Horticulture and Rothschild gardens
The passion for gardens took hold on the Rothschild family, proving a more enduring interest than banking for many. Rothschild gardens in England and continental Europe mixed formal design with exuberant planting of trees and flowers, in a style characteristic of the late Victorian/Edwardian era. A love of exotic plants necessitated the building of huge heated greenhouses, allowing skilled Rothschild horticulturalists to create new hybrids, many named after the family. The creation and maintenance of an exquisite garden was part of the portfolio of interests that enabled the Rothschilds to take their place as country squires. It was expected of them as responsible estate managers, and was another way in which they could display their wealth, fashionable taste and attention to detail; a finely planned garden could be used to entertain both friends and business contacts, and a good kitchen garden ensured a generous table.
One of the finest Rothschild gardens created was at the Exbury estate of Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942). For more information see Exbury Gardens. Visit our online exhibition Rothschild Gardens to discover more about the Rothschilds and their horticultural creations. For a detailed account of the history of selected Rothschild gardens and estates, see Rothschild Gardens by Miriam Rothschild, Kate Garton and Lionel de Rothschild (London: Gaia Books, 1996).
Among the Rothschild family, an interest in the natural world has perhaps been most clearly manifested among the descendants of Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915). The collection of taxonomic specimens of his elder son, Lionel Walter (1868-1937) was the largest ever assembled by one individual. It formed the raw material for the publication of over 800 scientific papers and the description of several hundred previously unknown species, many described in his own periodical 'Novitates Zoologicae', published for 45 years. Walter's Zoological Museum at Tring (now the Natural History Museum, Tring) survives as a legacy of this remarkable collection.
Walter's younger brother, Charles (1877-1923) was a keen entomologist and lepidopterist. Among his achievements was the publication of a paper identifying the flea responsible for the spread of plague. This interest in parasites was passed on to his daughter, the late Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005), who catalogued her father's collection of 10,000 fleas, given to the Natural History Museum in 1913, and became a leading authority in the field of bird parasites. Her work with Theresa Clay, 'Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos', published in 1952, became a seminal text. Among her discoveries was the mechanism by which fleas jump. Miriam's brother, Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990) became a specialist in the scientific study of fertilization in plants and animals. In France, Maurice Edmond Charles de Rothschild (1881-1957) organised a zoological expedition to Africa 1910-1911 and wrote scientific papers.
The gradual acquisition of country estates by members of the Rothschild family led many of them to take an interest and a pride in agriculture. At Tring Park, Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915) bred prize-winning Shire horses, Dairy Shorthorn and Jersey cattle, Hampshire Down sheep and poultry. Tring was among the first estates in Britain to keep detailed milk-yield records as a guide to the improvement of the herd. A few miles away, Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922) at Waddesdon, equally enthusiastic on stock-breeding, was a regular prize-winner at agricultural shows. In France, Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934) was orchestrating a major agricultural experiment in his support for the pioneering Jewish colonies in Palestine.
The Rothschild name has been associated with the world's greatest wines for almost a century and a half. The spirit of innovation that characterises the family's financial enterprises is evident equally in their winemaking; with the grands crus of Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Lafite, Rothschild wines can be said truly to embody all that is wonderful about the fruit of the vine. Read more about the Rothschild family's wine businesses here »
Ecology and Conservation
When Albert von Rothschild (1844-1911) bought the Langau estate in western Austria in 1880 he was shocked by the damage done to the landscape by timber felling to meet the demands of Viennese builders. He set about reversing the situation, embarking on massive replanting and encouraging the return of the native plants and wildlife, setting a pattern which others were later to emulate. Today the Albert Rothschild-Bergwaldreservat Dürrenstein, set aside as a wilderness conservation area, is a tribute to his ecological foresight.
In England, the fascination of Charles Rothschild (1877-1923) with the natural world led him into a pioneering concern for the protection of the environment which bore fruit in his foundation in 1912 of the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves. Ahead of its time, the Society campaigned for the identification of areas of significant natural habitat, to which Charles contributed a survey of nearly 300 areas in Great Britain. The Society's work continues today as The Wildlife Trusts. Charles' daughter the late Dame Miriam Rothschild (1908-2005) continued his work, and the redevelopment of a natural habitat became her crusade in the 1970s. As a wildflower and grass gardener she grew over 120 native wild species at her home in the English Midlands, and encouraged many others to follow her lead.
David de Rothschild (b.1978), the youngest son of Sir Evelyn de Rothschild is an adventurer, ecologist, and environmentalist. He founded Voice for Nature to create a positive impact for nature.