Lionel de Rothschild

Lionel Nathan Freiherr de Rothschild (22 November 1808 – 3 June 1879) was a British Jewish banker, politician and philanthropist who was a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family of England. He became the first practising Jew to sit as a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom.[lower-alpha 1]

Lionel Freiherr de Rothschild
Member of Parliament
for the City of London
In office
1869  1874
Member of Parliament
for the City of London
In office
1847  1868
Personal details
Born22 November 1808
London, England
Died3 June 1879 (aged 70)
London, England
Resting placeWillesden Jewish Cemetery, Brent, London
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Charlotte von Rothschild
(m. 1836)

Life and career

The son of Nathan Mayer Rothschild and Hanna Barent Cohen, he was a member of the prominent Rothschild family. Both of his parents were Jewish. He was born in London, where his father had founded the British branch of the Europe-wide family.

In his earlier years, he studied at the University of Göttingen, before embarking on an apprenticeship in the family business in London, Paris and Frankfurt. Lionel was admitted to the family partnership in 1836 at a family gathering in Frankfurt.[1]

Like his father, he was a Freiherr (Baron) of the Austrian Empire, but unlike his father he used the title in British society. In 1838, Queen Victoria authorised the use of this Austrian title in the United Kingdom.[2]

Prime Minister Gladstone proposed to Queen Victoria that he be made a British peer. She demurred, saying that titling a Jew would raise antagonism and furthermore it would be unseemly to reward a man whose vast wealth was based on what she called "a species of gambling" rather than legitimate trade. However, in 1885 the Queen did raise Rothschild's son Nathan to the peerage; he became the first Jewish member of the House of Lords.[3]


Rothschild was responsible for raising large sums for the government, especially in the Crimean war, and for philanthropic relief of the victims of the Great Irish Famine. On 1 January 1847, he founded the British Relief Association, alongside Stephen Spring Rice, John Abel Smith and other notable aristocrats. The Association went on to raise £500,000, and was the largest private provider of relief during the Irish Famine and Highland Potato Famine. In 1861, in protest at the suppression of the Polish uprisings, he (initially) refused to contract a loan to Russia.[4] His most famous undertaking was financing the government's purchase of the Suez Canal shares from Egypt for £4 million.[5]


In 1847, Lionel de Rothschild was first elected to the British House of Commons as one of four Members of Parliament for the City of London constituency.[6] Because Jews were at that point still barred from sitting in the chamber due to the Christian oath required to be sworn in, Prime Minister Lord John Russell introduced a Jewish Disabilities Bill to remove the problem with the oath.[7] In 1848, the bill was approved by the House of Commons but was twice rejected by the House of Lords.[8] After being rejected again by the Upper House in 1849, Rothschild resigned his seat and stood again winning in a by-election to strengthen his claim.[9]

In 1850, he entered the House of Commons to take his seat but refused to swear on a Christian Bible asking to use only the Old Testament.[10] This was permitted but when omitting the words "upon the true faith of a Christian" from the oath he was required to leave.[11]

In 1851, a new Jewish Disabilities Bill was defeated in the House of Lords. In the 1852 general election, Rothschild was again elected but the next year the bill was again defeated in the upper house.[12][13]

Finally, in 1858, the House of Lords agreed to a proposal to allow each house to decide its own oath.[14] On 26 July 1858, Rothschild took the oath with covered head, substituting "so help me, Jehovah" for the ordinary form of oath, and thereupon took his seat as the first Jewish member of Parliament.[15] He was re-elected in general elections in 1859 and 1865, but defeated in 1868; he was returned unopposed in a by-election in 1869 but defeated a second time in the general election in 1874.[12]

Personal life and family

A patron of thoroughbred horse racing, under the assumed name of Mr Acton, his colt "Sir Bevys" won the 1879 Epsom Derby.[16]

In 1836, Lionel de Rothschild married his first cousin Baroness Charlotte von Rothschild (1819–1884), the daughter of Baron Carl Mayer Rothschild of the Rothschild banking family of Naples. They had the following children:

  1. Leonora (1837–1911)
  2. Evelina (1839–1866)
  3. Nathan Mayer (1840–1915)
  4. Alfred Charles (1842–1918)
  5. Leopold (1845–1917)

Illness and death

Lionel de Rothschild suffered from gout for more than 20 years. He suffered a seizure on 3 June 1879 and died the next morning at his city home at 148 Piccadilly in London, aged 70. His body was interred in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery in the North London suburb of Willesden.[17][18]:80[16]

See also


  1. There had been Members of Parliament of Jewish origin since Sampson Gideon in 1770, but all had been obliged to convert to Christianity.


