Memories of the first Jewish peer – Nathaniel Rothschild
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Memories of the first Jewish peer – Nathaniel Rothschild

Nathaniel Rothschild (reproduced with the permission of the Rothschild Archive.)
Nathaniel Rothschild (reproduced with the permission of the Rothschild Archive.)
Nathaniel Rothschild (reproduced with the permission of the Rothschild Archive.)
Nathaniel Rothschild (reproduced with the permission of the Rothschild Archive.)

Memories of the first Jewish peer have been revived with a new book. Rebecca Wallersteiner leafs through a fascinating and gilded life

Why has the name of the first Jewish peer, Nathaniel Mayer Rothschild (Natty), faded from public memory despite his extraordinary success?

As head of the Rothschild bank in England, he was a leader of City opinion and world Jewry.

As a Liberal MP, he fought for social justice and knew the political movers and shakers of his day, including Benjamin Disraeli, Theodor Herzl, Cecil Rhodes, Balfour, Edward VII and Asquith. One hundred years after his death, a new biography by John Cooper reveals that Natty trashed many of his personal papers to hide the secrets of his own life and that of his mentor Disraeli, the first Jewish prime minister, making him less attractive to future biographers.

An executor of Disraeli’s estate, he kept hidden that the prime minister had fathered two children, outside marriage. He also handed over correspondence between Disraeli and Queen Victoria to Edward VII, whom he had known at Cambridge University. Born to a controlling and clever mother, Natty learnt to hide his feelings early. She accused him of “hoarding money” but, despite her criticism, his financial acumen helped Britain to overcome its financial crisis in 1914 and saved Russian Jews fleeing waves of pogroms.

24 turn bottomElected several times to the House of Commons, Natty refused to take the Christian oath and so initially couldn’t take his seat. When he eventually did, he hardly spoke. Natty married Emma von Rothschild, a beautiful German cousin who spoke five languages and drew and painted well, with whom he had three children.

His sense of fun was most apparent with children whom he showered with sweets, stories and gold coins. He was also attached to his dog, Snip. Under Natty’s guidance, the Rothschild bank reached the peak of its fortunes, benefiting from British imperial expansion, but also helping to finance it in Egypt and South Africa. Raised to the House of Lords by Gladstone, Lord Rothschild was the first Jewish peer not previously converted to Christianity.

He died in London, after an operation, in 1915 and was buried at Willesden Jewish Cemetery. Although not an easy read, this is an ambitious thought- provoking book full of historical insight to bring an elusive philanthropist back to life.

• The Unexpected Story of Nathaniel Rothschild (1840-1915) by John Cooper is out now in hardback, published by Bloomsbury Continuum and priced at £30

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments