18th Century, Symbols Objects and Art

Tsar Peter the Great’s Shtandart

“He who rules the persian gulf and the warm waters of south , can rule the world.”

– Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich 

300 years ago, on the 24th of April 1703 to be exact, the frigate Shtandart became the flagship for the new Imperial Russian Navy as commanded by Tsar Peter I, also known as Pyotr Alexeyevich or Peter the Great.


While visiting Holland in 1697, the Tsar studied shipbuilding in Zaandam  and Amsterdam.  Thanks to the mediation of Nicolaas Witsen, mayor of Amsterdam and expert on Russia, the Tsar was given the opportunity to gain practical experience in the largest shipyard in the world, belonging to the Dutch East India Company, for a period of four months. The Tsar helped with the construction of an East Indiaman especially laid down for him: Peter and Paul. During his stay the Tsar engaged many skilled workers such as builders of locks, fortresses, shipwrights, and seamen—including Cornelis Cruys, a vice-admiral who became, under Franz Lefort, the Tsar’s advisor in maritime affairs. He later put his knowledge of shipbuilding to use in helping build Russia’s navy.

During the Second Azov campaign of 1696 against Turkey, the Russians employed for the first time 2 warships, 4 fireships, 23 galleys and 1300 strugs, built on the Voronezh River.


The Shtandart was built in five months by the Dutch shipwright Vybe Gerens, under direct supervision of the Tsar, who provided his own technical designs and drawings.

When a replica was constructed by a small group of sailing enthusiasts led by Vladimir Martus in 1994 it took five years before it was launched at the Petrovsky Shipyard in St Petersburg on September 4, 1999.

Peter the Great became first captain on the Shtandart, first under the pseudonym Peter Mihajlov, for 16 years. In the great cabin there is a compass hanging over a table which can only be read from its underside. A Russian legend relates that this compass hung over Peter’s hammock and that when he woke up, he always checked the compass to ensure that the frigate was on course.

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The Shtandart continued service until 1719, when Peter decreed the frigate to be preserved forever as the first ship of the Russian Navy and a monument of the art of shipbuilding.

Captains of the Shtandart:

Peter Mikhailov – Russia -1703
P. Grey – England – 1704
Jan Delang – Holland – 1705
F. Vilimovsky – Russia – 1706-1707
Shonvick – Holland – 1708-1709
Henry Vessel -Norway -1712
B. Edwart – England – 1713


The name of the Shtandart comes from Peter the Great’s new trade route , which included access to the Balctic Sea. At the time of the Shtandart’s reconstruction the Baltic Sea was dominated by the Swedish Empire. A plan to take control of the Baltic Sea away from Sweden was revived after Peter’s Grand Embassy ended in 1698. In 1703 Peter changed his standard by adding the fourth map of the Baltic to the previously existing maps of the three Russian seas. The name refers more directly to a naval ensign created for the new Baltic Fleet, of which the Shtandart was the first ship.

Books on more on Peter the Great (click picture):


Documentary about Peter the Great’s Navy: 














18th Century, People

Mozart’s Death

“I thank my god for graciously granting me the opportunity of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness.” 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791)

The genius composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died on the fifth of December in his house in Vienna, Rauhensteingasse 8, following 15 miserable days of illness. On November 20th, during a fever epidemic, Mozart unexpectectly took ill – developing a high fever, headache,  sweats and severe swelling and pain in his hands and legs. He was only 35 years old when he passed away. Below you can see a timeline I made of Mozart’s last weeks (short and brief):


 Mozart’s sudden death quickly engendered rumors suggesting murdur, more specifically, poisoning. The cause of death was recorded as “severe miliary fever,” a vague description. Since his death, there have been countless theories as to what constituted severe miliary fever. An autopsy was never performed on Mozart.

The Medical Bag states the following:

“Without a corpse or autopsy report, all we have to go on today to determine the cause of Mozart’s death are eyewitness accounts of his symptoms and final hours. He unexpectedly took ill with a high fever, headaches, sweats, and dramatic swelling and pain in his hands and legs. By the 14th day, his swelling had increased to the extent that his entire body took on blimp-like proportions. Accompanying the swelling were nausea,  vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, a rash, and an overpowering stench. He was extremely irritable to the point where he banished his beloved pet canary from his bedroom. Just 15 days after the onset of his illness, Mozart went into convulsions,  lapsed into a coma, and died.

His 7-year-old son, Karl,  noted that a few days before Mozart died his entire body became so swollen that the smallest movement was almost impossible. He also noted that there was an awful stench, which after death made an autopsy impossible. It was also observed that upon death the corpse did not become stiff and limbs were able to be bent, which is often the case when someone is poisoned. “

The death of Mozart is still food for speculations and theories, with for example the Daily Mail posting an article in 2011, claiming Mozart died because of lack of sunlight. (See it here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2015305/Mozart-died-35-didnt-sun.html)

Two years before that, in 2009, Bloomberg posted an article claiming Mozart died of strep throat (See it here: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aNPHGekzv2SU).

According to Dr. William J. Dawson, one investigator counted 118 different theories regarding the composer’s death that have been posited over the centuries. Dr. Dawson grouped the theories into four main categories: infection, renal disease with associated complications, poisoning, and cardiac disease.

Dr. Dawson believes that Mozart’s death was almost certainly hastened by the very treatment meant to restore his health: bloodletting.

“Mozart had a 2-week history of what sounds like a very febrile, painful illness that caused his joints to swell,” said Dr. Dawson. “But personally, I think acute hemorrhagic shock from being bled was the proximate cause of death.”

The composer may have lost as much as 2 liters of blood per week.


The poisoning theory. 

In his last years, Antonio Salieri (rivaling composer), suffered from sinelity and and allegedly claimed that he had poisoned Mozart. This tale reached others, including Beethoven. Constanze, fanned the rumour’s flame by endorsing it; she also believed that Salieri had plotted against her husband. This rumour was denied by many of Mozart’s closest associates including his personal physician who reported that Wolfgang had died of the fever.

In fact, Salieri and Mozart actually respected each other as musicians during Mozart’s lifetime. Salieri recognized Mozart’s gifts as a musician and envied them, while Mozart envied Salieri for how he found so much favor with the authorities (the monarchy).

The following clip from the 1997 movie Amadeus shows the death of Mozart, but in contrast to reality Mozart is buried and sewed into a linen sack. General practice was to place up to 4 to 5 adults and 2 children in a common pit. The practice gave rise to the notion that Mozart died a pauper in obscurity, which was not the case.

For books and more click picture below:


Here’s a wonderful video from Haley Rempel giving a Two-Minute Talk about the Death of Mozart.