The wedding of Eugen and Octavie von Boch on 4 May 1842, exactly 170 years ago, strengthened the alliance between the Boch and Villeroy families, which Jean-François Boch and the twenty-three-year-old Nicolas Villeroy had established six years earlier by consolidating their two companies. Emerging from the amalgamation of the Fremersdorfer Saarmühle and its rival company Villeroy in Wallerfangen was the family-owned company Villeroy & Boch currently in its eighth generation, the ceramic products of which continue to enjoy worldwide success. This alliance was also cemented by family ties following the marriage of Eugen Boch, son of Jean-François Boch, to Octavie Villeroy, granddaughter of Nicolas Villeroy.
Eugen von Boch was born on 22 May 1809 in Septfontaines in Luxembourg, Octavie Villeroy on 25 August 1823 at the castle in Fremersdorf in Germany. Theirs was a happy marriage and they had seven children. Eugen took Octavie into his confidence, consulting her even on professional matters. She was said, for example, to have advised and supported him in selecting and decorating tableware. The couple, who were influenced by their strong Christian beliefs, were deeply committed to charity work and assumed social responsibilities in an exemplary manner, not least in respect of the workers in the production facilities. Their contribution stretched from the construction of workers’ homes to the establishment of factory hospitals and beyond to setting up a crèche and opening a canteen as well as a hostel for the female workforce. In the process, Octavie was especially supportive of women and girls, even unmarried mothers, giving them the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship at the factories run by the family.
Soon after their golden wedding anniversary, which the couple celebrated in 1892 in good health with their family and many friends and acquaintances in the chapel in Mettlach, Eugen Boch and his direct descendants were elevated by the German Emperor William II in Potsdam to hereditary peerage. Eugen von Boch died on 11 November 1898, his wife Octavie six months later on 12 May 1899. They were both laid to rest in the family tomb in Mettlach.
Unfortunately no photographs of or documents related to the wedding of Eugen and Octavie von Boch have survived; only two prints exist, showing the bride and groom separately. That is the reason for the photograph taken of all those attending the party for the golden wedding anniversary.
However, there is an amusing anecdote about the wedding: in the course of the marriage ceremony at the registry office, it transpired that Eugen von Boch did not possess a birth certificate. Nevertheless, the registrar showed some understanding and the document could be procured and submitted at a later date.
Even though there is no historical record of how the family subsequently celebrated the wedding, it is possible to build up a fairly good picture of what might have happened. In fact, in honour of the opening of the first Villeroy & Boch Keravision exhibition at the Discovery Centre in Mettlach in 1982, the Munich artist Nicolai Tregor artfully created with great attention to detail a dozen plaster figures, representing guests who were most probably invited to Eugen and Octavie’s wedding. He modelled some on sketchbook drawings by René Franz, Eugen and Octavie’s eldest son, of the following family members: Eugen’s parents, Jean-François Boch and his wife Rosalie Buschmann, his uncle Viktor Boch and his wife Lucie, Octavie’s grandfather Nicolas Villeroy and her brother Gaspard Alfred Villeroy, and, in addition, Baron Adolphe de Galhau with his wife Sofie de Galhau, née Villeroy.
Today, visitors to the Villeroy & Boch exhibition in the Old Abbey in Mettlach can still marvel at the illustrious society gathered at the wedding of Eugen and Octavie von Boch. The only thing that has changed since then is the table setting: The arrangement of the spacious table changes regularly to display the latest Villeroy & Boch tableware, providing visitors with ideas and inspiration for their own festive occasions. “The wedding table is a true crowd puller,” says Ester Schneider, curator of the Villeroy & Boch Museum of Ceramics. “Many visitors actually sit at the table themselves to have their photograph taken amongst the Villeroys & Bochs.” Today, the table has a permanent place in the Keravision exhibition. Ester Schneider recalls: “Once, when we took the table away and set up a different décor, we received numerous enquiries as to the reason and even complaints. As a result, we quickly put it back and there it will stay.”