“In the Evening the Mayor Arrived from the Russian Camp”: The First 34 Years of the Life of Wilhelm Henning

Keywords: Peter the Great; Henning family; Georg/Vilim Henning; Robert Bruce; Armoury; Great Northern War; siege of Vyborg; siege of Kexholm


This article is the first attempt to make a special review of the events in the early life of Wilhelm Henning, a founding father of the metallurgical industry of 18th-century Russia and of Yekaterinburg. The article concerns some issues connected with Henning’s place and time of birth and his family. The author substantiates the fact that the person known as Vilim de Gennin was originally known as Georg Wilhelm Henning, born in October 1676 in Siegen. Referring to archival sources which have not been previously studied, the author clarifies the circumstances underlying the entry of Wilhelm Henning into Russian service, refuting the long-established opinion about his personal acquaintance with Peter I in 1698. He argues that the motive behind Henning’s transition to the service of the Russian tsar was obviously a lack of career prospects in Western Europe. Additionally, the article demonstrates that Wilhelm Henning distorted the events of his early life in Russia in his personal note (1743). It is documented that during the first three years of his stay in Moscow, Henning worked as a master in the State Armoury; this helps prove the assumption that, by transferring to the Artillery Prikaz, Henning did not participate in campaigns of the Great Northern War during 1702–1709 and received the patronage of the Bruce brothers, Jacob and Robert. It is shown that Henning took part in military actions only in 1710, having distinguished himself as an artillery officer during the sieges of Vyborg and Kexholm. The author thus argues that the turning point of Henning’s career in Russia was 1710. This was when he had his first personal meeting with Peter I, when Henning was sent to the tsar to notify him of the siege of Kexholm. Having managed to produce a favourable impression on the tsar, Henning secured further career growth (at first in St Petersburg) as a military engineer and organiser of the metallurgical industry.

Author Biography

Dmitry Serov

Dr. Hab. (History), Head of the Department of the Theory and History of State and Law, Novosibirsk State University of Economics and Management; Ural Federal University.

56, Kamenskaya Str., 630099, Novosibirsk, Russia.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0003-0097-7180



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How to Cite
Serov, D. (2019). “In the Evening the Mayor Arrived from the Russian Camp”: The First 34 Years of the Life of Wilhelm Henning. Quaestio Rossica, 7(3), 801–817. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2019.3.409
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