1845 - 1917 (72 years)
Has 16 ancestors and 49 descendants in this family tree.
||Leopold de Rothschild |
|Relationship||with Francis Fox|
||21 Sep 2001 |
- The youngest brother balanced the eldest beautifully. Natty was a haughty lord; Leo was a kind sport. Not that he forgot the implications of his name. He maintained no less than four palatial residences. At 5 Hamilton Place---back of Rothschild Row at Hyde Park Corner---he built himself a town house with the following conveniences: a hydraulic lift which was so expensive to operate that it cost more to go from the first to the second floor than to travel by horsecab through all of London; for those who wanted to save money, a serpentine staircase completely hand-carved and perhaps the finest of its kind in all of England; a huge library, also entirely hand-carved, in maple and mahogany, on which forty imported Italian artisans worked for two years; a kitchen that could roast a whole ox on a spit; conduits under every windowsill and table surface to keep the food warm; and a great number of barely credible etceteras. The whole marvel survives intact as the plushiest private club in London. Another Leo household was many-splendored Gunnersbury Park, inherited from his father. In addition, he bought Palace House near the racing course at New market, where the King of England and similar types were glad to be his guests.
Finally, he owned an estate at Ascott Wing, a lovely country manor with miles of gardens and views. This, by far the most tasteful and probably the most pleasant of all Rothschild realms in Buckinghamshire, is the only one inhabited by The Family to this day. Ascott abutted on South Court, his stud farm and dearest passion. Racing was handed down to him as a legacy from his Uncle Mayer. Leo bred horses ingeniously, without regard to expense, and cheered them on without regard to English reserve. Sometimes it was hard to choose between spectacles: Mr. Leo's blurring thoroughbreds on the track, or his Oriental exuberance in his box. Uncle Mayer had won the Derby once; Leo won it twice, in 1879 and in 1904. In between, he led into the paddock literally hundreds of champions. That he did not win the Derby three times may be laid to rachmones of a very rarefied kind. The Prince of Wales, Leo's good friend, entered the Derby of 1896 with a virtually unknown animal named Persimmon. The blue-and-yellow Rothschild silks were represented by St. Frusquin, possibly the greatest four-legged celebrity of the fin de siecle. Leo had once been offered sixty thousand pounds for this horse, which had walked away with almost every important turf event in England. But in 1896 His Royal Highness happened to have rather more mistress trouble than usual. He stood in need of cheer. Somehow it happened that Persimmon came in first. Leo's compassion, if it was a factor here, extended to the humblest citizens as well. It was said of him that the more races he won, the more money he lost. To celebrate, he gave away not only the winner's purse but its multiples. Often he would gain a cup---and some hospital an entire wing.
Off the track his benevolence was no less active. Petitioners who did not dare come near Natty, or were fazed by Alfred's peculiarities, sidled up readily to Mr. Leo. He became the welfare minister of New Court. A cold day would, for some reason, give his openhandedness a special impetus, and he was especially touched by children. One winter Sunday, when he took a somewhat absent-minded stroll on Natty's lawns at Tring, he noticed a little shape before him. Instantly, automatically, he reached into his pocket. Only the frantic intervention of a butler saved him from a transcendental faux pas: he had been about to press a half crown on one of the royal dukes of England.
Mr. Leo became a byword of spontaneity and good-nature. In a clan that, for all its remarkable qualities, has never been notorious for sweetness, he stands out as a kind of darling mutation.
Of men like you
Earth holds but few:
*A quatrain taken from Cecil Roth's account of the three brothers.