History

Rothschild family members in Waddesdon (National Trust, Waddesdon Manor)

The Rothschilds are a remarkable pan-European Jewish family

Taking their name from the house of their 16th century ancestors, “zum roten Schild” (at the sign of the red shield) in Frankfurt’s Jewish ghetto, they became one of the wealthiest and most powerful 19th century dynasties; bankers to monarchs and governments, builders of great houses and collectors of the finest art. Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), who founded the banking business, came from a modest merchant family who set up as a dealer in antique coins before becoming Court Agent to William, the future Elector of Hesse.

As the business expanded into trading government bonds and textiles, Mayer Amschel drew his five sons into the business, the “five arrows” of the family crest, who went on to establish the family name in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna and Naples. A key figure in the family’s expansion was Mayer Amschel’s third son, Nathan (1777-1836), who set up NM Rothschild and Sons in London, and their financial future was assured when they won the contract to fund the Duke of Wellington’s army during the Napoleonic campaign. In 1822 the brothers were made Barons by the Austrian Emperor. Their coat of arms is quartered with a fist holding the five arrows, symbolizing the brothers and their unity. Their motto, “Concordia, Integritas, Industria” refers to the qualities which lead to their success; unity, integrity and hard work.

Lord Rothschild’s family supports three philanthropic trusts: The Rothschild Foundation focusses solely on the UK and spans a wide range of charitable activities including the arts, heritage and culture; health care and medical research; social welfare and human rights; housing; conservation and horticulture.

In Israel, Yad Hanadiv, continues support for Jewish revival in Palestine begun by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in the second half of the 19th century. In addition to its diverse grantmaking, Yad Hanadiv funds the operation of the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park and Memorial Gardens, and is cooperating with the National Library in planning a state-of-the-art, 21st century National Library for the State of Israel.

The Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe supports initiatives across Europe and continues the family’s philanthropic commitment to Jewish causes. Lord Rothschild serves as our President and Sir Victor Blank is the Chair of Trustees.

The Rothschilds at Waddesdon; The Jewish Heritage