How Handel played the markets

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I am a bit old now for scoops, but I seem to have run into one the other day, deep behind the scenes at the Bank of England.

BBC Radio 3 asked me to take part in the extensive commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the death of the great Anglo-German composer, George Frideric Handel.

They wanted to know about Handel's money and how he made it, ending up with a fortune (maybe £3m in today's money) in financial times no less tumultuous than our own day.

Interesting, and a programme rather different from my normal output on In Business and Global Business.

For one thing, no carbon footprint was required. All the locations were within bicycling distance for me and the producer Paul Frankl. I naturally agreed.

There is, of course, a torrent of wonderful music, but really rather few recollections of Handel the person.

Born in Germany, he ended up spending most of his life in London after his employer in Hanover became George I in 1714.
And there is a tantalising suggestion by Handel's biographer, Jonathan Keates, that he may have come to London in 1710 and settled in 1712 to spy out the land for the eventual Hanoverian successor to Queen Anne.


But delved into, the money story is a fascinating one. Handel seems to have been among the very first modern musicians not to rely on patronage of court or cathedral for his main income.

Instead, he was an entrepreneurial promoter, risking his own money on operas and oratorios. His fortunes waxed and waned with the popularity of the genres and the fashions of the time.

Eventually, oratorios made him a rich man. But he also did quite a lot of investing, and some records survive of his investments in the newly emerging financial markets...

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