Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck (1830–1916)

Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck became one of the richest men of his time and from 1901 held the title of ‘Furst’ (i.e. prince). He was renowned for his playboy life style, but nevertheless had a profound influence on industrial developments in Germany, particularly in Silesia.

He was born in Wrocław (then Breslau in Prussia) to a family that already had interests in mining and ironworking, which he took over from his father in 1848. He gained notoriety when he moved to Paris in the 1850s, and subsequently lived openly with a courtesan, Pauline Lachmann (1819-1884), Marquise de Paiva, a Russian Jewess known as La Paiva. He continued to hold rank in the Prussian army and was military governor of Metz during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He returned to live in Germany in 1877 and was active in Imperial politics, becoming a close confidant of the Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck (1815-98).

He had interests in coal mines and ironworks in Silesia, in the mining and smelting of zinc at Lipine, and in the Niederrheinhütte (Lower Rhine ironworks) at Duisburg, but also did much to encourage new industries by investing in plants making wood pulp, paper, cellulose and rayon.