Grand Embassy of Peter the Great

A statue of Peter I working incognito at a Dutch wharf.

The Grand Embassy (Russian: Вели́кое посо́льство, romanizedVelíkoye posól'stvo) was a Russian diplomatic mission to Western Europe from March 9, 1697 to August 25, 1698 led by Peter the Great.


In 1697 and 1698, Peter the Great embarked on his Grand Embassy. The primary goal of the mission was to strengthen and broaden the Holy League, Russia's alliance with a number of European countries against the Ottoman Empire in the Russian struggle for the northern coastline of the Black Sea. The tsar also sought to hire foreign specialists for Russian service and to acquire military weapons.

Officially, the Grand Embassy was headed by the "grand ambassadors" Franz Lefort, Fedor Golovin and Prokopy Voznitsyn. In fact, it was led by Peter himself, who went along incognito under the name of Peter Mikhailov. At 6 feet 8 inches (2.03 m) Peter was one of the tallest men in Europe, a fact very hard to disguise.

Peter conducted negotiations with Friedrich Casimir Kettler, the Duke of Courland, and concluded an alliance with King Frederick I of Prussia. He arrived in the Dutch Republic at the start of August 1697, where he worked incognito as a shipbuilder.

On September 11, 1697, Peter met with William III, who governed both the Netherlands and England, and the States-General in October of that year. William was in Utrecht at the time. On invitation from William, Peter visited England in 1698. He stayed there for 105 days. While in Britain, he had an affair with Letitia Cross.[1]

At Utrecht, the encounter between the two rulers was recognized as a significant event (a medal to commemorate the occasion was created). In his desire for an alliance, Peter was prepared to support William in the Nine Years' War against France even though the final treaty would be signed nine days later.[2]

Peter failed to expand the anti-Ottoman alliance. The Grand Embassy had to limit itself to acquiring different equipment and hiring foreign specialists especially in military and naval affairs. They formed the basis of his modernizing the Russian army and navy.[3]

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