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Alleyne FitzHerbert, later 1st Baron St. Helens, undertook two separate diplomatic trips to Russia. The first, between 1783 and 1787, was to the court of Catherine II. The majority of the posting was taken up with failed attempts to renegotiate a trade agreement with the Russians, which having started in 1766 was about to reach the end of its 20 year duration. After the negotiations finally failed and the treaty elapsed in April 1787, FitzHerbert saw no need to stay and undertook a final trip with the Empress during the summer of that year to the Crimea. In terms of material gain it was not a fruitless trip, and he left with portrait of the Empress, purportedly given to him by Catherine herself, and a pair of pistols given by her favourite Prince Potemkin (lot 591).
The second trip was the last of his diplomatic career, in 1801-1802, as Ambassador to the Court of Alexander I. For his embassy he was equipped with diplomatic silver, including the following lot. Whilst there he also undoubtedly acquired other treasures, including a set of four silver candlesticks (lot 589), and Ignaz Born's work on the shells from the collection of Maria Theresa (lot 590). FitzHerbert negotiated a convention with Russia regarding maritime rights, and as a result was rewarded with a United Kingdom peerage as Baron St. Helens. St. Helens negotiated the accession of Sweden and Denmark to the convention before ill health forced him to return to London.