Baron Nathan von Rothschild

Baron Nathan von Rothschild

Male 1777 - 1836  (58 years)    Has 4 ancestors and more than 100 descendants in this family tree.

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  • Name Nathan von Rothschild 
    Prefix Baron 
    Relationshipwith Francis Fox
    Born 7 Sep 1777  Frankfurt Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 28 Jul 1836  Frankfurt Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I303160  Geneagraphie
    Last Modified 22 Sep 2001 

    Father Mayer Amschel Rothschild,   b. 23 Feb 1743,   d. 19 Sep 1812, Frankfurt Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 69 years) 
    Mother Gutele Schnapper,   b. 23 Aug 1753,   d. 7 May 1849  (Age 95 years) 
    Married 29 Aug 1770 
    Siblings 9 siblings 
    Family ID F121616  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Hannah Cohen,   b. 1783,   d. 1850  (Age 67 years) 
    Married 1806 
    Children 
    +1. Baroness Charlotte von Rothschild,   b. 1807,   d. 1859  (Age 52 years)
    +2. Baron Lionel von Rothschild,   b. 1808,   d. 1879  (Age 71 years)
    +3. Baron Anthony de Rothschild,   b. 1810,   d. 1876  (Age 66 years)
    +4. Nathaniel de Rothschild,   b. 1812,   d. 1870  (Age 58 years)
    +5. Baroness Hannah Mayer von Rothschild,   b. 1815,   d. 1864  (Age 49 years)
    +6. Baron Mayer Amschel von Rothschild,   b. 1818,   d. 1874  (Age 56 years)
    +7. Baroness Louise von Rothschild,   b. 1820,   d. 1894  (Age 74 years)
    Last Modified 20 Sep 2001 
    Family ID F121619  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Photos
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    303160.jpg

  • Notes 
    • Rose to more power than any other man in England
      The Austrian Emperor had created him and his brothers barons.
      Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian consul general in London

