Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

Sources for business history

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


Rothschild sporting achievements on the turf, on water and on land.


In 1909 a horse called Bomba won the coveted Ascot Gold Cup under the blue and gold colours of James de Rothschild. The Rothschilds’ successes and conduct within the Sport of Kings helped strengthen their position in a society where Jewish members could often count on an uphill struggle for acceptance.

The English Rothschilds began to own and compete race horses from the late 1830s. The sons of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) were keen riders with hounds, having been encouraged by their mother to take up an active pastime to compensate for the hours spent indoors at the bank. The move from hunting to racing was a natural one, demonstrating the family’s social pretensions as at this time the pre-eminent race-horse owner in England was the Prince of Wales. It was the youngest of Nathan’s sons, Mayer Amschel (1818-1874), who became an avid racing enthusiast. In 1843 he registered the Rothschild racing colours of dark blue and yellow, and established a stud farm at Crafton, near his country estate of Mentmore. Considerable success followed. In 1871 Mayer’s horses won four of the five classic races. His mare Hannah won the Oaks, the Thousand Guineas and the St Leger, and Favonius won the Derby. It famously became known as ‘The Baron’s Year.'

Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917) was the nephew of Mayer Amschel and his natural successor in the field of horse-racing. He had become a keen race-goer during his college days at Cambridge, with regular trips to Newmarket. The more desperately his mother urged him to study ‘something – drawing, painting, music, languages’ – the more his interests turned elsewhere, principally to the turf. Leopold inherited Palace House in Newmarket. Here the Prince of Wales often stayed with him during race meetings, together with many prominent figures of the day. Leopold also took over the running of his father’s stud at Gunnersbury before moving it to his own estate at Ascott. It became the Southcourt Stud farm, from where he bred many winners. Leopold's horse St.Amant famously won the  Derby in 1904. Read more about St Amant here »

The French Rothschilds began to race horses as early as 1835 when James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868) created racing stables at his Ferrières estate. Still in existence, now relocated to Normandy, the Rothschild stables are one of the oldest in France. Ferrières was the perfect location, close to both Paris and Chantilly, which was the centre of the horse-racing world in France. The stables were successful in James’s lifetime with many victories. In 1868, brothers Alphonse and Gustave succeeded their father as joint-owners of the stables. In 1879 they decided to move from Ferrières to set up a stud farm at Meautry in Normandy, where the stud has remained to this day. From the very start Meautry established itself as one of France’s top breeding farms with winners such as Heaume and Le Roi Soleil. Alphonse’s son Edouard (1868-1949) shared his father’s passion for horses and built a new mansion, Sans Souci bordering the training runs at Chantilly. Among the many winners bred and raced by Edouard was Brantôme.

The Austrian Rothschild family were also keen race-goers and thoroughbred owners. The three brothers Alphonse (1878-1942), Louis (1882-1955) and Eugène (1884-1976) were all members of the Austrian Jockey Club and Alphonse also had links with the Hungarian Jockey Club, based in Budapest.

For further information, see the article The Racing Rothschilds: the sportsmen, the maverick and the legend in The Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2008-2009.


Yachting has provided a pastime for generations of Rothschilds. In Britain in the 19th century, Mayer Rothschild (1818-1874) had the Garland, Ferdinand (1839-1868) the Rona and Juliana (1831-1877), the Czarina, on board which she died in 1877. Arthur de Rothschild (1851-1903) acquired his steam yacht Eros in 1875, hastened to become a founder-member of the French Yacht Club and went on to found the Coupe de France, the country's major yacht-racing prize. 

In England, Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) was a keen motorboat racer. Lionel’s interest in all things racing began while he was at Cambridge. His successes included the breaking of the world water-speed record of 28 knots in 1906 and again in the 1907 Perla del Mediterraneo, won jointly with John Montagu in the Flying Fish. His motor-launch Nigella and steam-yacht Rhodora were both built by Camper and Nicholson. Rhodora II, built to replace the first of that name was an 800-ton boat complete with operating theatre and space in the hold for a Rolls Royce.

Strongly connected to the Franco-Swiss branch of the Rothschild family, the story of the Gitana boats began in 1876 on the banks of Lake Geneva. In 1876, Baroness Julie de Rothschild (1830-1907) ordered the first Gitana, a steam schooner 24 metres long, with which she became the fastest woman on water in the world with a speed record of 20.5 knots. In the 1960’s Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1926-1997) turned the family’s love of boats into a real passion for sailing. The family’s favourite sailing boats were monohulls. From 'Gitana III' to 'Gitana VIII', the boats were successful in prestigious races, including the Giraglia in the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic’s Fastnet, for which 'Gitana IV' held a record for nineteen consecutive years. Baron Benjamin founded the Gitana Team in 2000. 


