrup 2002, p. 189-90 (Russian
State Archive, Stock 601), quoted by kind permission of the
8. Marvin C. Ross, Russian
Porcelains . University of Oklahoma Press, 1968, pp.