      It seems a paradox that Nathan Rothschild, for whose sake The Family had sneaked that extra arrow into the escutcheon, never displayed that escutcheon; never used the baronial title or let himself be thus styled; and never wore any of the various medals bestowed on him in the course of his life.
      Actually, his behavior conformed exactly to the clan's dynastic logic. Every brother settled in the country most fitted to his temperament, or else he fitted his temperament to the country. Nathan sensed that liberal England would take poorly to a baron manufactured by absolutist Vienna. As a naturalized British citizen, he was wary of foreign honors. More importantly, he disdained fanfare, flounce and flourish. His forte was not manner but power. Like the English, the master race of shopkeepers, he pocketed continents while grunting dryly about the weather. Of course, he grunted with a ghetto accent. But that did not keep him from becoming the greatest and most phlegmatic of Whig tycoons. He knew even before Heinrich Heine phrased it that "the main army of Rothschild enemies is made up of have-nots: they all say to themselves, 'What I have not, Rothschild has.'"
      Nathan sensed that the kind of envy his kind of wealth excited could not be smiled or bowed or entertained away. And so he dealt with it through the loaded pistol that always lay under his pillow. He dealt with it through gruffness and bluntness. The Austrian Empire appointed him consul general in London for his enormous influence, not for his diplomatic tact. Almoners, particularly those acting on behalf of the poor Jews of London, reported that they got thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of pounds out of Mr. Rothschild, but hardly a word and never a courtesy. Other rich men could enjoy their charity. It is, after all, an honor to give much. But not for Nathan Rothschild. He was so renownedly rich that all he could ever give was not enough. In his own fashion he liked to revenge himself on paupers for giving him such trouble. "Sometimes," he said to his good friend Sir Thomas Buxton, the antislavery leader, "sometimes to amuse myself I give a beggar a guinea. He thinks I have made a mistake, and for fear that I should find him out, off he runs as hard as he can. I advise you to give a beggar a guinea sometimes; it is very amusing."
      But he did not shed gold coins on those who knew who he was. A predatory light gleamed in the eyes of porters and footmen as soon as they recognized the stocky, thick-lipped Rothschild silhouette, and this always irritated him. To a bootblack who asked why his tip consisted of a penny when his son always dispensed a shilling, he answered, "The boy has a millionaire father. I don't." The Rothschild penny was the ancestor of the Rockefeller dime.
      Art dealers, thriving on millionaires with one tenth of his fortune, had little luck at Mr. Rothschild's house. "Can't throw away money on paintings," he said. And when Nathan said something, no argument, snobbish or esthetic, could unsay it.
      The world of beauty was irrelevant to him. And snobbery---a fine imitation of self-esteem for those who can't afford the real thing---meant nothing to a man who let a baronage lie fallow. Once an art dealer, equipped with a letter from the Chief Rabbi of England, did make something of a dent. "All right," Nathan said, "give me a thirty-pound picture. I don't care which one. Good-bye."
      To the top echelons of society he was not much more suave. "Yesterday," wrote Wilhelm Humboldt to his famous naturalist brother, Alexander, "Rothschild dined with me. He is quite crude and uneducated, but he has a great deal of natural intelligence. He scored off beautifully Major Martins who was being fatuously sentimental about the horrors of war and the large number who had been killed. 'Well,' said Rothschild, 'If they had not all died, Major, you would presumably still be a lieutenant!'"
      The Duke of Wellington made a habit of the Rothschild house, and though his Grace could be a magnificent boor himself, he brought along some of the most exquisite gentlemen, and ladies, of the realm. None could ameliorate Nathan's manners. Talleyrand, France's ambassador to the Court of St. James, often visited Rothschild, delighting Nathan's wife with his ancien regime courtliness, enchanting the children with the miniature statuary he could fashion from bread lumps. Nothing rubbed off on Nathan. At a ball given by the Duke of Wellington, the Duke of Montmorency appeared to talk rather pointedly of his long line of ancestors. "So you are the first Christian baron," Nathan rasped before the whole assembly. "I'm the first Jewish baron. That's more interesting, but I make less fuss about it." The ladies blanched. The orchestra quickly struck up a minuet. The Iron Duke smiled.
      When Nathan did make a fuss, the Bank of England trembled. He once presented for payment there a draft he had received from his brother Amschel.
      The bank returned it on the ground that it cashed only its own notes, not those of private individuals. "Rothschilds are not private individuals!" the banker thundered. His revenge is legendary. He appeared in Threadneedle Street next morning and asked that a ten-pound note be exchanged for gold. An astonished teller complied. Nathan repeated the request all morning, all day long; and so did nine clerks of his, with nine other equally swollen purses at nine other windows. In one day he reduced the bank's gold reserves by almost 100,000 pounds.
      At the opening hour of the next day the stout, relentless man was back again with his note-laden clerks. A bank executive appeared and asked, with a nervous laugh, how long this jest was to be kept up?
      "Rothschild will continue to doubt the Bank of England's notes," said Nathan, "as long as the Bank of England doubts Rothschild notes."
      At Threadneedle Street a directors' meeting was hastily convoked. It declared that henceforth the bank would be pleased to cash any check of the five brothers.
