Cassel, Sir Ernest Joseph

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CASSEL, SIR ERNEST JOSEPH (1852–1921), British financier. Cassel, a banker's son, was born in Cologne. As a boy, he began to work at the Eltzbacher bank. At 16, he went to England where he became a clerk for a Liverpool grain dealer. He subsequently joined the London banking firm of *Bischoffsheim and Goldschmidt where he showed his ability by solving the firm's problems in Sweden, Turkey, and Latin America. After his success in this enterprise Cassel became an independent financier and an international banking figure. His operations included: the financing of foreign governments such as China, Morocco, and Latin American countries; the formation of the National Bank of Egypt; construction of the first Aswan Dam; the consolidation of Vickers-Armstrong, Britain's leading arms manufacturers; and national and international railroad construction. He was made a baronet for his services to Egypt. Cassel was closely associated with King Edward vii, both as financial adviser and intimate friend. During World War i an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove him from the privy council because of his German descent. His philanthropic contributions, mainly to British causes, were estimated at several million sterling, and he left over £7 million at his death, probably the largest fortune ever left by a British Jew up to then. In 1878 Cassel married Annette Maxwell, and his granddaughter, Edwina (1901–1960), who inherited most of his wealth, married Earl Mountbatten of Burma (d. 1979), the uncle of Queen Elizabeth ii. Cassel died a Roman Catholic.


K. Grunwald, in: ylbi, 14 (1969), 119–61. add. bibliography: P. Thane, "Financiers and the British State: The Case of Sir Ernest Cassel," Business History 28 (1986), 80–99; odnb online; dbb, I, 604–14.

[Joachim O. Ronall]