Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

Sources for business history: catalogues of bank files

Sources for art history: Catalogue of the pictures of Alfred de Rothschild 1901

Sources for yachting history: Plans for Nathaniel von Rothschild's yacht Veglia 1905

Sources for natural history: Walter 2nd Lord Rothschild and his zebra carriage: c.1910

Sources for global financial history: Map of lines of the Brazil Railway Company: c.1920

Sources for business history: index cards to bank files

Sources for social history: Rothschild Hospital Paris: 1920s

Sources for business history: detail of a Rothschild bond coupon

Sources for architectural history: Halton House: 1890s

Sources for the history of travel: Lionel de Rothschild's tours of Spain: 1909

Sources for local history: Tring Park: c.1900

Sources for Royal history: shooting party with Edward Prince of Wales: 1893

Sources for political history: Lionel de Rothschild: first Jewish MP: 1858

Sources for sporting history: St Amant winner of the Derby: 1904

Sources for local history: gardeners at Aston Clinton: 1899

Sources for Rothschild family history: Lionel de Rothschild's yacht Rhodora: 1927

Sources for London history: entrance to New Court: 1965

Sources for design history: plans for Lionel de Rothschild's Rolls-Royce: 1930

Sources for business history: Rothschild gold bars produced by the Royal Mint Refinery: 1930s

Sources for business history: letters of August Belmont Rothschild Agent in New York: 1860s

April 2016: Badge of office, the Alliance Assurance Company, 1825

Treasure of the Month: The collections of The Rothschild Archive London contain over two million pieces of paper, volumes, files, photographs, artefacts and art works. Each month the archivists will highlight a particular treasure from the collections.

This silver-gilt badge of office of the Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company, was worn by Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836), founder of the London Rothschild bank.

Origins of the company

The Alliance Assurance Company, (today part of the RSA Group of insurance companies) can trace its origins back to St Swithin's Lane in the early 1820s. The story goes that the financier Moses Montefiore and Nathan Rothschild, neighbours in St Swithin’s Lane in the heart of the City of London fell into conversation one day as the latter was going to collect the dividends on shares he held in an insurance company. The two men agreed that with their many friends and contacts they themselves could supply a useful number of clients for any insurance company, and saw the advantages of setting up a new company themselves. There were additional attractions for such a venture. Nathan was often forced to pay high premiums to insure his international shipments of bullion and other goods, and would have been particularly keen to break the monopoly held by Lloyd’s on marine insurance.

The plan was quickly put into action. Joining Rothschild and Montefiore as founding presidents were the prominent Quaker, Samuel Gurney, and the financiers John Irving and Francis Baring. 50,000 shares of £100 pounds each were issued and rapidly sold, with only the first £10 of each share actually called up: £5,000,000 was a share capital far in excess of any of its rivals.

In a true alliance between share holders and policy holders, a condition of share purchase was that the holder would take out either fire insurance to the value of their subscription, or £1,000 in the life department. The Alliance Assurance Company opened for business on 23 March 1824 in temporary offices in Moses Montefiore’s home in New Court, St Swithin’s Lane.

Rothschilds and 'The Alliance'

The Rothschild family were not only presidents, directors and shareholders in the Alliance over the generations: they were also policy holders. Nathan Mayer Rothschild was the first President, from 1824-1836. Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898), the noted art collector who built Waddesdon Manor in the 1870s, insured his property with the Alliance. So did Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), Nathan’s son: New Court was also insured with the Alliance. It was said that Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), Chairman of the Alliance and universally noted for his caution as a businessman and banker, was instrumental in persuading the company to refuse to insure the Titanic, claiming it was ‘too big to float’.

RAL 000/1911/5

Badge of office of the Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company 1825

Badge of office of the Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company 1825

An Alliance share certificate signed by Nathan Mayer Rothschild 1824

An Alliance share certificate signed by Nathan Mayer Rothschild 1824