      By that time Nathan had already moved his family from New Court, St. Swithin's Lane (now completely absorbed by his offices) to the great mansion at 107 Piccadilly. Informed that his younger daughter, Hannah, possessed musical gifts, he gave her a harp of pure gold, and Rossini and Mendelssohn taught her to pluck sweet sounds from the instrument. His wife filled the halls with treasures, gathered great people around the table. They all came to see this phenomenon which had soared out of the Frankfurt ghetto to the summit of the British Empire. They admired the queer marvel. Some fawned, and more than one became a sincere friend. Inevitably, sniggers hid beneath certain smiles. It was then that the ambiguity of his eminence stirred in Nathan.
      On one such occasion a great violin virtuoso had finished a private recital at 107 Piccadilly. It was the host's duty to pronounce a few words of thanks. "You made beautiful music," said the man with the Jew Street accent. There seemed to be an imperfectly suppressed laugh. Nathan stopped. He jingled some change in his pocket. "That's my music," he then went on. "People listen to it just as carefully. But somehow they don't respect it as much." In one very practical way (the way he preferred) Nathan was wrong. The most practical form of respect is memory. Today we remember the virtuoso only as background to a Rothschild bon mot. As for Nathan, not only his words but his works endure into our time. The English state loans he issued, to the tune of twelve million pounds, tied his house to His Majesty's Government for generations to come, so that even today the bank at New Court is still gold broker for the Bank of England. He founded the Alliance Insurance Corporation, a giant that still flourishes mightily and is still headed by the London Rothschilds. And the three-million-pound loan with which he saved Brazil's finances still has its repercussions. New Court, in 1962, clips more South American coupons than any other private bank.
      A cold self-confidence, a lightning-quick astuteness marked each of his ventures. "I'm an offhand man," he once said to Buxton. "I never lost any time. I came prepared for everything and closed bargains on the spot. . . . I always said to myself, what another man can do, I can do too."
      The fact was, of course, that other men could not do what he did. The stock exchange has never known his like before or (with all due respect to Bernard Baruch) since. His darts and feints and intricate ferocities there are about as hard to trace as tracks in a jungle. But we do know that he practiced upon his rivals the gambit of Waterloo with an invincible variety of wiles.
      Say, for example, that his brothers' couriers brought him news likely to produce an eventual rise in stock X. By some unostentatious purchases he would accumulate a moderate quantity of the stock. At the same time word would go out from him to each of a number of secretly commissioned agents: buy a bit of X. Then Nathan would suddenly sell his holdings. The mass of speculators, always on the look-out for a bellwether, would begin to watch X worriedly. Whereupon, at a predetermined signal, all Rothschild agents would rid themselves of every X share they had. The speculators would panic. The sudden rush knocked even professionals off their skeptic stance: Nathan's infallibility was once more proved. Everybody dumped his X shares. Meanwhile another set of Rothschild agents bought up all the X available at a very depressed price---just prior to the general release of the news that raised the stock higher than ever.
      The next time the competition prepared itself for that kind of Nathan trick---only to fall into a trap constructed of opposite elements. You couldn't stop or even comprehend Rothschild, nor even the reason why he, having so much, wanted to conquer more. How many yellow stars imposed on how many ancestral caftans, how many flinchings and humiliations on Frankfurt sidewalks would this man avenge today after driving from New Court to the bourse?
      Napoleon on the battlefield was clad in no more dread mystery than Nathan Rothschild on the Royal 'Change. Like Napoleon, he always materialized in the same pose:
      he leaned against the "Rothschild pillar" (the first on the right as one entered from the Cornhill entrance), hung his
      heavy hands into his pockets, and began to release silent, motionless, implacable cunning. An anonymous contemporary has described it well:
      Eyes are usually called the windows of the soul. But in Rothschild's case you would conclude that the windows are false ones, or that there was no soul to look out of them. There comes not one pencil of light from the interior, neither is there one gleam of that which comes from without reflected in any direction. The whole puts you in mind of an empty skin, and you wonder why it stands upright without at least something in it. By and by another figure comes up to it. It then steps two paces aside, and the most inquisitive glance that you ever saw, and a glance more inquisitive than you would ever have thought of, is drawn out of the fixed and leaden eye, as if one were drawing a sword from a scabbard. The visiting figure, which has the appearance of coming by accident and not by design, stops just a second or two, in the course of which looks are exchanged which, though you cannot translate, you feel must be of most important meaning. After these the eyes are sheathed up again, and the figure resumes its stony posture.
      During the morning numbers of visitors come, all of whom meet with a similar reception and vanish in a similar manner. Last of all the figure itself vanishes, leaving you utterly at a loss. .
      This sovereign calm never left Nathan. It was his armor against the high world over which he was a ruler without ever having been its equal. The story goes that one day there swept through Nathan's offices in London an august ducal personage. He wore a visage of such fury that no clerk dared stay him. He broke into Nathan's private chamber and shouted his grievance. Nathan, not lifting an eye from his ledger, said, "Take a chair."
      The personage, purpling, roared his ancient lineage at the Jew, his illustrious connections, and slapped down a crested card before the banker's nose. Nathan glanced at the card for a fraction of a second. "Take two chairs," he said and continued writing his accounts.


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