• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7472

    Valuable Russian Books and Manuscripts

    29 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 33

    ORLOV, Aleksei Grigorevich (1737-1808) -- Elizaveta Alekseevna TARAKANOVA (1753-1775), pretender to the Russian throne. A collection of letters and manuscripts FROM THE ARCHIVE OF SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON, relating to the claims of 'Princess' Tarakanova to the throne of Russia, and her abduction by Count Orlov, in French, 10 September 1774 - 27 February 1775, and comprising:

    Price Realised  

    ORLOV, Aleksei Grigorevich (1737-1808) -- Elizaveta Alekseevna TARAKANOVA (1753-1775), pretender to the Russian throne. A collection of letters and manuscripts FROM THE ARCHIVE OF SIR WILLIAM HAMILTON, relating to the claims of 'Princess' Tarakanova to the throne of Russia, and her abduction by Count Orlov, in French, 10 September 1774 - 27 February 1775, and comprising:
    Elizaveta Alekseevna TARAKANOVA. Three letters to Sir William Hamilton, one secretarial and two autograph (one signed, one in third person), Rome and n.p., 21 December 1774, 20 January 1775 and n.d., 1½ pages, folio, in autograph, and 8½ pages, folio, in another hand, with two envelopes; together with three enclosures, comprising two copy letters by her to the Ottoman Sultan, Ragusa, 24 August and 11 September 1774, 12½ pages, 4to, and a letter addressed to her at Ragusa by 'Montagu' [?Edward Montagu], Venice, 10 September 1774, 5 pages, folio;
    Sir William HAMILTON. Two autograph draft letters (unsigned) to [Count Aleksei Orlov], Caserta and Naples, 3 and 17 January 1775, 2 pages, 4to, and 2½ pages, folio, on bifolia;
    Aleksei Grigorevich ORLOV. Three letters signed ('Comte Alexy Orlov') to Sir William Hamilton, Pisa, 9 January - 27 February 1775, together 4 pages, 4to, on bifolia, one envelope; with an unrelated letter to Sir William by 'Theodore comte d'Orlow', Rome, 25 March 1771;
    the letters tipped onto pages extracted from an album. Provenance: Alfred Morrison collection (see Alfred Morrison. The Hamilton and Nelson Papers, vol.I, nos.42 ff).

    THE PRIMARY DOCUMENTARY SOURCE FOR THE USURPATION OF PRINCESS TARAKANOVA. The letters enable us to follow the the outline of Tarakanova's imposture and its disastrous discovery, opening with two letters from her to Sir William Hamilton (the British consul in Naples), the first thanking him for providing her with a passport to travel to Rome, the second making a series of extravagant demands (including for a false passport to Constantinople so that she may convince the Sultan of her rights to the Russian throne, and for the loan of 'une petite somme de 7000 sequins', for which she audaciously offers some lands of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein as security) and setting forth the entire improbable history of her birth and life; a third letter renews her requests. The story develops in an exchange of letters between Sir William Hamilton and Count Orlov in which the latter is notified of Tarakanova's claims, responding 'Ce Personage doit être ou une folle ou comme vous dites une Avantirière [sic]' [This person must be a madwoman or as you say an adventuress] and asking for information as to her whereabouts, which Sir William apparently provides.

    A DRAMATIC AND ROMANTIC IMPOSTURE. The so-called Princess Tarakanova emerged in the autumn of 1774 as a claimant to the Russian throne, apparently from nowhere -- though she may have been, as speculated by Sir William, a mistress of the Polish magnate Prince Karol Radziwill, with whom she had certainly associated. Her story, recounted in some detail both in her letters to Sir William and in the accompanying copy-letters, was that she was a secret daughter of the Empress Elizabeth and her morganatic husband Count Razumovksii, unjustly disinherited and exiled, escaping from Siberia to Berlin via Persia. The conclusion of the story is as dramatic and colourful as her own claims: Count Orlov befriended her at Pisa and lured her, in the guise of a pleasure-trip, onto a Russian warship at Livorno, whence she was promptly abducted and taken to St Petersburg; she died in the Peter and Paul Fortress in December of the same year, her origins still uncertain, though Orlov described her as 'the daughter of a Keeper of a Coffee-house in or near Prague'. The chief documentary sources for the incident are the present papers and Sir William Hamilton's dispatches (now in the British Library, Egerton 2636).


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Special Notice

    Buyers from within the EU: VAT payable at 17.5% on just the buyer's premium (NOT the hammer price) Buyers from outside the EU: VAT payable at 17.5% on hammer price and buyer's premium. If a buyer, having registered under a non-EU address, decides that an item is not to be exported from the EU, then he/she should advise Christie's to this effect immediately.