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Constance (Connie), Lady Battersea (née de Rothschild) (1843-1931)

Constance (Connie) de Rothschild spent her earliest years in Paris with her family. In 1847, she moved back to London where she had been born on 29 April 1843, the daughter of Sir Anthony and Lady Louise de Rothschild. She enjoyed a thorough education, including drawing lessons, which was enlivened by sessions of whist with her father. As a girl, Connie became involved with educational issues at the Jews' Free School and around the family estate of Aston Clinton. The infant school in the village was a gift to her on her 16th birthday - at her request. Some of her lessons were published as well as her Reminiscences, some verses and a story set around Aston Clinton. 

Philanthropy and social reform

After her marriage to Cyril Flower, Lord Battersea (1843-1907) in 1877, Constance combined a lavish social life with charitable activities. Profoundly committed to the social concern instilled in her by her mother, Constance became active in English philanthropy, and became engaged in the temperance movement, taking the Pledge in 1884), and joining the British Women’s Temperance Association in the 1890s and eventually became a leader of temperance campaigns in London and the provinces. Constance was introduced to the women’s movement in 1881 by suffragist and temperance worker Fanny Morgan, whom Battersea helped to undertake a political career that resulted in her election as mayor of Brecon.

In 1885 Lady Battersea was jolted into struggling with the sensitive issue of white slavery by a national scandal and journalistic exposés of child prostitution and white slavery. Constance first learned about the desperate plight of London’s Jewish prostitutes from an English missionary in 1885. Horrified, she engaged many among the liberal leadership of Anglo-Jewry in the fight to rescue Jewish prostitutes by founding the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women (JAPGW). The mixture of Jewish traffickers and Jewish victims, she believed, demanded the creation of a distinctively Jewish organization. The JAPGW was composed of an interlocking network of nationally prominent middle and upper class Anglo-Jewish women closely connected to women’s temperance, suffrage and educational campaigns. As a result, they had entrée to and worked closely with feminist and inter-denominational anti-white slavery organizations. Founding the JAPGW launched these Anglo-Jewish women into organized English feminism and established the roots of an Anglo-Jewish woman’s movement seventeen years before the founding of the Union of Jewish Women. In the mid 1890s, her reputation for social activism led her to become active in the movement for reforms of English women’s prisons, and she was actively involved with the prison visitors of Aylesbury Women's Prison.

Her husband, like his father, was a property developer, and in 1880, he entered Parliament for Brecon, a seat he held until 1885 when the constituency was abolished, and then represented Luton until 1892. He served briefly as a Junior Lord of the Treasury from February to July 1886 in the third Liberal administration of Gladstone, with whom he was a great favourite. It was Gladstone, who, in 1892, raised him to the peerage as Baron Battersea of Battersea in the County of London and of Overstrand in the County of Norfolk.

Lord Battersea was a great collector and patron of art. Surrey House, on the corner of Oxford Street and Edgware Road, was from 1879, the Battersea's London residence. One of the most famous works owned by Lord and Lady Battersea was The Golden Stairs by Burne-Jones, which Cyril, a patron and friend of Burne-Jones commissioned in 1880 for Surrey House.  In his will of 1907, Lord Battersea bequeathed The Golden Stairs to the National Gallery with a life interest to Lady Battersea. She surrendered this interest in 1924 and presented the work to the nation through the National Art Collections Fund in order that it might be exhibited at the Tate Gallery, where it remains today

In 1888 the couple bought land at Overstrand, Cromer, where Lutyens built for them The Pleasaunce. After Cyril's death Connie took up residence at Connaught Place in London, but visted The Pleasaunce regularly; Lady Battersea died there on 22 November 1931, the anniversary of her marriage.

Papers of Constance, Lady Battersea

The fate of the papers of Lord and Lady Battersea following their deaths is not known, but it is likely that much was destroyed. Lady Battersea wrote to her sister in 1924: “I am making a holocaust of my correspondence. I have found some queer old things amongst them, very precious best in the flames like Gods in the Valkyrie". Lady Battersea left a quantity of her journals, diaries and correspondence to Lucy Cohen (1861-1951), one of her executors. (Lucy Cohen was the grand-daughter of Benjamin Barent Cohen (1789-1867), brother of Hannah Barent Cohen (1783-1850), Mrs Nathan Mayer Rothschild).

