1814. Oil on canvas. 269.2 x 179 cm. Windsor Castle, Royal Collection, UK. Read Note.
Count Matvei Ivanovich Platov (1757-1818) - a cossack, Napoleonic-era Russian military commander, and Ataman of the Don Cossack Host (1801-1818). He distinguished himself in Russia’s wars against Turkey (1768-1774, and 1787-1791); and already in the Persian Expedition of 1795-1796, was placed in charge of the cossack contingent. In 1797, after the ascent of Paul I to the throne, he was accused of conspiracy and exiled to the town of Kostroma, then arrested and imprisoned in the Petropavlovsk Fortress in St. Petersburg. He was pardoned in 1801 and placed in charge of a 25,000-strong expedition to invade India. Paul I’s murder a short time later, however, put a stop to these plans. Under Alexander I, Platov fought in Europe against the French, and again against the Turks. In 1805, he founded the city of Novocherkassk, which he made the capital of the Don Cossack Host.
He achieved, however, lasting fame and distinction during Napoleon’s 1812 Invasion of Russia. As commander-in-chief of the cossacks, Platov was in charge of protecting the flanks of the retreating Russian army, harassing the French and cutting supply lines. When the tide of the war changed, Platov’s troops were in a perfect position to pursue and decimate Napoleon’s fleeing army. For his exploits, he was granted the title of Count. He went on to fight in the War of the Sixth Coalition that finally resulted in Napoleon’s abdication.
Platov accompanied Alexander I to London in 1814, where he was a great success with the London public. He died in 1818, and was buried in Novcherkassk, the city he had established.