Baron JACQUES D’ADELSWÄRD-FERSEN (d: 1923) was a French novelist and poet. His life forms the basis of a fictionalized biography by Roger Peyrefitte.
In 1903 a scandal involving school pupils made him persona non grata in the salons of Paris, and dashed his marriage plans; after which he took up residence in Capri in self-imposed exile with his long-time lover, Nino Cesarini. He became a “character” on the island in the inter-war years, featuring in novels by Compton MacKenzie and others. His house, Villa Lysis, remains one of Capri’s tourist attractions.
In 1903 d’Adelsward and his friend, Albert François (Hamelin) de Warren (1881-1928), brother of Rene de Warran were rumored to be holding “entertainments” – tableaux vivants – of pupils from the best Parisian schools – in his house at 18 Avenue de Friedland. One of the first alleged “victims” was Eduardo (Bruno) de Warren (1886-1957), brother of Hamelin.
Jacques and Hamelin were arrested on charges of inciting minors to commit debauchery. d’Adelswärd-Fersen was arrested on 9th of July by Octave Hamard, chief of the Paris police and his deputy Blot by order of Charles de Valles, pretrial judge. The order stated the suspicion of indecent behavior with minors and offending the public decency. He was brought to La Santé Prison after arrest. The newspapers and magazines published alleged details of Jacques’ and Hamelin orgies, which they called ‘Messes Noires’ – Black Masses in their homes twice a week with youngsters from high classes, mostly recruited from Lycée Carnot, Chaptal, Condorcet, Janson-deSailly and Saint-Joseph-des-Tuileries school.
According to Peyrefitte, the scandal started with a failed blackmail attempt by Jacques’ former servant demanding 100000 francs in return for his silence. Jacques’ mother refused to pay, he went to the police. At the beginning, police dismissed the allegations. But the story was later confirmed by another arrested blackmailer who was an intimate acquaintance of Albert François de Warren. Will H.C. Ogrinc reports that after investigating French National Archive in 2003, he didn’t find any documents about failed blackmail attempt by Jacques’ former valet and it was probably invented by Peyrefitte.
By the court documents, the valet, whose name was Velpry told to investigators about the seldom visits of brothers Croisé de Pourcelet to Fersen apartment and that after one of their visits, he had found obscene photos and handkerchiefs stained with sperm on the table. He also claimed that he let know Jacques’ mother about it and quit his job. Some documents mention that Jacques was blackmailed by several rent boys he had relations with. The dossier mentions names of six rent boys: Beret, Boscher, twenty-one-year-old Kothé, Lefebvre, nineteen-year-old Leroy, and fifteen-year-old Verguet, though there is no mention who of them may be the blackmailer.
Police started to watch some of schoolboys, which at first sight confirmed the allegations. Hamelin had fled to the United States on 27 June 1903, but d’Adelsward was arrested. His aunt Jeanne d’Adelswärd and former guardian viscount Audoin de Dampierre employed a lawyer who previously defended Alfred Dreyfus
The construction of his famous villa was completed in July 1905. Villa Lysis is a notable building. Its style is described by some as “Liberty” but is not Liberty or Art Nouveau in the French manner but may perhaps be described as “Neoclassical decadent”. The large garden is connected to the villa by steps leading to an Ionic portico. In the atrium a marble stairway with wrought-iron balustrade leads to the first floor, where there are bedrooms with panoramic terraces, and a dining room. The ground-floor sitting-room, decorated with blue majolica and white ceramic, overlooks the Gulf of Naples. In the basement there is a ‘Chinese Room’, in which opium was smoked.
d’Adelswärd-Fersen and Nino traveled to Paris, where Jacques delivered a manuscript to publishers and went directly to Oxford. After returning to Capri, Jacques, Nino and their four boy servants traveled to Chine. They all returned to Villa Lysis at the beginning of 1907.
Jacques d’Adelswärd-Fersen spent the rest of his life based in Capri, and died there in 1923 —allegedly by suicide achieved through drinking a cocktail of champagne and cocaine. His ashes are conserved in the non-Catholic cemetery of Capri. His lover, Nino Cesarini, returned to Rome.