Von der Leyen (family from Krefeld)

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File:Friedrich von der Leyen (1732-1787).jpg
Friedrich von der Leyen (1732–1787)

von der Leyen is a German noble family of silk merchants and industrialists, who built a major textile business in Krefeld in the 18th century and were raised to Baronial rank by Napoleon. In its heyday, the family delivered silk to most of the European high aristocracy. The family is not related to the princely House of Leyen.

In 1656 the family was forcibly expulsed from Radevormwald due to their Mennonite beliefs, and sought refuge in the free city of Krefeld. In Krefeld, Adolf von der Leyen continued the family's silk business. In 1720, Peter von der Leyen founded a factory producing sewing silk, and in 1724, brothers Johann, Friedrich and Heinrich founded a silk dyeing factory. By 1763, half of Krefeld's population of 6082 worked for the von der Leyen family. In 1760, the family founded the Von der Leyensche Stiftung (foundation) to support local Mennonites.

In 1772, the family bought the Kiekhorst Manor, where they built a castle, Schloss Leyenburg. In 1794, Conrad von der Leyen built another residence, that became known as the City Palace (Stadtschloss) and that currently serves as town hall. In 1803, Friedrich Heinrich von Friedrich von der Leyen bought Schloss Bloemersheim near Neukirchen-Vluyn, which is still owned by the family, and the following year, he bought Meer Manor in Meerbusch. In 1804, Napoleon visited Krefeld and lived in the von der Leyen home.

Friedrich Heinrich von Friedrich Freiherr von der Leyen became mayor of Krefeld, later a member of the French constitutional assembly, was appointed a Baron by Napoleon and later also by Prussia and received many French and Prussian recognitions.

In 1828, the workers at the Leyen factory rebelled against their employers. Karl Marx described it as the "first workers' uprising in German history."[1]

Heiko von der Leyen, husband of politician Ursula von der Leyen (German Federal Minister for Defence), belongs to this family.


  1. Krefeld - Der Aufstand der Seidenweber, rp-online.de vom 13. Mai 2011

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