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4. A Royal Menagerie in the Making

In 1907 King Edward VII made the single most important contribution to the royal collection of Fabergé. He commissioned hardstone sculptures of favourite dogs and horses kept by him and his wife, Queen Alexandra, at their Sandringham residence. Gradually the project was extended to include a whole range of domestic, farm and wild animals found on the Norfolk estate. It was by far the largest order ever placed through Fabergé's London branch.

Photograph of King Edward VII (1841-1910) with his fox terrier Caesar. The King is standing facing partly left and is wearing Highland dress. Caesar is standing on a stone ledge beside him to the left. Behind them is an ivy covered wall.<br /><br />Caesar

King Edward VII and Caesar ©

When Fabergé's representative, H.C. Bainbridge, first suggested modelling the beloved animals, the King agreed rapidly. Queen Alexandra was well-known for her devotion to dogs and horses, and by this date already owned many examples of Fabergé's charming animal sculptures. The King's Equerry, Sir Dighton Probyn, wrote in 1914, 'The Queen is such a regular Dog-worshipper that Her Majesty likes all dogs – Dogs of any breed or description.' The King himself was meanwhile accompanied almost everywhere by his favourite terrier, Caesar.

On receiving the commission, Fabergé sent his best sculptors to the Sandringham Estate to make preparatory wax models. After approval from the King, these were dispatched to St Petersburg where stonecarvers and workmasters began production. Most of the animals cost in the region of £50, and were sold at the London branch over a period of five years.

Frame with an enamelled view of Sandringham Dairy, Fabergé, c.1911. RCIN 40495

Frame with an enamelled view of Sandringham Dairy, Fabergé, c.1911. RCIN 40495 ©

More than one hundred of the Fabergé animals in the Royal Collection can be directly linked to the Sandringham commission.  Many are identifiable portraits, including the dogs Caesar and Sandringham Lucy, and the horses Persimmon, Iron Duke and Field Marshal.  Models of farm breeds indigenous to Norfolk – such as a turkey, sheep and pigeon – can also be linked to the commission, as well as some more exotic figures – such as a bear kept on the Estate.

Fabergé

Caesar

Henrik Immanuel Wigström (1862-1923)

Persimmon

Henrik Immanuel Wigström (1862-1923)

Norfolk Black turkey