The Baron Rothschild is a title in the peerage of the United Kingdom, although the title is more properly that of the Baron Rothschild of Tring, and is in the possession of the English branch of the Rothschild family.
The founder of the Rothschild dynasty was Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) who was born in Frankfurt and was a descendant of the sixteenth century Isaak, son of Elchanan, who was the first of the line to be identified by the Rothschild name as he lived in the Judengasse at the sign of the red shield (roten schild). Mayer Rothschild was active in the family business of money changing but later diversified into such activities as the discounting of bills and trading in foreign currency, although his principle business became that of commodity dealing, particularly in the market for British textiles.
His third son Nathan Mayer Rothschild was despatched to Britain in 1798 where he established the firm of Rothschild Brothers in Manchester which traded as a textile merchant. However in 1809 Nathan Rothschild established an office in London and began to deal in bullion, bills of exchange and the like, which proved so successful that the Manchester business was wound up in 1811 as the firm of N M Rothschild & Sons Limited was established in London. With the assistance of the family network of businesses established in other major European cities by his four brothers, Nathan Mayer's business flourished as it developed an expertise in the practice of floating loans on behalf of foreign governments in the London market.
Nathan Rothschild later died of septicaemia on the 28th July 1836 and the business passed to his eldest son, Lionel Nathan de Rothschild. Under Lionel Rothschild's command the business of N M Rothschild & Sons continued to flourish and he was soon sufficiently wealthy to acquire his own country residence at Tring Park in Hertfordshire, together with an estate of some 10,000 acres in the Vale of Aylesbury. He also became the first Jew to sit in the House of Commons having been elected for the City of London in 1847, although it wasn't until 1858 that he was actually able to take his seat, when the form of oath required was amended to permit him to do so. (Or at least the first non-baptised Jew to do so, as others such as Benjamin Disraeli, were Jews by race if not by faith.)
Lionel Rothschild died at home on the 3rd June 1879, after suffering from rheumatic gout for many years, and was succeeded by his eldest son Nathaniel Mayer, generally known as Natty Rothschild, who also joined the family bank, and was the Liberal member for Aylesbury from 1865 until he was created the Baron Rothschild of Tring by William Gladstone on the 29th June 1885, becoming the first person to be raised to the British peerage "whilst still professing the Jewish faith", although he had already inherited a baronetcy from his uncle. However despite his previous political affiliations he generally supported the Conservative cause once in the House of Lords. He later died on the 31st March 1915 at his London home, and the title passed to his son Lionel Walter Rothschild.
The 2nd Baron was the Conservative member for Aylesbury between 1899 and 1910 and later served as the chairman of Tring Urban District Council. However he was more interested in natural history than either politics or indeed banking, and the small house that was built on his father's estate at Tring in 1889 to store his insects and books rapidly grew in size and was opened as a public museum in 1892. Between the years 1894 and 1948 it also issued its own periodical, Novitates Zoologicae. Perhaps more significantly, the 2nd Baron became one of the leading exponents of the cause of Zionism, and earned himself a place in the footnotes of history as the recipient of the letter from the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour regarding the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine that later became known as the Balfour Declaration.
The 2nd Baron died unmarried at Tring on the 27th August 1937. He left the museum and all its contents to the British Museum, whilst his titles and the family wealth passed to his nephew Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, the son of Charles Rothschild who had earlier committed suicide in 1923 while suffering from the effects of encephalitis. Generally known as Victor Rothschild, the 3rd Baron had attended Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a member of the Apostles and was close friends with both Anthony Blunt and Guy Burgess, a fact which caused him a great deal of trouble in later life when he suspected by some of being the 'fifth man'. But like his uncle the 3rd Baron was a zoologist rather than a banker, and was elected a fellow of Trinity in 1935 "for work of high promise on the fertilization of frogs' eggs", subsequently obtaining his a PhD in 1937. He spent much of World War II in charge of the counter-sabotage section of MI5, since his experience in dissecting frogs' eggs demanded a precision which was equally applicable to the task of defusing bombs, and he was awarded the George Medal in 1944 as a result of his success in disarming a new type of bomb which had been hidden in a cargo of Spanish onions by German agents.
After the war he returned to Cambridge to continue his research work and published Fertilization (1956) and also served as the chairman of the Agricultural Research Council and as the director of research for Royal Dutch-Shell. Politically speaking he joined the Labour Party in 1945, and sat in the House of Lords as a Labour peer, but nevertheless agreed to become the very first director-general of the Central Policy Review Staff which was set up by Edward Heath in 1971 (and later abolished by Margaret Thatcher in 1983). Although he professed little enthusiasm for the family business, he was persuaded in 1975 to become chairman of N. M. Rothschild & Sons. He subsequently died of a heart attack in London on the 20th March 1990 and was succeeded by his eldest son Nathaniel Charles Jacob.
Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild, more commonly known as Jacob Rothschild is the 4th and present Baron Rothschild of Tring as well as being a Baronet, and indeed a Baron of the Austrian Empire, since the 1st Baron's grandfather Nathan Mayer had been created as such on the 29th September 1822. Jacob Rothschild was active in the family bank but wanted to pursue a merger with S G Warburgs, a policy that was opposed by his cousin Evelyn de Rothschild who was in overall charge at the time. He subsequently left N. M. Rothschild and established his own financial empire based around the Rothschild Investment Trust later known as RIT Capital Partners and St. James's Place Capital. The 4th Baron was also regarded as a close personal friend of the Princess Diana, as well as being well acquainted with Rupert Murdoch and was at one time the deputy chairman of BSkyB.
His eldest son and heir apparent is Nathaniel Philip Victor James Rothschild, commonly known as Nat Rothschild, who is the co-chairman of Atticus Capital, a New York based hedge fund, although his contribution to that business is based on his ability to utilise "his extensive contacts to bring in investors" rather than in carrying out any trades or investments on behalf of the fund. He also holds a significant stake in TriGranit which claims to be the "third largest property developer in Europe" and is particularly active in Eastern Europe.
The Sunday Times Rich List 2008 estimated that the 4th Baron and his son had a combined wealth of some £1,400 million and were ranked no 53, although since Nat Rothschild was worth £650 million, he would have ranked no 126 thanks to his own efforts. However Atticus Capital has recently announced that it its funds were down more than $5 billion after misjudging the "scale and severity" of the "global economic downturn". He also served as an adviser to Oleg Deripaska, otherwise known as "Russia's richest man", and thus came to the public's attention as a result of the Deripaska affair.
THE BARONS ROTHSCHILD
- George Edward Cokayne, Vicary Gibbs, et al, The Complete Peerage (St Catherine's Press, 1910-1959)
- The entry for ROTHSCHILD from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 107th Edition
- The entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for; Rothschild, Lionel Nathan de, Baron de Rothschild in the nobility of the Austrian empire (1808–1879), Rothschild, Nathaniel Mayer Natty de, first Baron Rothschild (1840–1915), Rothschild, Lionel Walter, second Baron Rothschild (1868–1937), Rothschild, (Nathaniel Mayer) Victor, third Baron Rothschild (1910–1990)
- The entry for ROTHSCHILD from the JewishEncyclopedia.com
- Lord and Nat Rothschild, The Sunday Times April 27, 2008