Maurice Arnold de Forest, Graf von Bendern

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Maurice Arnold de Forest

Also Known As: "Maurice Arnold de Forest-Bischoffsheim"
Birthplace: Rue Legendre, Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Death: Died in Biarritz, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward de Forest and Juliette Arnold
Ex-husband of Ethel Katherine Hannah Gerard and Mathilde Madeleine Rose Letellier
Father of Count John Gerard de Forest, alias de Bendern; Alaric de Forest, alias de Bendern; Ingvar Engström de Forest and Mabel Béatrix Clara Mary Magdalen Deforest
Brother of Raymond de Forest

Managed by: Gunnel Ingrid Jeanne-Marie Troberg
Last Updated:

About Maurice Arnold de Forest, Graf von Bendern

Maurice Arnold de Forest (9 January 1879 – 6 October 1968), known as Baron de Forest from 1900–20 and Count de Bendern from 1932, was an early motor racing driver, aviator and Liberal politician in the United Kingdom

Early lifeHe was the second son of Ferdinand Raphael Bischoffsheim (1837–1909) and his wife Mary Paine (1853–1900),[citation needed] but it was widely believed that he was the illegitimate son of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII of the United Kingdom.[2][1] He was adopted by his aunt Baroness Clara de Hirsch, née Bischoffsheim, and her husband Baron Maurice de Hirsch de Gereuth. Both his adoptive parents came from prominent banking families and were noted philanthropists. He was educated at Eton College and Christ Church, Oxford.[1] In 1899 he was awarded the title Freiherr von Forest by Emporer Franz Joseph I of Austria.[3] In the following year he was naturalised to become a British citizen, and was authorised to bear the title Baron de Forest by royal licence.[4]

De Forest converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism.[2] In 1901 he married Mathilde Madeleine Menier, née Letellien, the widow of Albert Menier.[5] They had one daughter. The marriage was declared null and void by a decree of the Pope in 1902.[5] In 1904 he married the Hon. Ethel Gerard, daughter of the William Cansfield Gerard, 2nd Baron Gerard. They had two sons.[5] The marriage broke down in January 1910.[5]

De Forest, who was a wealthy man, was a childhood friend of Winston Churchill. Churchill spent much time on De Forest's yacht and at his castle at Eichorn in Austria.[6]

Motoring and aviationDe Forest was an enthusiast for the emerging technologies of motor cars and aeroplanes. An accomplished motor racing driver, he competed in a number of major races including the Gordon Bennett Cup in auto racing.[7] From 1903–1905 he held the Daily Mail Challenge Cup, having attained a record speed over the flying kilometre at Phoenix Park, Dublin, breaking the world land speed record.[8] [9] [10] [11]

In 1909 he offered the Baron de Forest Prize of £2,000 to the first Englishman who could fly across the English Channel in an English-built aeroplane. When a Frenchman, Louis Blériot successfully crossed the Channel in July 1909, he doubled the prize to £4,000. It was eventually won by Thomas Sopwith in December 1910.[12]

He was also a rider of the Cresta Run in St. Moritz where a cup was named after him.[13]

PoliticsDe Forest was active in the Liberal Party, and at the January 1910 general election stood as parliamentary candidate at Southport. Despite the support of Churchill, De Forest was defeated by his Conservative opponent, Major Godfrey Dalrymple-White in a campaign marred by racist slurs.[2]

In March 1910 he was elected to the London County Council as a member of the Liberal-backed Progressive Party, representing Kennington. He held the seat until 1913.[14]

In July 1911 a parliamentary by-election was called for the seat of West Ham North, and de Forest was chosen to defend the seat for the Liberals. In his election address he stated that he was in favour of land nationalisation, Irish Home Rule, revised licensing laws, female suffrage and equality of religion in education.[15] He retained the seat for the Liberal Party, with an increased majority.[16] He held the seat until the next general election in 1918.[1]

First World War and aftermathWith the outbreak of war with Germany and Austro-Hungary in 1914, attempts were made to prosecute de Forest as an enemy sympathiser.[12] However, with Churchill's assistance, he was able to resist the pressure. He joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve in 1914, subsequently serving in the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Section.[6] [1]

Following the war, a decision was taken that persons authorised to use titles granted by "enemy states" should have this right withdrawn. Accordingly, de Forest was requested to "voluntarily" relinquish his title. He initially refused to do so, but finally relented, and a royal warrant was issued on 16 January 1920 that relinquished "the rights and privileges" granted to him "in consideration of the fact that the said foreign titles of nobility appertain to Countries now or recently at war with Us". He became known as Maurice Arnold de Forest.[17]

The family estates in Moravia were confiscated by the new state of Czechoslovakia for which de Forest was paid £100,000 compensation.[1]

Later lifeIn 1932 he was naturalised in Liechenstein, was granted the title Count Maurice de Bendern, and was appointed a diplomatic counsellor to the principality. De Bendern amassed a valuable art collection including a work by Frans Hals. He maintained a villa at Cap Martin on the French Riviera, which contained an animal sanctuary. He died in Biarritz in October 1968, aged 89.[1]
RelativesHis son John Gerard married Lady Patricia Sybil Douglas, daughter of Francis Douglas, 11th Marquess of Queensberry. Their children included Emma de Bendern, who married firstly journalist Nigel Dempster and thirdly Prince George Galitzine,[18] and Caroline de Bendern, who married saxophonist Barney Wilen[citation needed] and associated with Olivier Mosset, Amanda Lear and Salvador Dali.[19] On 13 May 1968, during the protests in Paris, Caroline de Bendern was photographed by Jean-Pierre Rey sitting on the shoulders of painter Jean-Jacques Lebel waving a Vietnam flag. The photograph, named La Marianne de Mai 68, featured in the reports on the protests in Life causing her grandfather Count de Bendern to disinherit her.[20]
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Maurice Arnold de Forest, Graf von Bendern's Timeline

January 9, 1879
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
Age 21
March 5, 1902
Age 23
Paris, Paris, Île-de-France, France
June 1903
Age 24
February 11, 1904
Age 25
Age 25
Age 27
Age 31
November 11, 1938
Age 59
Klara församling
October 6, 1968
Age 89
Biarritz, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France