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King William III (1694-1702)
The Grand Embassy (1) : A young Peter the Great of Russia toured Europe seeking help for his diplomatic, military and architectural plans.
The Grand Embassy
Part one

Based on an account in Household Words Vol. XII, No. 239 (Saturday, October 6th, 1855), edited and largely written by Charles Dickens.

Tsar Peter the Great’s attempt to bring Russia into the modern world of the West began with a ‘Grand Embassy’, touring the capitals of Europe to drum up support for his country, and acquire scientific and artistic knowledge. The tour included four hectic months in England.

IN January 1698, John Evelyn lent his house at Sayes Court to the Government for the impending ‘Grand Embassy’ of Tsar Peter of Russia, then a young man of twenty-six.

Peter’s plan was to forge a European alliance against Turkey, and acquire vital ship-building technology for Russia’s navy. He spent some time working incognito as a shipwright in The Hague, and then came on to England where King William III, who was still also King of the Netherlands, received him warmly.

In theory, the Tsar remained incognito, but the secret was poorly kept and his melodramatic attempts to preserve it - for example, perching on a rooftop to watch a session of the House of Lords through a window - raised a few strained royal smiles. He spent many happy hours at Deptford watching the shipwrights build the yacht ‘Royal Transport’, a gift from William, but also travelled to Oxford and Manchester to study urban design for the building of St Petersburg, his capital from 1712.

Based on an account in Household Words Vol. XII, No. 239 (Saturday, October 6th, 1855), edited and largely written by Charles Dickens.

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Picture: Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
Tsar Peter the Great, painted by Godfrey Kneller during Peter’s ‘Grand Embassy’ to England in January to April 1698. In the background, Kneller has thoughtfully painted a ship, aware of Peter’s love for the craft of ship-building. Before his arrival in England, Peter had worked incognito in a Dutch shipyard.
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