Ernest Cassel was born in Germany. He was the son of a Jewish banker in Cologne. He moved to London at 18, where he got a place at a stockbroking firm with a focus on international business. By the age of 22, he became the firm’s chief banker.
Cassel had great success with their investments around the world. After a few decades, he was well-known, wealthy and feared.
In 1879, he married Anette Maxwell, the daughter of a Catholic landowner. Anette died, however, after only a few years from tuberculosis. The couple had a daughter, Maud. Cassel was determined to her make one of Britain’s richest women. Maud died in 1911, but she had two daughters. Edwina (named after Edward VII) was Cassel’s favorite.
Because Cassel was a successful financier, he was hired by the English court to bring order to their finances. He met the Prince of Wales, and later Edward VII, and they became close friends. It was Edward VII who knighted Ernest Cassel to Sir Ernest, and he became a member of the Privy Council. (Edward VII’s private cabinet).
Mining and railroad builder
Ernest Cassel had extensive business around the world. Among other things, he financed the first Aswan Dam in Egypt, as well as mines and railways in both South and North America. He also financed the first underground railway in London.
He invested the money in Sweden and took the initiative to Grängesbergs Grufvebolag and Grängesbergs joint mining management. He conducted an amalgamation of the small mines in the area. He financed the greater part of the Swedish railway company, the Swedish Central Railway Association. He even bought himself into the smaller railways in Bergslagen. This was the start of TGOJ (Traffic Grängesberg Oxelösunds Railways). Cassel’s mission was based on combined business ownership to handle all stages of production.
In 1914, Cassel sold his shares in the mines and railways in Sweden for an amazing SEK 70 million.
Cassel was a big fan of Anders Zorn’s art and was also a patron of Zorn art. For example, he arranged for Zorn to go to America and paint portraits, including that of the U.S.
Sir Ernest died in 1921. Three-fifths of his fortune, about 300 million, went to his granddaughter Edwina. The following year, she married Lord Mountbatten, who was the brother of Queen Louise of Sweden and was the last vice-king of India.
Cassel can be said to have been the king’s friend with direct links to the royal houses of England and Sweden.