On April 22, 1710, Francisco Lopes Suasso, scion of one the wealthiest and most influential banking families of the Dutch Golden Age, died in the Hague, at the approximate age of 53.
Francisco Lopes Suasso – known within the Jewish community of Amsterdam as Abraham Israel Suasso – was born in that city in or around 1657. He was the oldest son of Antonio Lopes Suasso (1614–1685) and Violenta de Pinto. Both parents were descendants of Converso families that left Spain after the Inquisition and eventually made their way to the Netherlands, where they were able to resume living openly as Jews. Antonio had apparently been born in Bordeaux, and Violenta in Antwerp.
Francisco was born into wealth: Antonio was a successful banker, one who was as prized for his political acumen as for his financial skills. Although the family had been driven from Spain, Antonio maintained good relations with King Charles II, loaning him funds in 1672, when he was defending Spain’s possessions in the Netherlands from a French invasion. In return, Charles bestowed the title of Baron d’Avernas le Gras on Antonio in 1676.
Antonio’s bank also provided financial support to the stadtholders, the effective rulers of each of the Dutch provinces under Spanish sovereignty.
Banking an invasion of England
In 1682, Francisco, the son, married Judith Francisco Texeira, whose father was yet another Sephardi-Jewish banker, Manoel Isaac Texeira, of Hamburg. Had their marriage yielded sons, a new banking dynasty combining the holdings of both families would have been created. Sadly, though, Judith died in 1689, having borne no children.
In the meantime, Francisco, upon the death of his father in 1685, inherited half of his estate, which was largely made up of shares of the Dutch East India Company
Like Antonio before him, Francisco was politically astute as well as rich, and it was to him who William of Orange turned in 1688 when he was preparing to invade England, intending to overthrow the king, his father-in-law, the Catholic James II.
Francisco provided the future William III of Britain with a loan of two million guilders, an astronomical sum at the time. But no less impressive is that when William asked him what he demanded in terms of collateral, Francisco responded – at least according to the legend – “If thou art victorious, I know thou wilt return them to me; art thou not victorious, I agree to having lost them.”
The word of William
William was of course victorious, and he did repay his banker. The chest in which he delivered the returned money is still on display at the Willet-Holthuisen Museum in Amsterdam.
Francisco’s assistance to the crown went further, with him taking responsibility for other elements of the invasion, including providing for the transport of Swedish and Pomeranian troops, sent by the king of Sweden to assist William in the operation. This Suasso did with the assistance of his then-father-in-law Manoel Texeira, in Hamburg.
Other Dutch Jews similarly assisted William and hoped for his success, even holding a special service at the Portuguese Synagogue the day after he sailed. They not only expected his conquest to lead to an improvement of conditions for their Jewish brethren in England, but also, according to historian Jonathan Israel, expected it to be beneficial to their own ties with the Sephardi communities of the British colonies in the Caribbean, including Barbados and Jamaica.
In 1694, Francisco Lopes Suasso married Leonora (Rachel) da Costa: She bore him 10 children, including seven sons.
Francisco died on this day in 1710. He was buried in the Etz Haim Cemetery at Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, just outside Amsterdam. His eldest son, Isaac Lopes Suasso, took over from him as head of the family business, and inherited the title of Baron d’Avernas le Gras.