Lucy Cohen published extracts from some of the papers in Lady de Rothschild and her daughters (John Murray, London, 1935), following the wishes of the late Lady Battersea; in the preface, Cohen recalls [Lady Battersea] 'left me her papers, thinking that some of them were worth publishing…' It is believed that after publication, Lucy Cohen destroyed a quantity of the papers that were in her charge; however what remained, including Lady Battersea's journals and diaries were later deposited with The British Library by James Arthur Waley Cohen, nephew of Lucy Cohen, to whom they were bequeathed.  

The Rothschild Archive London holds a few estate papers, sundry papers and family correspondence  of Constance that were retained in the bank vaults at New Court, together with a small cache of papers (including transcripts of some the papers deposited with the British Library), that were gifted to N M Rothschild & Sons by James Arthur Waley Cohen in 1956. See Named Collections, The Battersea Papers » for further information about these papers.

The Rothschild Archive holds no papers of the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women. See Institutions: the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls for further information about surving records of the JAPGW held by other institutions.

Constance, Lady Battersea (née de Rothschild) publications, 'The Hebrew Woman', 1876

000/2399, 1 volume

The Hebrew Woman, Constance de Rothschild (Hazell, Watson and Viney (printer), London and Aylesbury, c.1876) A short analysis of the position and role of women in ancient Jewish society, with reference to the role of women elsewhere in the ancient world. Based on documentary evidence derived from contemporary sources.

Constance, Lady Battersea (née de Rothschild), publications, 'Lady de Rothschild 1821-1910, extracts from her Notebooks', 1912

000/2552/1, 1 volume

Lady de Rothschild 1821-1910, extracts from her Notebooks, with a preface by Constance, Lady Battersea, (Arthur L.Humphreys, 187 Piccadilly, W, 1912). Selected notes and critical comments made by Constance's mother, Louise, Lady Anthony de Rothschild (née Montefiore) (1821-1910), during the course of her daily reading. The preface gives a biographical portrait of Louise, Lady Anthony de Rothschild. With compliment slip "With the compliments of Lady Battersea and Mrs. Eliot Yorke".

Constance, Lady Battersea (née de Rothschild) publications, 'Reminiscences', 1922

000/1133, 000/2552/3, 2 volumes

Two identical copies of Reminiscences, Constance, Lady Battersea, (Macmillan and Co., Limited, St. Martin's Street, London, 1922). Lady Battersea's memoirs, which describe the high echelons of the Victorian life populated by members of the Rothschild family and their circle. In the volume Lady Battersea recalls fondly her early life at Aston Clinton. 

Constance, Lady Battersea (née de Rothschild) publications, 'Waifs and Strays', 1921

000/2552/2, 1 volume

Waifs and Strays, Constance, Lady Battersea, (Arthur L.Humphreys, 187 Piccadilly, W, 1921). An assorted collection of stories, papers, addresses, written at various periods in Lady Battersea's life. Includes the short story 'A Buckinghamshire story of 1663' (which was also published separately), as well as obituaries for close friends, a variety of articles reprinted from the Jewish Chronicle and several addresses given in her capacity as president of the National Union of Women Workers. Signed by the author.

Constance, Lady Battersea, secondary sources, 'Lady de Rothschild and her daughters, 1821-1931', 1935

000/2552/4, 1 volume

Lady de Rothschild and her daughters, 1821-1931, Lucy Cohen (John Murray, London, 1935). This volume, about the life of Louise, Lady Anthony de Rothschild (née Montefiore) (1821-1910) and her daughters Constance and Annie, was not written by Lady Battersea, but the author, Miss Lucy Cohen, one of the executors of Lady Battersea's estate draws heavily on Constance's journals, diaries and correspondence, which Lady Battersea left to Miss Lucy Cohen.