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Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918)

Alfred de Rothschild was the fourth of five children of Lionel and Charlotte de Rothschild. He spent his childhood in the family homes at 148 Piccadilly and Gunnersbury. As a young man, Alfred attended King's College School, and subsequently Trinity College, Cambridge where he studied Mathematics for two terms. It was at Trinity College that Alfred formed a lasting friendship with the Prince of Wales, (later King Edward VII).

At the age of 21, Alfred became a partner at N M Rothschild & Sons at New Court. It was here that he learnt the business of banking from his father and made valuable contacts in European banking circles, and while he was perhaps in the shadow of his brother, Natty, he was keen that his voice should be heard in policy discussions. In 1868, at the age of 26, Alfred became a director of the Bank of England, the first Jew to be appointed. Alfred's wide social circle formed a useful source of information, much appreciated by the Paris House in particular, and also supplied a long list of private clients, including many from the world of entertainment. The finances of Nelly Melba, Adelina Patti, Arthur Sullivan and Henry Irving all received a boost through the benign intervention of Alfred. A small collection of  nineteen letters from Adelina Patti and Ernesto Nicolini to the London bank and to Alfred de Rothschild, written between 1888 and 1895, and concerning instructions for their account with the London bank, N M Rothschild, loans, the purchase of property and news of their tours, will be found in 000/31.

Upon the death of his father in 1879, Alfred inherited the estate at Halton in Buckinghamshire, and set about building a house in the style of a French chateau. Work started around 1880 and Halton House was finished in July 1883. Alfred remained in residence at his town house, 1 Seamore Place in London and only ever used Halton House for social purposes. Both houses formed magnificent backdrops to his exquisite art collections.

Receipts for household expenditure, originally preserved in the bank's records, will be found in series XII/42/1-14. The receipts relate to both Halton and Alfred's London residence, 1 Seamore Place. The receipts concern general domestic and estate expenditure for Halton estate, including garden accounts, private accounts, letters and receipts for accounts with coach builders, nurserymen, builders and decorators, engineers, fuel merchants, farm suppliers, chandlers, chimney sweeps, ironmongers, Horwood & James (solicitors), the Post Office Telephone Service, insurers, corn and seed merchants, caterers, timber merchants, builders' merchants, household provisioners, butchers and other grocery suppliers, gun suppliers, tailors and railway and canal companies. It is likely that these general household expenses were paid from New Court accounts, hence their retention in the bank's records. See The London Banking house, Estates Department, Halton estate and 1 Seamore Place » 

Alfred liked to move in diplomatic circles, and arranged numerous meetings to promote Anglo-German relations.  In spite of lifelong hypochondria, Alfred survived his two brothers, and struggled on at New Court through the First World War which he had tried so much to prevent through his diplomatic efforts.

Few of Alfred's business papers survive; see The London banking house, partners' room, Alfred de Rothschild for further information about surviving business papers.

Very few of Alfred's private papers survive. It is assumed that much was destroyed by his executor's upon his death. Correspondence with Sir William Harcourt can be found in the collections of the Bodleian Library, and correspondence with Lord Rosebery can be found in the Manscript Collections of the National Library of Scotland. Further private papers, which had been at Tring Park, Alfred's childhood home, were destroyed during the Second World War.  

Alfred de Rothschild, artefacts, bamboo riding crop, n.d.

000/447, 1 item

Bamboo riding crop, with ivory foot.  Gold band engraved ‘Alfred de Rothschild Halton Tring’.

Alfred de Rothschild, artefacts, silver cigar case, n.d.

000/447, 1 item

Silver cigar case inscribed ‘Alfred de Rothschild’.

Alfred de Rothschild, artefacts, silver vesta case, 1885

000/516, 1 item

An enamelled silver vesta case engraved on reverse 'A de R 1885' in the form of a facsimilie Great Eastern Railway first class return ticket St Pancras - Newmarket.

Alfred de Rothschild, Catalogue of Collections, 1884

000/2281, 4 volumes (2 sets)

Catalogue of the Works of Art forming the collection of Alfred de Rothschild: Volume  I: Pictures, Volume II: Sevres, China, Furniture, metal Work and Objets de Vitrine. Charles Davis, 147 New Bond Street, London, 1884.

