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History of family papers

Members of the Rothschild family have deposited significant tranches of documents with The Rothschild Archive concerning many aspects of the family's private lives, including letters, diaries, photographs, household and estate papers, papers concerning philanthropy, artefacts, artworks and books. 

The English Rothschilds

The destruction of the records of and at Tring Park in a bonfire during the Second World War is in no doubt and has been memorably described by Miriam Rothschild in her book, Dear Lord Rothschild.  It is understood that both Baron Lionel de Rothschild and his son, Natty, first Lord Rothschild, ordered their executors to destroy their correspondence, and indeed very little material relating to these two men survives in The Rothschild Archive or in family hands. Ferdinand, of Waddesdon Manor, left all his correspondence to his sister, Alice, possibly with instructions that she destroy it. She in turn ordered her executors do to the same with her own papers. 

Many surviving papers of the English family have come to The Rothschild Archive by way of the late Mr Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009) and the late Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (1931-2022). The collections of family papers which Sir Evelyn presented to the Archive during his lifetime had been stored at his home, Ascott in Buckinghamshire, and they relate to the branch of the Rothschild family which had lived at Ascott and at Gunnersbury Park, London. It is clear that the survival of these papers is due initially to the collecting instincts of Leopold de Rothschild, Sir Evelyn's grandfather, who owned both estates. Leopold's youngest son, Anthony, lived at Ascott with his mother. It appears that it was they who were responsible for ensuring that the family's private papers were transferred safely from Gunnersbury to Ascott.

The Trustees of the Rothschild Archive London are particularly grateful to the late Sir Evelyn de Rothschild,  the Rothschild family at the Exbury estate, the Rothschild family formerly of Rushbrooke Hall and the Rothschild family formerly of Ashton Wold for depositing important collections of family archives with the Archive. 

The French Rothschilds

The fate of the records of other branches of the family is very different. The papers known as The Lafite Papers relate mostly to the French branch of the Rothschild family in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They were transferred to Château Lafite following the nationalisation of the bank in 1981. At the instigation of Baron Eric de Rothschild the papers were reviewed, listed and later transferred to the Rothschild Archive in London in 1993.

Further papers of the French family survive in a collection known as The Moscow Papers (58 series). The collection consists of 1,395 files relating to 26 members of the Rothschild family and their relatives. These records, transferred to the Archive in June 1994, formed Fond 58 in the Centre for the Preservation of Historico-Documentary Collections in Moscow, previously known as the Special Archive, which was established in 1946 to house documents captured during the Second World War. The papers were transferred to London with the co-operation of the Chairman of the Committee for Archival Affairs of the Government of the Russian Federation.

The Frankfurt and Viennese Rothschilds

Many papers were lost in the Second World War. In the early 1950s, Anthony de Rothschild, writing to his cousin Baron Louis von Rothschild enquired about the fate of the Viennese family's records, offering to house them in safety. Louis replied that the Renngasse archives had been "thoroughly looted" by the Nazis.

Records of the Austrian family (including a few papers of the Frankfurt family) survive in a collection known as The Moscow Papers (637 series). The collection is formed of two divisions: 637-1 and 637-2. These records were removed from family ownership during the Second World War by the Nazis and were eventually seized by the Soviet Red Army and placed in the Moscow State Archive. These records were released (following lengthy negotiations) to the late Mrs Bettina Looram, heir of the Viennese Rothschild family in 2001. Mrs Looram transferred the records to The Rothschild Archive in 2002.