Adolf Wilhelm Kessler

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Adolf Wilhelm Graf von Kessler

Adolf Wilhelm Kessler , von Kessler since 1879 , Count von Kessler since 1881 (born November 24, 1839 in Hamburg , † May 22, 1895 in Paris ) was a German banker and the father of the art collector and writer Harry Graf Kessler .


Kessler was a son of the Reformed preacher Johann Ulrich Kessler, who came to Hamburg from St. Gallen in Switzerland at the beginning of the 19th century , where he worked as a pastor of the German Reformed community and married into the Hamburg banking family Auffm'Ordt . The mother was Henriette Louise Auffm'Ordt.

Adolf Wilhelm Kessler joined his uncle Clement Auffm'Ordt's banking house and became head of the bank's Paris branch. After his marriage to Alice Harriet Blosse-Lynch in 1867, he lived with the family in Paris until the Franco-Prussian War forced them to move to England in 1870, where he ran the London branch of the bank. In 1872/73 he stayed with his family in the USA and then returned to London and in the mid-1870s to Paris. Adolf Wilhelm Kessler acquired a considerable fortune and had a prominent position in German and international social circles. During his summer stays he maintained close contacts with the Prussian court and associated in particular with the imperial adjutants general Heinrich von Lehndorff and Prince Anton Radziwill as well as Kaiser Wilhelm I. He made frequent trips, especially to England and America, and died immediately after returning from a trip to America in Paris.

One of his direct ancestors is said to have been the Swiss reformer Johannes Kessler , who disputed with Luther in the Black Bear in Jena in 1522 . Due to the origins of his father, Adolf Wilhelm Kessler and his family had both Hamburg and Swiss citizenship .


In 1879, Kessler was raised to the hereditary Prussian nobility by Kaiser Wilhelm . His elevation to the hereditary count status two years later by Prince Reuss j. L. caused a sensation in court society and was viewed with suspicion by numerous peers. There were no other counts in the tiny Thuringian principality, and the intermediate stage of the baron class had been skipped over during the survey. The Prussian heraldry did not recognize the count of bankers in Prussia. The later assertion by Bernhard von Bülow that this ascension of the rank led to the four German kingdoms having withdrawn the right of the small German states to ascertain counts independently is, however, incorrect.


Kessler's wife Alice, around 1868 (shortly after their marriage)

On August 10, 1867, Kessler married Alice Harriet Blosse-Lynch in Paris (born July 17, 1844 in Bombay, † September 19, 1919 in Normandy), a daughter of the Irish naval officer Henry Blosse-Lynch, the commander of the Anglo-Indian fleet in Bombay . Alice gave birth to her only son Harry (from 1881 Harry Graf Kessler ) in Paris on May 23, 1868 . In 1877 the daughter Wilma was born in London (Wilhelma Karoline Louise Alice Kessler, who later married Wilma Marquise de Brion called; † 1963); her godfather was Kaiser Wilhelm I. This was said to have an affair with Alice and he was also believed to be Harry's father, who noted in his diary: "I am generally considered a Hohenzoller, a son of Wilhelm I." The rumor that especially the As an admirer of Alice Kessler, later Reich Chancellor (and himself raised to Count in 1899 , in 1905 to Prince ) Bernhard von Bülow, is considered uncertain by historians, since the first guaranteed meeting between the king and Alice did not take place until 1870 in Bad Ems , so Harry probably cannot come from this connection. As an employee of the German Embassy in Paris, from 1878 onwards, Bülow was a regular spy in Kessler's Paris domicile on behalf of the Berlin court and had tried in vain to seduce the banker's wife in the absence of her husband. In his later memoirs, he assumed that Adolf von Kessler had used his wife's beauty profitably for his business interests.


  • Laird M. Easton: The Red Earl. Harry Kessler and his time. From the American by Klaus Kochmann. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2005 (2nd edition 2007, ISBN 978-3-608-93694-0 ), pp. 22-29.
  • Sabine Gruber and Ulrich Ott (eds.): Harry Graf Kessler. The diary. Vol. 9: 1926–1937 (= publications of the German Schiller Society; Vol. 50.9). Stuttgart 2010, pp. 871-873.
    (Name register of the editors, entries Kessler, Adolf Wilhelm Graf von and Kessler, Alice Harriet Gräfin von ; limited preview in the Google book search).

Individual evidence

  1. Hans-Ulrich Simon:  Kessler, Harry Graf von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 11, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1977, ISBN 3-428-00192-3 , p. 545 ( digitized version ).
  2. ^ Kai Drewes: Jüdischer Adel: Nobilitierungen von Juden in Europa des 19. Century. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2013, p. 84, note 197.
  3. See Bernhard von Bülow: Memoirs , Vol. 4, p. 497 f.
  4. Bülow refers to the secret agreement "to prevent abusive nobility awards" of October 26, 1888 between the kingdoms of Prussia , Saxony , Bavaria and Württemberg , which the other German federal states gradually joined until 1912 - albeit not without resistance; cf. Kai Drewes: Jewish nobility: the ennoblement of Jews in Europe in the 19th century. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2013, p. 338 with note 207 a. 208. This agreement did not, of course, contain a general prohibition on the awarding of counts diplomas.
  5. Harry Graf Kessler, quoted from: Der Rote Graf. In: Der Spiegel 52/1961, pp. 78-82 (quote: p. 79).
  6. Sabine Gruber and Ulrich Ott (eds.): Harry Graf Kessler. The diary. Vol. 9: 1926–1937 Stuttgart 2010, p. 11 (introduction by the editors); P. 872 (name register of the editors, entry Kessler, Alice Harriet Countess von ).