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Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck

guido henckel von donnersmarck
Guido Georg Friedrich Erdmann Heinrich Adalbert Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck, from 1901 Prince Fürst Henckel von Donnersmarck born 10 August 1830 in Breslau, died 19 December 1916 in Berlin was a German nobleman, industrial magnate, member of the House Henckel von Donnersmarck and one of the richest men of his time He was married in his first marriage to the famed French courtesan Esther Lachmann, known as La Païva, of Russian Jewish origin


  • 1 Career
  • 2 Marriages
  • 3 Later life
  • 4 Legacy
  • 5 See also
  • 6 References
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 External links


Born in Breslau, Silesia, he was the son of Karl Lazarus, Count Henckel von Donnersmarck 1772–1864 and his wife Julie, née Countess von Bohlen 1800–1866 When his older brother Karl Lazarus Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck died in 1848, his father transferred his numerous mining properties and ironworks in Silesia to Guido

Henckel also had a sister, Wanda 1826–1907, who married in 1843 Ludwig, Prince von Schönaich-Carolath[1] Friedrich von Holstein claimed that the father of one of her sons was either a waiter or a coachman; "One must choose between the two," Holstein wrote[2]

Henckel lived in Paris in the 1860s with his mistress later wife, Pauline Thérèse Lachmann, Marquise de Païva, known as La Païva, the most successful of 19th century French courtesans He engaged in stock market speculations, and Otto von Bismarck sometimes found his shady contacts politically useful[3] Henckel purchased for his mistress the Château de Pontchartrain in Seine-et-Oise[4]

Like many other Prussian business and political figures, Henckel was a reserve officer, and during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 he was military governor in Metz and for competent for the to-be-annexed Département de la Lorraine 1871–1872 During the negotiations for the French war indemnity in 1871 he advised Bismarck that France could easily pay it[5] - and indeed, the indemnity payments were completed ahead of schedule in 1873

After Henckel's return to Germany with his wife in 1877, Bismarck occasionally entrusted him with discreet political or financial transactions In 1884, for instance, Henckel arranged a loan for Bismarck's old friend, Prince Orlov, at that time the Russian ambassador in Berlin[6]

Henckel maintained a well-stocked game preserve on his estate at Neudeck in Silesia When Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Neudeck for a shoot in January 1890, he was able to kill 550 pheasants in a single day[7]

As an investor in the publishing company, in 1894 Henckel was unwillingly drawn into the dispute between the editor of Kladderadatsch and Geheimrat Friedrich von Holstein of the Foreign Office In a series of anonymous articles the journal had held up to ridicule Holstein, Alfred von Kiderlen-Wächter and Philipp zu Eulenburg Kiderlen challenged the editor of Kladderadatsch to a duel and wounded him, but Holstein was not satisfied He issued a similar challenge to Henckel, who maintained his innocence and declined to fight Wilhelm II wisely refused to force Henckel to fight Holstein, for, years later, two junior officials of the Foreign Office asserted that they had been the authors of the Kladderadatsch articles[8]

Wilhelm II granted Henckel the title of Fürst in 1901 The same year he declined appointment as Prussian Minister of Finance upon the death of Johannes Miquel[9]

In the years preceding World War I Henckel was estimated to be the second-wealthiest German subject, his fortune exceeded only by that of Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach

In 1916 he founded the Fürst Donnersmarck Foundation in Berlin with the donation of about 620 acres 25 km2 of land and four million Goldmarks, an institution instituted to make scientific use of the experiences gained in World War I and to apply these insights in a therapeutic way, and now supporting the rehabilitation, care, and support of the physically and multiply disabled as well as research supporting that care


His first wife was Pauline Thérèse Lachmann b Moscow, 7 May 1819 – d Neudeck, 21 January 1884, a courtesan better known as La Païva They married in Paris on 28 October 1871 Besides the château of Pontchartrain, Henckel gave her the famous yellow Donnersmarck Diamonds - one pear-shaped and weighing 824 carats 1648 g, the other cushion-shaped and 1025 carats 2050 g [10] Horace de Viel-Castel wrote that she regularly wore some two million francs' worth of diamonds, pearls and other gems

It was widely believed, but never proved, that La Païva and her husband were asked to leave France in 1877 on suspicion of espionage[11] In any case, Henckel brought his wife to live in his castle at Neudeck in Upper Silesia He had a second estate at Hochdorf in Lower Silesia

His second wife was Katharina Slepzow b St Petersburg, Russia, 16 February 1862 – d Koslowagora, 10 February 1929 They were married at Wiesbaden on 11 May 1887 They had two children, Guido Otto 1888–1959 and Kraft Raul Paul Alfred Ludwig Guido 1890–1977

The prince commissioned a superb tiara for Princess Katharina, composed of 11 exceptionally rare Colombian emerald pear-shaped drops, which weigh over 500 carats and which are believed to have been in the Empress Eugénie's personal collection[12] The most valuable emerald and diamond tiara to have appeared at auction in the past 30 years, was auctioned by Sotheby's for CHF 11,282,500, CHF 2 million more than the highest estimate, on May 17, 2011 in Geneva[13] The Donnersmarcks' jewellery collection was known to be on a par with, or even to have exceeded, those of many of the crowned heads of Europe

