Last updated
Fesch arms as French imperial prince.svg
Country French Empire
Papal States
Ethnicity Swiss-Corsican
Founded 1806
Founder Joseph Fesch
Titles sovereign Prince
Prince of France
Prince (of the Papal States)
Style(s) Serene Highness
Estate(s) France

Faesch, also spelled Fesch, is a prominent Swiss, French, Belgian, Corsican and Italian noble family, originally a patrician family of Basel. Known since the early 15th century, the family received a confirmation of nobility from the Holy Roman Emperor in 1563. It was continuously represented in the governing bodies of the city-republic of Basel for centuries, and three members served as Burgomasters, i.e. heads of state, namely Remigius Faesch (1541–1610), Johann Rudolf Faesch (1572–1659) and Johann Rudolf Faesch (1680–1762). The family was at times the richest family of Basel, and its rise was partially the result of clever marriage policies.

The Swiss are the citizens of Switzerland or people of Swiss ancestry.

The French are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

Corsica Island in the Mediterranean, also a region and a department of France

Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 18 regions of France. It is located southeast of the French mainland and west of the Italian Peninsula, with the nearest land mass being the Italian island of Sardinia to the immediate south. A single chain of mountains makes up two-thirds of the island.


In the 18th century, the naval officer Franz Fesch (1711–1775) entered the service of the Republic of Genoa and established a branch in Corsica. Its most famous member, Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763–1839), was the uncle of Napoleon Bonaparte and was a member of the French imperial family during his nephew's rule. He became a French senator and a count in 1805, was elevated to sovereign princely rank in 1806, and was granted the title of a Prince of France in 1807, a dignity held only by himself, Napoleon's siblings, Joachim Murat and Eugène de Beauharnais. He was a member of the Imperial House and in the order of succession to the French imperial throne in accordance with the French constitution of 1804 (Title III, Article 9, "The Imperial Family"). He was also made a Peer of France in 1815, and subsequently given the title of (Roman) Prince by the Pope. The Fesch Palace in Ajaccio today houses the Musée Fesch, one of France's finest collections of old masters and one of the most important Napoleonic collections. An art museum in Basel also named the Museum Faesch and established by Regimus Faesch in the 17th century is now part of the Basel Historical Museum.

Republic of Genoa former state on the Apennine Peninsula between 1005–1797

The Republic of Genoa was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, incorporating Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean.

Joseph Fesch French cardinal, diplomat, and Prince of France

Joseph Fesch, Prince of France was a French cardinal and diplomat, Prince of France and a member of the Imperial House of the First French Empire, Peer of France, Roman Prince, and the uncle of Napoleon Bonaparte. He was also one of the most famous art collectors of his period, remembered for having established the Musée Fesch in Ajaccio, which remains one of the most important Napoleonic collections of art.

The Imperial House of France during the First French Empire consisted of the family members of Napoleon, including the House of Bonaparte, who held imperial titles as Emperor, Empress, Imperial Prince or French Prince, and who were in the order of succession to the French imperial throne in accordance with the French constitution of 1804. According to Title III, Article 9, "the members of the imperial family in the order of succession, bear the title of Princes of France " and "the eldest son of the Emperor bears the title Prince Imperial ."

Family members have lived in Switzerland, Corsica, Italy, France and Belgium. Many family members have been notable as jurists, bankers or military officers.


Goldsmith Hans Rudolf Faesch (1510-1564) and his family, painted in 1559 by Hans Hug Kluber (Kunstmuseum Basel). He received a confirmation of nobility from Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1563. Hans Rudolf Faesch and his family painted by Hans Hug Kluber in 1559.jpg
Goldsmith Hans Rudolf Faesch (1510–1564) and his family, painted in 1559 by Hans Hug Kluber (Kunstmuseum Basel). He received a confirmation of nobility from Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1563.

The family is said to be of ancient nobility from Valais in Switzerland. [1] Two brothers of the family acquired the hereditary burghership of Basel in 1409. Family members became members of the council, and thus the ruling class of the city-republic of Basel, from 1494. Members of the family served continuously in the government of the city from the mid 16th century until the end of the 18th century. Several family members also became Burgomaster's and thus heads of the republic, and others became Rectors of the University of Basel. The family intermarried for centuries with other prominent patrician families. Remigius Faesch (ca. 1460–1533) was a famous architect.

University of Basel university in Basel, Switzerland

The University of Basel is located in Basel, Switzerland. Founded on 4 April 1460, it is Switzerland’s oldest university and among the world's oldest surviving universities. The university is traditionally counted among the leading institutions of higher learning in the country.

The Fesch Palace in Ajaccio, today the Musee Fesch Ajaccio musee Fesch.jpg
The Fesch Palace in Ajaccio, today the Musée Fesch
Cardinal Joseph Fesch, Prince of France Maglioli - Le cardinal Fesch.jpg
Cardinal Joseph Fesch, Prince of France
Johann Rudolf Faesch (1680-1762), Burgomaster of Basel Johann Rudolf Faesch 1680-1762.jpeg
Johann Rudolf Faesch (1680–1762), Burgomaster of Basel
Johann Rudolf Faesch (1680-1762), Burgomaster of Basel Johann Rudolf Faesch 1680-1762 2.jpeg
Johann Rudolf Faesch (1680–1762), Burgomaster of Basel
Anna Catharina Faesch (1671-1719), wife of Johann Rudolf Huber, painted by her husband Huber, Catharina Huber-Faesch.jpg
Anna Catharina Faesch (1671–1719), wife of Johann Rudolf Huber, painted by her husband
Three siblings of the Faesch family in Basel in 1849 Faesch siblings Basel 1849.jpeg
Three siblings of the Faesch family in Basel in 1849

The goldsmith and member of the city council Hans Rudolf Faesch (1510–1564) was ennobled by Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1563 and received a confirmation of the family arms that added two stars to their crest. Thus the family held a dual status as patricians or members of the Daig of the burgher republic of Basel, and as nobles of the Holy Roman Empire.