One set available in the Reading Room

Alfred de Rothschild, Catalogue of Collections, 1901

000/2430, 1 volume

Large blue leather volume, Collections de Mr Le Baron Alfred de Rothschild Seamore Place et Halton Maison A.D. Braun & C. Paris, Dornach and New York, Braun, Clément & C. Succrs, (Épreuve Inaltérable Imprimée au Charron Reproduction Interdite 1901). The volume contains large plates depicting photographs of paintings from the collection of Alfred de Rothschild, including works by Boucher, Drouais, Gainsborough, Greuze, Reynolds, Romney, Rubens, Teniers, van Dyck and Watteau. The volume appears to have been privately published by Alfred, and bears the inscription ‘For Lady Feo's kind acceptance in remembrance of ten very pleasant days spent at Halton, Alfred de Rothschild, 28 March 1901’.  It bears a bookplate with the arms and motto 'En Dieu Est Tout’) and the family name ‘Alington’. These are the arms of  Humphrey Napier Sturt, 2nd Baron Alington, whose wife was Lady Feodorowna Yorke (1864-1934). 

Alfred de Rothschild, correspondence, letters to his family, c.1860-1871

000/40, 73 items

This collection of letters from Alfred to his parents Lionel and Charlotte and his brothers date from c.1860, while he was at Cambridge, to 1871. The letters about university life are not particularly enlightening. Many letters make reference to social gatherings and events, and talk of horse-racing news and the successes of Rothschild horses. Letters to his brother Leopold make brief reference to business; some letters to Leopold are also addressed to his Alfred's cousin Ferdinand. 

Summary transcripts available

Alfred de Rothschild, 'Special' correspondence, 1869-1917

000/182, 56 items

Miscellaneous ’Special’ correspondence of Alfred de Rothschild concerning business matters, his art collections, museums and philanthropy. This small collection of 58 items, including letters, printed matter and newspaper cuttings were formerly in packet 645, retained in the NMR vault. These items were retained because they were some significance to Alfred, and include letters from statesmen, thanking Alfred for his help in various matters, and copies of letters he sent to the Royal family.

Alfred de Rothschild, correspondence, 1891

000/230, 2 items

Two letters written from 1, Seamore Place, Mayfair to Dr Fuller.  

Alfred de Rothschild, correspondence, 1894

000/2307, 1 item

Copy letter dated 27 April 1894 from Alfred de Rothschild to the Governor of the Bank of England concerning "our little controversy" that is "now at an end". In 1889 Alfred had resigned as a Director of the Bank of England in the wake of allegations that he had looked at a customer’s account, that of an art dealer whom he suspected of having made an excessive profit at his expense.

Alfred de Rothschild, correspondence, 1902

000/1518, 1 item

Letter from Alfred de Rothschild to ‘Robson’, 10 April 1902. The letter refers to ‘Colonel Cooper’ and the re-arrangement of Alfred's drawing room at 1, Seamore Place.

Alfred de Rothschild, estate papers, 1918-1938

000/150, 2 boxes

Deceased Accounts: papers relating to Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918): The contents of Packet 645, deceased account, Alfred de Rothschild: correspondence with Messrs N M Rothschild & Sons and papers concerning donations to charities and beneficiaries, under the terms of the will of Alfred de Rothschild. The papers are arranged in year folders: 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1938. Most of the correspondence is routine requests to draw cheques and other payments.

Alfred de Rothschild, estate papers, 1915-1929

000/78, 3 boxes

Papers concerning the stock holdings of Alfred de Rothschild including press cuttings concerning stocks and shares in 1915 and papers concerning the death of Alfred’s brother, Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild.

Alfred de Rothschild, music books, 1901

000/2528, 1 volume

Soft-bound blue leather volume entitled 'Valses', containing 12 printed music scores with manuscript additions, bound together. It is possible that the volume is from the music room of Halton House. The title page bears the manuscript inscription "Herrn Baron Alfred De Rothschild, von Carl Heubert 30 May 1901". Alfred was patron of the famous Carl Heubert Hungarian Band. Heubert had also been the leader of the Vienna Orchestra. Guests at Halton were entertained by Alfred's private orchestra, which Alfred liked to personally conduct, with a diamond-tipped baton. The first piece in the volume, 'Accelerationen', by Johann Strauss bears the manuscript inscription (in Heubert's hand) "Conducted by Herrn Baron Alfred de Rothschild the first time at Halton House, Mai 30th 1901". The pieces in the volume are: Accelerationen (Johann Strauss); Bürgerweisen (Johann Strauss); Carnavals Botschafter (Johann Strauss); Juristen-Ball-Tänze (Johann Strauss); Die Guten Alte Zeiten (Josef Strauss); Fantasiebilder (Josef Strauss); Wiener Bonbons (Johann Strauss); Dorfschwalben aus Österreich (Josef Strauss); Wien, mein Sinn (Johann Strauss); Hofballtänze (Johann Strauss); Lava-Störme (Johann Strauss); Bürgersinn (Johann Strauss).

