The Royal Yacht VICTORIA & ALBERT visits Russia, June 1908

Monochrome watercolour signed and dated "Revel [sic] 9th June 1908" and with ships' names added in pencil by de Martino along the bottom margin.

Royal Yacht VICTORIA & ALBERT visits Russia, June 1908

3 1/2 x 9 ins (7.7 x 23 cms) approx

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Wearing Court Flags, HM Yacht VICTORIA & ALBERT escorted by the Royal Squadron, had taken passage through the Kiel canal along which they were escorted by German cavalry for the entire transit.  HM King Edward VII and HM Queen Alexandra were accompanied on this voyage to the Baltic to meet Emperor Nicholas II by, amongst others, Admiral Sir John  Fisher, First Sea Lord, and we are told that the passage across the North Sea had been unpleasantly rough: V&A was not known for her fine seakeeping qualities and the Royal dining room was relatively empty for much of the passage!  

The King arrived in the Bay of Reval (now Tallin in Estonia) at 0930 on the morning of 9th June 1908 where the two senior Russian Yachts, STANDART and POLAR STAR lay at anchor awaiting VICTORIA & ALBERT.  V&A is wearing the Russian naval ensign at the fore as a courtesy to her hosts and STANDART is similarly paying her respects, with the Royal Navy's white ensign at her fore.  Royal gun salutes were exchanged and de Martino's really charming little watercolour shows the rolls of billowing gun smoke as a Russian warship fires the host nation's salute. V&A has not yet come to anchor so has yet to dress ship fore and aft.  Already a sizeable flotilla of small craft has converged on the bay and it's a scene so beloved by de Martino: billowing court flags, clouds of rolling smoke, a bustle of activity aboard the ships and the waters surrounding them awash with small craft of every size and shape.  It's a beautifully observed and executed painting with exquisite detail: pure E de M. 

Security in Reval itself was not, we read, that reliable and so Heads of State did not venture ashore but rather visited each other aboard their respective Yachts.  In both ships the atmosphere was "friendly if a little formal" and many a good banquet and party was had with the First Sea Lord even being persuaded to dance the horn pipe for the Tsar and his Court!  Overall the visit was prounced a resounding success and a return match was inked in for Tsar Nicholas to visit Cowes in 1909, a plan that was indeed carried through.  Frank Watson Wood (1860-1953) painted a well known watercolour of the 1909 event showing respective Yachts and their escorts lying at anchor in Cowes Roads off the Royal Yacht Squadron which was much used by King and Tsar for its pleasant facilities. 

E de M's little watercolour is presently being cleaned.