By Chris Chatigny, Numismatist & Cataloger – Stack’s Bowers ……
Today’s preview of the Stack’s Bowers Galleries January NYINC auction continues the story started last week with the Rare One Year Type Ruble of Elizabeth.
Born in August 1740 to Duchess Anna Leopoldovna (niece of Empress Anna of Russia), the arrival of Ivan VI seemed a stroke of luck to then Empress Anna. In 1740 she was 47 years old, in failing health and without a clear successor to the throne. Empress Anna wished to secure the line of her father, Tsar Ivan V (co-regent with Emperor Peter I) while simultaneously excluding any descendants of Emperor Peter I from ruling. To achieve this, Empress Anna adopted the newborn Ivan VI Antonovich and named him successor to the Empire of Russia. Empress Anna died in October 1740, leaving the eight-week-old Ivan VI as Emperor with a German noble (Ernst Johann von Biron) as regent. Biron acted as regent for only three weeks, before he was replaced by Ivan VI’s mother.
Just over a year later, Elizabeth Petrovna, daughter of Emperor Peter I and Catherine I, rallied the Russian guard regiments and overthrew the government and ascended as Empress Elizabeth in December 1741. Born on December 18, 1709, her parents had married in secret in December of 1707. However, their marriage was not made public until February of 1712. Due to the secrecy of her parents’ marriage during the time of her birth, Elizabeth’s opponents questioned her legitimacy and right to the throne. Elizabeth was passed over in favor of Empress Anna and, subsequently, Emperor Ivan VI. Realizing that the infant emperor and his regent were losing favor with the armed forces, Elizabeth seized power in a daring coup with help from regiments of the Russian army. Wearing a dress and armored breast plate, Elizabeth stormed the Winter Palace with her forces and arrested the infant Emperor Ivan VI Antonovich.
Former Emperor Ivan VI and his mother were kept in increasingly secretive prisons, with Ivan VI eventually isolated from his family at four years old when he was sent to Kholmogory in northern Russia. There he remained for 12 years, seeing no one but his jailor. Rumors of his imprisonment spread, and he was transferred to a more secure location in 1756, where he was more rigorously guarded. Even the fortress commander did not know the identity of the exiled Emperor.
Emperor Peter III, successor to Empress Elizabeth, sympathized with Ivan VI and went so far as to visit him and offered him aid, but Peter III’s assassination quite literally cut short that plan. When Catherine II ascended the throne, she issued strict orders regarding Ivan VI that he was not to be educated by his guards and that he be referred to as “the nameless one”. Finally, if any attempt was made to free or locate him (even with documentation from Catherine II) Ivan VI was to be executed immediately.
Despite nearly 20 years of solitary confinement, Ivan VI was aware of his true identity as Emperor, and the knowledge of his presence in the prison spread to other officers in the garrison.
An attempt was made to free him, which was quickly foiled due to the secretive orders issued by Empress Catherine II. The conspirators were executed alongside Ivan VI, and the young exiled Emperor was buried quietly inside the fortress. This grisly act secured Catherine II’s position as Empress, and ended the decades of mental anguish Ivan VI endured.
The coin features a right facing bust of the infantile emperor, laureate and mantled with order ribbon. The reverse design boasts at the center the Imperial Coat of Arms: the Imperial double headed eagle, each head crowned with a third crown above. The left claw holds a scepter, representing monarchial power, and the globus cruciger in the right claw demonstrates the religious authority of the emperor. The Order of Saint Andrew, the highest honorary order in Imperial Russia, appears around the arms of Moscow showing Saint George mounted and defeating the dragon. The date appears above, with the Cyrillic legend for the denomination below. This variety is exceptionally rare, and distinguishes itself from the other varieties of Ivan VI Rubles by the obverse legend that ends significantly further underneath the bust.
While we are no longer taking consignments for our January 2018 New York International Auction, we are taking consignments of world and ancient coins as well as world paper money for the upcoming May 2018 Collector’s Choice Online. We are accepting consignments of Chinese and other Asian coins and currency for our April 2018 Hong Kong Showcase Auction. Time is running short, so if you are interested in consigning your coins and paper currency (whether a whole collection or a single rarity) be sure to contact one of our consignment directors.