Ernest Cassel

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The Right Honourable
Sir Ernest Cassel
Anders Zorn - Ernest Cassel.jpg
painted by Anders Zorn, 1886
Born Ernest Joseph Cassel
(1852-03-03)3 March 1852
Cologne, Prussia
Died 21 September 1921(1921-09-21) (aged 69)
Brook House, Park Lane, London, England
Resting place Kensal Green Cemetery, London, England
Nationality British
Occupation Merchant banker
Known for Merchant banker and capitalist
Net worth £7,333,000[1]
Spouse(s) Annette Mary Maud Maxwell (m. 1878–81)
Children Amalia Mary Maud Cassel
Parent(s) Jacob Cassel
Amalia Rosenheim

Sir Ernest Joseph Cassel GCB GCMG GCVO PC (3 March 1852 – 21 September 1921)[2] was a British merchant banker and capitalist. Born and raised in Prussia, he moved to Britain at the age of 17.

Life and career[edit]

Cassel was born in Cologne, in what is now Germany, the son of Amalia (Rosenheim) and Jacob Cassel. His family were Ashkenazi Jews. His father owned a small bank, but the son Ernest arrived penniless in Liverpool, England in 1869. There he found employment with a firm of grain merchants. With an enormous capacity for hard work and a natural business sense, Cassel was soon in Paris working for a bank. Being of Prussian origin, the Franco-Prussian War forced him to move to a position in a London bank.

He prospered and was soon putting together his own financial deals. His areas of interest were in mining, infrastructure and heavy industry. Turkey was an early area of business ventures, but he soon had large interests in Sweden, the United States, South America, South Africa, and Egypt.

One of the wealthiest men of his day, Cassel was a good friend of King Edward VII, prime minister H. H. Asquith and Winston Churchill. In 1878, he married Annette Mary Maud Maxwell at Westminster.[3] Their only child, Amalia Mary Maud Cassel (1879–1911), married Wilfrid Ashley, 1st Baron Mount Temple.

Cassell became a Roman Catholic at the behest of his wife, but many still considered him a Jew. The establishment was surprised to find out that he had converted when he chose to be sworn into the Privy Council with the Catholic Bible.[4]


Villa Cassel at Riederalp, Switzerland

Cassel retired from active financial operations in 1910. His philanthropic benefactions included £500,000 for educational purposes, £225,000 for a hospital for nervous diseases, £50,000 to King Edward's Hospital Fund in memory of his only child, besides large gifts during the First World War to the British Red Cross. He also built and endowed an Anglo-German Institute in 1911 in memory of King Edward VII.[5] He owned a castle in Switzerland, Riederfurka, which could only be safely accessed on a mule. When the inhabitants of the town nearby said they were going to make a better road to his property, he answered: "If you do, I'm not coming here anymore." Felix Somary, who tells this anecdote in his autobiography, visited him there in 1914 to persuade him that war was inevitable.

Cassel had a famous art collection and many beautiful houses. He bred racehorses and owned Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket.


After the early death of his wife Annette in 1881, he and his widowed sister Wilhemina (known as Bobbie) helped each other bring up his daughter, Maude, and Wilhemina's son (Felix Cassel) and daughter.[6] Maude also died as a young woman, leaving him two granddaughters Mary and Edwina on whom he doted. He was particularly attached to Edwina, who looked after him in his old age. She later married Lord Louis Mountbatten.

Cassel's nephew was the barrister Sir Felix Cassel, who later became Judge Advocate-General to the Forces.


Cassel caricatured by Spy for Vanity Fair, 1899

Cassel's friendship with the King and achievements in international finance earned him many British and foreign honours. Contemporary society gossip suggested that he demanded these as a return for his services.[4] In 1899, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG).[7] In 1901, he was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO).[8] In 1902, he was made a Privy Counsellor.[9] In 1905, he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George (GCMG) [10] and, in 1906, he was promoted to Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order (GCVO).[11] In the 1909 Birthday Honours, he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB).[12]

Awards received in thanks for services to foreign governments included Commander, first class, of the Royal Order of Vasa in 1900 from Sweden,[13] the Grand Cordon of the Imperial Ottoman Order of Osmanieh in 1903,[14] Commander of the Légion d'honneur in 1906 from France, the Order of the Crown, first class, in 1908 from Germany, the Grand Cross of the Order of the Polar Star in 1909 from Sweden, the Order of the Rising Sun, first class, in 1911 from Japan and the Order of the Red Eagle, first class with brilliants in 1913 from Germany.[4]

Funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Cassel died at Brook House, Park Lane, London. He and his wife are buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London, in a large grave in front of the Anglican All Souls' Chapel.

A few months after his death, Cassel's estate was probated at £6,000,000 (equivalent to £240 million today).[15]. However, in terms of gold (Britain being on the gold standard at the time of death), £6,000,000 is equivalent to 1.41 million troy ounces of gold, worth £1,500 million in 2012 (£1 = 1 Sovereign = 0.2354 tr.oz.).


In 1919, Cassel founded and endowed the Cassel Hospital, originally at Swaylands near Penshurst, and now at No. 1 Ham Common, Ham, near Richmond, London. The hospital is a therapeutic community for mental health patients; children, young people and families. It provides residential, day and outreach services. It is run by the NHS.


  1. ^ Rubinstein, William (2001). "Jewish top wealth—holders in Britain, 1809—1909". Jewish Historical Studies. 37: 137. Retrieved April 24, 2016 – via JSTOR. (registration required (help)). 
  2. ^ GRO Register of Deaths: SEP 1921 1a 414 ST GEO HAN SQ – Ernest J. Cassel, aged 69
  3. ^ GRO Register of Marriages: SEP 1878 1a 899 WESTMINSTER – Ernest Joseph Cassel = Annette Mary M. Maxwell
  4. ^ a b c Thane, Pal (2008). "Cassel, Sir Ernest Joseph (1852–1921)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/32323. Retrieved 25 January 2009. 
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Cassel, Sir Ernest Joseph". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  6. ^ pro natura. "Exclusive guests from the aristocracy and the world of high finance". pro natura. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  7. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27091. p. 3865. 20 June 1899. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27390. p. 9061. 24 December 1901. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27464. p. 5174. 12 August 1902. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27863. p. 8898. 12 December 1905. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27923. p. 4227. 19 June 1906. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 28263. pp. 4853–4854. 25 June 1909. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27156. p. 427. 23 January 1900. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27533. p. 1595. 10 March 1903. Retrieved 25 January 2009.
  15. ^ UK Consumer Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Gregory Clark (2016), "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)",

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