Later life

Henckel remained interested in political affairs even in the last years of his long life Beginning in the winter of 1913-14 he had numerous conversations with US Ambassador James W Gerard, to whom he described his role in the French indemnity negotiations of 1871 He expressed his long-standing support for a protective tariff on agricultural products as well as government encouragement of German manufacturing interests Henckel proposed that Gerard should take his second son, then nearly 24, to America to see the great iron and coal districts of Pennsylvania[14]

With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Henckel advocated levying a war indemnity even larger than that of 1871[15] In 1915 he joined Fürst Hermann von Hatzfeldt head of the German Red Cross, Bernhard Dernburg, Hans Delbrück, Adolf von Harnack and others in signing a petition opposing the annexation of Belgium[16]

Seeing through the military's glib propaganda and increasingly anxious about Germany's growing war debt,[17] Henckel von Donnersmarck died in Berlin in December 1916 at the age of 86


Following World War I, Neudeck passed to Polish sovereignty as Świerklaniec; Hochdorf remained in German territory until 1945 Katharina Fürstin Henckel von Donnersmarck died at Koslowagora, today Kozłowa Góra, neighbourhood of Piekary Śląskie, in February 1929

A decade later, during the preparations for the German invasion of Poland, Guido's son, Guido Otto Fürst Henckel von Donnersmarck met with Oberstleutnant Erwin Lahousen of Abwehr military intelligence at Hochdorf on 11 June 1939 to offer the assistance of the entire forestry staff of his Polish estate The offer was accepted[18] With the German defeat in 1945 and the coming of Communist rule, the family's estates were confiscated, and they went into exile in the West

See also

  • Henckel von Donnersmarck family line


  1. ^ Prince Ludwig 1811-1862
  2. ^ Cited in Werner Richter, Bismarck, p 259n New York: GP Putnam's Sons, 1964
  3. ^ Richter, p 258
  4. ^ Pierre Levellois and Gaston d'Angelis ed dirs, Les châteaux de l'Ile de France, pp 170-172 Paris: Hachette, 1965 English translation of French edition of 1963
  5. ^ James W Gerard, My Four Years in Germany, p 33 New York: George H Doran Company, 1917
  6. ^ Richter, p 259
  7. ^ Giles MacDonogh, The Kaiser The Life of Wilhelm II, p 158 New York: St Martin's Griffin, 2000 mw-parser-output citecitationmw-parser-output citation qmw-parser-output id-lock-free a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-free amw-parser-output id-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output id-lock-registration a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-registration amw-parser-output id-lock-subscription a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-subscription amw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registrationmw-parser-output cs1-subscription span,mw-parser-output cs1-registration spanmw-parser-output cs1-ws-icon amw-parser-output codecs1-codemw-parser-output cs1-hidden-errormw-parser-output cs1-visible-errormw-parser-output cs1-maintmw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registration,mw-parser-output cs1-formatmw-parser-output cs1-kern-left,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-leftmw-parser-output cs1-kern-right,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-rightmw-parser-output citation mw-selflinkISBN 0-312-30557-5
  8. ^ Virginia Cowles, The Kaiser, p 121 New York: Harper & Row, 1963
  9. ^ Christopher M Clark, Kaiser Wilhelm II, p 98 Harlow, UK: Longman, 2000 ISBN 0-582-24559-1
  10. ^ "Noble jewels" PDF Sothebys
  11. ^ Levellois and d'Angeli, p 172
  12. ^ "Going, Going, GoneSold Tiaras" Order of Splendor blog
  13. ^ Sotheby's catalog No 443
  14. ^ Gerard, p 33
  15. ^ Gerard, pp 33-34
  16. ^ Gerard, p 246
  17. ^ Gerard, p 34
  18. ^ Heinz Höhne, Canaris Hitler's Master Spy, p 337 New York: Cooper Square Press, 1999 Originally published in 1979 ISBN 0-8154-1007-7


  • Regarding personal names: Graf was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname It is translated as Count Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given Graf Helmuth James von Moltke Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix von, zu, etc, can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names Helmuth James Graf von Moltke Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting The feminine form is Gräfin
  • Regarding personal names: Fürst was a title before 1919, but now is regarded as part of the surname It is translated as Prince Before the August 1919 abolition of nobility as a legal class, titles preceded the full name when given Graf Helmuth James von Moltke Since 1919, these titles, along with any nobiliary prefix von, zu, etc, can be used, but are regarded as a dependent part of the surname, and thus come after any given names Helmuth James Graf von Moltke Titles and all dependent parts of surnames are ignored in alphabetical sorting The feminine form is Fürstin

External links

  • Fürst Donnersmarck-Stiftung zu Berlin - Foundation for people with disabilities founded 1916 by Fürst von Donnersmarck

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