  1. "Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879) - Rothschild Family". Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  2. Bulletins of State Intelligence, 1838, p. 220
  3. Loades 2003.
  4. J. F. Kutolowsky, "British Economic Interests and the Polish Uprising, 1861-1864." The Polish Review. Vol 29, no. 4, (1984), p. 9.
  5. Wilson 1988.
  6. El na Mortara, 2015. Writing for Justice: Victor S jour, the Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, and the Age of Transatlantic Emancipations. Dartmouth College Press. p. 117. ISBN 978-1-61168-791-0.
  7. William Z. Spiegelman, 2012. A Jewish Life: The Collected Writings of William Z. Spiegelman. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-615-61523-3.
  8. H. S. Q. Henriques, 2006. The Jews and the English Law. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. p. 311. ISBN 978-1-58477-645-1.
  9. Louis Finkelstein, 1960. The Jews: Their History, Culture, and Religion. Harper & Row.
  10. Geoffrey Cantor, 2011. Religion and the Great Exhibition of 1851. Oxford University Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-19-959667-6.
  11. Stanley Weintraub, 2003. Charlotte and Lionel: A Rothschild Love Story. Simon and Schuster. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-7432-2686-8.
  12. Paul Herman Emden, 1944. Jews of Britain: A Series of Biographies. S. Low, Marston & Company, Limited.
  13. Adam Kirsch, 2008. Benjamin Disraeli. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-8052-4261-4.
  14. Cecil Roth, 1962. Essays and Portraits in Anglo-Jewish History. Jewish Publication Society of America.
  15. Christopher Jon Luke Dowgin, 2017. Sub Rosa. Salem House Press. p. 247. ISBN 978-0-9862610-2-2.
  16. "Death of Baron Rothschild". The Cornishman (48). 12 June 1879. p. 7.
  17. "The Late Baron Lionel de Rothschild". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 4 June 1879. p. 10.
  18. Roth 1939.


  • Loades, David, ed. (2003). Reader's guide to British history (2nd ed.). New York: Fitzroy Dearborn. pp. 1138–1139. ISBN 978-1579582425.
  • Roth, Cecil (2010) [1939]. The Magnificent Rothschilds (facsimile reprint ed.). Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 978-1164500780.
  • Wilson, Derek (1988). Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power. Andre Deutsch Ltd. ISBN 978-0233979991.

Further reading

  • Davis, Richard (1983). The English Rothschilds. Collins. ISBN 978-0002162128.
  • Ferguson, Niall (1998). The World's Banker: The history of the House of Rothschild (2 vols.). W & N. ISBN 978-0297815396.
  • Weintraub, Stanley (2003). Charlotte and Lionel: A Rothschild Love Story. Simon & Schuster Ltd. ISBN 978-0743219914.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
George Lyall
John Masterman
Lord John Russell
James Pattison
Member of Parliament for the City of London
With: James Pattison to 1849
John Masterman to 1857
Lord John Russell to 1861
Sir James Duke, Bt 1849–65
Robert Wigram Crawford from 1857
Western Wood 1861–63
George Goschen from 1863
William Lawrence from 1864
Succeeded by
Charles Bell
George Goschen
William Lawrence
Robert Wigram Crawford
Preceded by
Charles Bell
George Goschen
William Lawrence
Robert Wigram Crawford
Member of Parliament for the City of London
With: Robert Wigram Crawford
George Goschen
William Lawrence
Succeeded by
Philip Twells
William Cotton
John Gellibrand Hubbard
George Goschen
Titles of nobility

of the Austrian Empire

Preceded by
Nathan Mayer Rothschild
Baron de Rothschild
Succeeded by
Nathan Rothschild
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.