Nathaniel von Rothschild (1836-1905) is credited with having introduced football into Austria. One of the gardeners' sons at Hohe Warte, returning from England where he had learnt the game, gained his support for a team as a means of providing recreation for the estate staff - many of them English. With land and finance from Nathaniel, a club was formed in 1894 in the guest-house 'Zur schonen Aussicht' which still stands today. Several times winners of the Austrian Championship, the First Vienna Football Club still plays in Rothschild blue and gold.


At tennis, Anthony de Rothschild (1887-1961) was a Cambridge Blue. Before her marriage to Charles, Rozsika (née Werteheimstein) (1870-1940) had been ladies' champion in Hungary and is credited with having introduced the overhand service into the ladies' game. Later in her life, Jacqueline Piatigorsky (née Rothschild) (1911-2012) won the ladies' doubles of the U.S. Senior Championships.


Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990) was an impressive cricketer, earning a place in the Northamptonshire County team at the age of 18 and scoring a very respectable 37 against Voce and Larwood.


Many Rothschilds have played golf, but James Armand de Rothschild (1878-1957) was amongst the keenest. Golf cost him the sight of one eye, the result of an accident on the course at Deauville. In 1961, through the trust Yad Hanadiv, set up in his memory, Israel's first course was opened near the Roman port of Caesarea. Guy de Rothschild (1909-2007) learnt to play golf on the course at Ferrières, designed by Simpson, the most celebrated designer of his day. He went on to play for France, reaching the semi-finals of the French amateur championship in 1949. The previous year he won the prestigious Grand Prix du Sud-Ouest.


The love of horses and speed have been recurring themes in the life of the Rothschild family. In polo, they come together and a fondness for the game has persisted. Louis von Rothschild (1882-1955) was on his way to a match in Italy in March 1938 when his passport was confiscated by the Nazis at Vienna airport, a prelude to his arrest and imprisonment. In France, Robert de Rothschild (1880-1946), and later his son, Elie (1917-2007), had their own team on the family estate at Laversine and in England, Evelyn de Rothschild (b.1931) led his team, 'The Centaurs', to many victories in the 1950s and 1960s, including, on at least one occasion, the Queen's Cup.


In 1880s Vienna, chess was a popular pastime. A newspaper of the time credits much of this popularity to the President of the City's Chess Club between 1872-1883, Albert von Rothschild (1844-1911) 'one of the strongest players in Vienna' with whom even experienced Masters feared crossing swords. Albert helped to finance the Vienna tournaments of 1873, 1882, 1898, 1903) and 1908. In 1917, aged six, and recovering from peritonitis at Ferrières, Jacqueline de Rothschild (1911-2012) was taught chess by her nurse. It was to become a passion. "I loved the game, the pieces, how they moved, the challenge to find a solution to the infinite combinations. I had actually fallen in love." She taught her 4-year old sister, Bethsabee, to play. "We didn't know that chess could become a study, but we found combinations... We just played together - literally millions of games". Later in life, Jacqueline went on to play successfully at tournament level and in 1963 staged the first Piatigorsky Cup, an international grand master event, in which figures of the stature of Fischer, Kasparov and Korchnoi have played.


The fascination of motoring attracted the Rothschild family from its earliest days. In France, Arthur de Rothschild (1851-1903) was among the first to acquire a car. Albert von Rothschild (1844-1911) had one of the first automobiles in Vienna. Henri de Rothschild (1872-1947) bought his first car in 1896, a 6 h.p. Peugeot with the French licence number 5. He wrecked it in an accident with a farm cart. Undeterred, Henri quickly took to racing. In 1902 alone he raced from Paris to Vienna and took part in the first international motor race in Britain, at Bexhill. One of the earliest of French racing prizes, the Coupe Rothschild was named after him. He was to go on to build his own car factory.

In 1905, Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) beat his French cousin, Henri, in an 18-hour race from Paris to Monte Carlo. Both men drove 60 h.p. Mercedes cars. Lionel loved speed. He would drive his Rolls-Royce at breakneck speed between New Court and Exbury, where he later drove an Armstrong Siddeley around the paths of his garden. In 1906 he became a director of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Co. Lionel took after his father Leopold who, having bought one of the first cars in the country, went on to help found the Automobile Association and to have the speed limit raised to 20mph in 1902. Henri passed on his passion to his son Philippe (1902-1988) who, for pleasure, drove first a Torpedo Unic from his father's factory, then a Hispano-Suiza. He also competed internationally in a Bugatti, once coming first in the Grand Prix de Boulogne. Another keen Bugatti driver was Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990). His son, the late Amschel Rothschild (1955-1996) inherited the fascination and raced regularly in Maseratis, BRMs and AC Daytona Cobras. For further information, see the article Motoring Rothschilds: style, speed and sport in The Rothschild Archive Review of the Year 2009-2010.

Hannah owned by Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1818-1874)

Hannah owned by Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1818-1874)