The rank of Field Marshal was the highest in the Imperial Russian Army and surviving Field Marshals' batons are exceptionally rare. Indeed, the present example appears to be the only surviving one from the 19th century.
The first Field Marshal's baton, the emblem of this high military rank, was given to Count Fedor Golovin in 1700. In the 19th century, during the reign of Alexander I (1801-1825), only four Russian Generals and the Duke of Wellington received the coveted baton. Six were awarded during the reign of Nicholas I (1825-1855), and a further six were issued under Alexander II (1855-1881). No Field Marshals were appointed during the reign of Alexander III (1881-1894) and only four batons were awarded during the reign of Nicholas II (1894-1917), the last being to His Royal Highness King Karl I of Rumania in 1912.
Since the reign of Nicholas I, the design of the baton has remained fairly consistent, apart from the shape of the wings of the Imperial double-headed eagle (Nicholas I type) and the jeweled emerald wreath on the flat circular terminal at each end, which disappeared after 1855. The design of the baton during the reign of Nicholas I can be seen on the paintings executed by Franz Krüger, now in The Hermitage, depicting the Field Marshals Ivan F. Paskevich (1829) and Piotr M. Volkonskii (1850) (figs. 2 and 3 and illustrated in The Hermitage, Franz Krüger in St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg, 1997, pl. no. 24 and 70.)
For a number of reasons, this baton can be shown to have been made without doubt during the reign of Alexander II. First, the position of the wreaths, which are on the sides and not the flat terminals, as on the earlier examples. Secondly, the left facing profile of St. George slaying the dragon on the breast of the Imperial double-headed eagle, indicates that the piece was made without doubt during or after the reign of Alexander II.
Although the script Kiebel mark, which hardly changes throughout the 19th century, offers no real help in dating this piece, it is particularly interesting that during the reign of the subsequent Tsar, Nicholas II, no military orders or awards were executed in the 72 zolotnik gold standard. The present baton is struck with the 72 zolotnik gold standard mark and was therefore created between 1855 and 1881.
During the reign of Alexander II, the rank of Field Marshal was conferred on:
-Prince Michael S. Vorontsov, Viceroy of the Caucasus (1856)
-Prince Alexander I. Bariatinskii, for the conquest of the
-Count Fedor Berg (1865)
-the Prussian Field Marshall Helmut von Moltke (1873)
-Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaevich (1878)
-Grand Duke Michael Nicolaevich (1878)
During the reign of Nicholas II, the rank of Field Marshal was conferred on: -General Joseph V. Gurko (1894)
-Count Dmitrii Miliutin (1898)
-Nicholas I, King of Montenegro (1910)
-Karl I, King of Rumania (1912)
Recent research has shown that the batons awarded to Count Miliutin and Karl I were executed by the jewelers Hahn and Blank, respectively; the present baton has been executed by the St. Petersburg jeweler Keibel.
Three Field Marshals' batons were executed in 1878, during the war against Turkey, by the jeweler Keibel, possibly to a design of A. P. Safonov (Fig.4), of which one would appear to be the present example. Of these, one was awarded to Grand Duke Michael Nicolaevich (1832-1909) (Fig.1.) and one to his brother Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaevich (the elder) (1831-1891), sons of Tsar Nicholas I, for their military action during the war against Turkey in 1878.
Archives show that the third baton was not awarded at the time but kept by the Imperial cabinet as stock and finally awarded to General Gurko (1829-1901) in 1894, during the reign of Nicholas II. This baton was returned by the family of Field Marshal Gurko after his death and awarded again in 1910 to Nicholas I, King of Montenegro.
The return of important military awards such as top military orders was not uncommon in Russia. The same practice also existed for Imperial gifts, such as Imperial presentation boxes which were returned to the Imperial cabinet either by the recipient himself against the value of the gift or by the family of the former recipient after his death, to be given later to a new recipient.
We thank Valentin Skurlov for his researches in the Russian archives and Sergei Patrikeev for his information regarding this rare military award.
CAPTION 1 (2063 3691): Fig.1. Detail of the Field Marshall baton received by Grand Duke Michael Nicolaevich in 1878, detail of a painting by E. Lipgart now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg
CAPTION 2 (2063 3677): Fig.2. Detail of Count I. Paskevich's Field Marshall baton (1829), detail of a painting by Franz Krüger now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg
CAPTION 3 (2063 3684): Fig.3. Detail of Prince P. Volkonskii's Field Marshall baton (1850), detail of a painting by Franz Krüger now in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg
CAPTION 4 (206303790): Fig.4. Design for or illustration of Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaevich's (the elder) Field Marshall baton, watercolor by A.P. Safonov