Nobility privileged social class

Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately under royalty in some societies that have a formal aristocracy. Nobility possesses more acknowledged privileges and higher social status than most other classes in society. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be largely honorary, and vary by country and era. As referred to in the Medieval chivalric motto "noblesse oblige", nobles can also carry a lifelong duty to uphold various social responsibilities, such as honorable behavior, customary service, or leadership positions. Membership in the nobility, including rights and responsibilities, is typically hereditary.

Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor king of Bohemia and Hungary

Ferdinand I was Holy Roman Emperor from 1558, king of Bohemia and Hungary from 1526, and king of Croatia from 1527 until his death in 1564. Before his accession, he ruled the Austrian hereditary lands of the Habsburgs in the name of his elder brother, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Also, he often served as Charles' representative in Germany and developed encouraging relationships with German princes.

Holy Roman Empire varying complex of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

As of 1659, the Faesch family was the richest family of Basel with a fortune of nearly 250,000 florins. Their family foundation still exists. The jurist, rector of the University of Basel and art collector Remigius Faesch (1595–1667) founded Museum Faesch, an art museum. Its collection became part of the University of Basel in 1823.

Florin coin struck from 1252 to 1533 with no significant change

The Florentine florin was a coin struck from 1252 to 1533 with no significant change in its design or metal content standard during that time. It had 54 grains of nominally pure or 'fine' gold with a purchasing power difficult to estimate but ranging according to social grouping and perspective from approximately 140 to 1000 modern US dollars. The name of the coin comes from the flower of the Giglio bottonato, which is represented at the head of the coin.

Several family members entered the service of various European princes. The diplomat Johann Rudolph Faesch (1669–1751) was an adviser to the Margrave of Baden, representative of the Elector of Trier and the Duke of Württemberg at the Court of France. Many family members were also notable as military officers.

Elector of Trier Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire

The Elector of Trier was one of the Prince-Electors of the Holy Roman Empire and, in his capacity as archbishop, administered the archdiocese of Trier. The territories of the electorate and the archdiocese were not, however, equivalent.

The family converted to Protestantism in 1530, although the Corsica branch would later return to Catholicism, providing a Cardinal.

A branch of the family settled in Geneva in the 19th century, where Alphonse François Faesch became a judge. His son, the engineer Jules Faesch, became a co-owner of the Faesch and Piccard company, and married Amélie de Senarclens de Vuflens, who inherited Vufflens Castle from her father.

The family name Faesch or Fesch means roughly "chic" (as in "stylish").

Fesch as part of the imperial family of France

Franz Faesch (born 1711 in Basel, died 1775) became a naval officer (captain) in the service of the Republic of Genoa, posted to Corsica, and married Nobile Angela Maria Pietrasanta (born 1725, died 1790). Their son Joseph Fesch (born 1763 in Ajaccio, died 1839 in Rome) was the half-brother of Letizia Ramolino (a daughter of Angela Maria's first marriage) and through his sister the uncle of Napoleon Bonaparte. He fulfilled the role of protector of the Bonaparte family for some years from 1791. Joseph Fesch became Archbishop of Lyon in 1802, was named a Cardinal in 1803, became French Ambassador to Rome in 1804, became a French senator and count in 1805, became Grand Almoner of France in 1805, obtained the rank of a sovereign prince with the style of Most Eminent Highness as he was chosen as coadjutor of the Prince-Bishopric of Regensburg in 1806, was named a Prince of France (prince français) with the style of Serene Highness in 1807, received the Great Eagle (the highest degree) of the Legion of Honour, was a Knight of the Order of the Golden Spur (1802), a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece (1805), became a Peer of France in 1815 and subsequently[ when? ] a (Roman) Prince (as a noble title in the Papal States). Joseph Fesch was also one of the most famous art collectors of his lifetime. He wed his nephew Napoleon to Joséphine de Beauharnais in Paris in 1804, the day before Napoleon crowned himself as Emperor of the French. Cardinal Fesch lived out his days at the Palazzo Falconieri in Rome, dedicating himself to art and to beneficence.

additional members of the Faesch family

The Fesch Palace in Ajaccio as of 2014 houses the Musée Fesch.

Coat of arms

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  1. Zeitung für den deutschen Adel, Vol. 1, p. 414, Helbig, 1840
  2. Caroline Weldon, née Faesch genealogy http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=caroline_weldon&id=I03
  3. Dutch Atlantic connections, 1680-1800 : linking empires, bridging borders / edited by Gert Oostindie, Jessica V. Roitman. Leiden : Brill, 2014. 440 S. : Ill. ISBN   978-90-04-27132-6. Seiten 40f