Alfred de Rothschild, musical events , 1856

000/375/10, 1 item

Programme for an "Amateur concert in aid of funds of the Jewish Emigration Loan Society at Sussex Hall, Leadenhall Street on Thursday June 5 1856". Miss Evelina de Rothschild was a vocalist and Mr Alfred de Rothschild and Miss Evelina de Rothschild were instrumentalists. A chorus of the children of the Jew's Free School and the choirs of the Metropolitan Synagogues also performed.

Alfred de Rothschild, papers concerning legal affairs, receipts, estate papers and inventories, 1876-1942

000/174, 3 boxes

Papers concerning legal matters during Alfred’s lifetime and papers relating to the administration of his estate by his executors and legal representatives after his death: correspondence, receipts, inventories and printed material. The correspondence files includes copies of Alfred's will, and Articles of Partnership, N M Rothschild & Sons between Alfred, Leopold, Charles and Lionel de Rothschild, dated 11 October 1915. The series of receipts include receipts for the purchase of works of art, Sévres, jewellery, objets d’art, books and manuscripts, building and maintenance work at Halton House and 1 Seamore Place, insurance policies, domestic household expenses, fuel, provisions and catering, wines and spirits, clothing, motor cars, vet and animal bills, medical expenses etc. The collection includes schedules and inventories of furniture and pictures at Halton House and 1 Seamore Place, Mayfair: envelope marked ‘C. Allard Jones by New Court, St Swithin’s Lane, EC.’ ; volume ‘List of Pictures in the possession of Alfred de Rothschild Esq. some at Seamore Place and others at Halton being part of the collection formed by Mr Alexander Baring who afterwards became the first Lord Ashburton’, 1866 (000/174C/1); volume ‘The Estate of Alfred C de Rothschild Esq. deceased. 1 Seamore Place, W.’ Messrs Christie’s Inventory of the contents of 1 Seamore Place, 1918 (000/174C/2); volume ‘Halton. Schedule of Furniture, etc.’, Inventory taken by Messrs Knight, Frank & Rutley, Auctioneers and Valuers, 20 Hanover Square, London, W., 1918 (000/174C/3); volume ‘The Estate of Alfred C de Rothschild Esq. deceased. Halton House, Tring.’ Manuscript annotations by the Alliance Assurance Company Limited, marking for insurance purposes, items in the possession of Major Lionel Nathan de Rothschild at Exbury, Park Street, Gunnersbury and New Court, 1919 (000/174C/4).

List available

Alfred de Rothschild, photographs, c.1910

000/222, 1 item

Black and white portrait photograph of Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918), showing him in old age, c.1910.

Alfred de Rothschild, carte de visite of Rossini, c.1866

000/692, 1 item

Carte de visite photograph of the composer Gioacchino Antonio Rossini (1792-1868) signed with inscription on verso to Alfred de Rothschild. Photograph by Erwin Freier, Paris, c.1866, showing a full length standing portrait of the composer with cane and top hat in hand, signed on the mount, 'G. Rossini', and additionally inscribed and signed in ink on verso: "Souvenir de Reconnaissance offert à mon jeune amis Monsieur le Baron Alfred de Rothschilld, G.Rossini, Paris, 26 Jan. 1866" [with a drawing of a muscial bar containing a chord].

Alfred de Rothschild, sundry papers, lease of Austrian Consulate premises, 1896-1908

000/114/1, 1 file

Papers concerning lease of Austrian Consulate premises at 22 and 23 Laurence Pountney Lane, and Lease for 457 Mansion house ('where the Consular Archives are kept'): correspondence; copy of lease dated 18 November 1896 from Richard A.Notley to Baron Alfred Charles de Rothschild for offices in No.22 and 23 Laurence Pountney Lane; Copy of an Indenture dated 19 December 1903 1896 from Richard A.Notley to Baron Alfred Charles de Rothschild for offices in No.22 and 23 Laurence Pountney Lane; copy of an Agreement dated 31 July 1889 between Mansion House Chambers Limited and Baron Alfred Charles de Rothschild for letting office Nos, 206, 207, 208, 209 and 210, being part of Mansion House Chambers. Before the First World War Alfred was Consul-General for Austria in London. 

Alfred de Rothschild, sundry papers, 1901

000/1604, 1 item

Extract from Israel: the Jewish magazine: 'At "Mr Alfred's"' (vol. 5, no.51, May 1901). Adelina Patti's report of a dinner given by Alfred de Rothschild at which she was praised by the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).

Alfred de Rothschild, 70th birthday celebrations, 1912

000/624, 2 items

Alfred de Rothschild's 70th birthday celebrations, 1912: menu card for a dinner given by Alfred at the Ritz, London, to his friends at New Court to celebrate his 70th birthday, 26 July 1912; Alfred's reply to Nauheim (acting as chairman) who gave a speech at Alfred’s 70th birthday dinner.