The incredible price of Russia’s royal letter urging vaccinations

Written by CNN Staff Written by CNN Staff Written by CNN Staff Contributors Catherine the Great letter supporting vaccinations could fetch more than $3 million at auction.

For someone seeking to acquire one of the world’s most noteworthy handwritten documents, one of Russia’s oldest unique gifts has just hit the market.

A Russian cabinet that was used by Catherine the Great has set a new world record price for a written royal manuscript at a Sotheby’s auction. The heritage document, which includes the Empress’ handwritten notes and a letter of support from the Empress’ grandson, has been worth millions of dollars since it was rediscovered in 2005 by historian Raymond Aron .

The royal cabinet was recovered in 2005 by historian Raymond Aron. Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s

The letter highlights a disagreement within the Russian royal family when the late Georgi III asked the younger Princess Elizabeth to interdicted 600 unvaccinated children from the Russian city of Tyumen in 1910. As the children would not have received the vaccinations, the children could be in danger of catching serious diseases including dysentery, scarlet fever and scarlet fever, among others.

“I have a difficult question to answer here,” Catherine wrote in response to Georgi’s suggestion. “This government took a decision in 1905 to legalize all so-called religiously optional inoculations at a time when public health was very important. The royal family was especially concerned about the immunization of children, though (at that time) the royal family’s children did not receive vaccination.”

However, the documents noted that they are not sure it would be safe to give vaccinations to the children as they would enter adulthood and possibly never attend the court of the next sovereign, Catherine the First.

This is the only known image of the royal cabinet that was used by the tsarina Catherine the Great in her meetings with the rector of the Moscow Yeshiva as well as with the Primakov family. Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s

The title attributed to the cabinet (publicly known as the “celebrated manuscript”) is substantially smaller than its financial value, becoming “one of the only known images” of the royal cabinet, said Fiona Hamilton, co-chair of Sotheby’s art market department, in a statement.

The 1897 document was purchased for just over $340,000 in 1995 and sold by the Daughters of the Revolution Museum for $795,000 in 2014. The current owner, Prudent fund manager and Russian Empress Catherine Descartes de Alexandretta’s niece known as Eva Genova, bought the document using funds from the sale of her old home in St. Petersburg.

Describing the document’s importance in the art market, Marshall Klein, international chairman of Sotheby’s Ancient and Medieval Art department, said in a statement: “Whether she was promoting the health of the state through chronicling it to the outside world or winning a specific battle, Catherine the Great changed the world. This rare letter, sent during the Russian Revolution, is historically significant as it documents a debate between Catherine and her brother over inoculation. The debate reflected the state of affairs in Russia at the time.”

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