Although over 3,000 books on Carl Fabergé and his work have been published, most authors have been content to repeat the same things systematically and to give credit to legends and gross errors. Most of these books are based on information provided by Eugène Carlovich Fabergé in the 1930s and its interpretation by H.C. Bainbridge, the first biographer of Carl Fabergé, in 1949.
Lack of access to essential archival material meant that Fabergé scholars were previously unable to authenticate his work. Fabergé invoices annotated by the Tsars, Cabinet documents and Bolshevik inventories had ail been hidden away in Russia since the Revolution.
Furthermore, another important, valuable source of information had never been exploited by any Fabergé specialist : namely, the Fabergé family papers, which comprise documents handed down over four generations. They include rare books, the ledgers of the London shop, lists of goods confiscated during the Soviet period in Saint Petersburg and Moscow and an interesting photographic collection, such as images of the amazing silver table service made by Fabergé Moscow for the gold magnate, Alexander Kelkh.
For over 10 years, the authors have researched the previously forbidden Russian archives and studied additional unpublished material to put together this remarkable book, supported by a wealth of documentary evidence, much of which has never been published. This is the first complete, definitive compilation of the fascinating history of the House of Fabergé.
FROM FAVRI TO FABERGÉ
THE BIRTH OF A WORLD-FAMOUS NAME
King Henri IV of France promulgated the Edict of Nantes in 1598, in the belief that he had thus established peace between his Catholicand Protestant (Huguenot) subjects. Cari Fabergé's reformed ancestors could have remained quietly settled in Picardy in north-west France. If nothing had changed, the Favri (a name derived from the Latin faber) would never have been spoken of and they would still be living in the present French Department of the Aisne.
But less than a century later, in 1685, King Louis XIV found it difficult to countenance the existence of Protestant regions and cities in his kingdom; after frequent harassment and several campaigns of persecution against the Huguenots, he decided to revoke the Edict of Nantes. He thus required all his subjects to become Catholics like him-self, whom God had placed at the head of the Kingdom of France. The Huguenots in their thousands remembered the terrible Saint Bartholomew's Night (23 August 1572) during which Catherine de Medici and the Guise nobles had massacred over 3,000 Huguenots. After the persecutions suffered during the ensuing wars of religion, the Protestants took the road to exile.
For the Favri, of the village of La Bouteille near Vervins (north-east of Reims), the choice between staying in Picardy and going into exile was facilitated by the rumour that had quickly reached them from the neighbouring Belgian and German provinces, that the King of Prussia was prepared to welcome all Protestants with open arms and to offer them freedom of worship together with excellent living and working conditions. Jean-Baptiste's son Jean and his wife Louise thus took advantage of a Prussian decree, signed by the Kurfürst in Potsdam, near Berlin on 11 November 1685.
They later settled in Brandenburg, west of Berlin.
Their descendant, a certain Daniel Favri and his wife Elisabeth Tourbier subsequently had a son, Jean, who can be traced to Schwedt on the Oder, about a hundred kilometres east of Berlin. That is where the first change in the spelling of the family name may be found : Favri became Favry in 1769.
The Favry descendants, who were tobacco growers, tanners and cabinet-makers, continued to move northwards. Towards the end of the 18th century, Peter Favry and his wife Marie-Louise Elsner settled in Pernau, on the coast of the Baltic Sea (the port of Pernov for the Russians or Parnu in present-day Estonia). They were burghers (free citizens) of the town, and the Favry family once again changed their surname, to Fabrier, which was «germanized» into Faberg. In the ledgers of Pernau's town hall one reads :
Peter Faberg (with a hard g)-joiner, born in Schwedt on 27 May 1768, died on 2 June 1858. Marriage to Maria Louisa Elsner (15 September 1776-17 February 1855) on 17 January 1790 (error of transcription, should read 1796) ; her father Johann Gottlieb, her mother Gertruda Helena Fabricius.