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Edmund Leopold de Rothschild (1916-2009)

Edmund Leopold de Rothschild was born in London, at 46 Park Street, Mayfair, on 2 January 1916, the first son of Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) and Marie-Louise née Beer (1892-1975).  At the time of his birth, his father was a junior partner at New Court, and MP for Aylesbury.  His mother, Marie-Louise, was a great-great-niece of the composer Meyerbeer; and her elder sister Nelly was married to Baron Robert de Rothschild, of the French branch of the family.

Eddy (as he was known) was brought up at Exbury House, the estate his father acquired in late 1918, bounded by the New Forest, The Solent and the Beaulieu river.  He  was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge.  Part of every summer holiday was spent cruising Europe's coastline aboard his father's yachts, Rhodora I and II. Rhodora II, a magnificent vessel, had a hold large enough to accommodate Lionel de Rothschild's Rolls-Royce.

After Cambridge, in 1937 Eddy was sent by his father on an 18-month tour around the world, of which he published an account as Window on the World (1949).  He went to Africa, rode horseback over the Andes, and motored across the Northern Territories in Australia. He pressed on to Burma, India and Afghanistan, calling, en route, on the Viceroy, Mahatma Gandhi.

He returned to England in May 1939 and worked at N M Rothschild & Sons until the outbreak of war in September.  In 1935 he had joined the Royal Bucks Yeomanry.  In January 1940 the Bucks was among the first territorial regiments to join the British Expeditionary Force in France.  Eddy went with them, but due to recurring bouts of Staphylococcus aureus, a near-fatal blood infection in those days, he was not involved in the action.  As a battery-captain in the 77th Highland Field Regiment (RA), he went to North Africa with 4 Division, in the First Army.  He saw action at Oued Zarga, Banana Ridge and Peter's Corner. At Cap Bon, after the Allied rout of Axis forces, he had to find supplies to feed 10,000 PoWs. In the aftermath of the war, Eddy was a major in the newly-formed Jewish Infantry Brigade, and drove up through Austria and Germany in a truck with the Star of David painted on its side. At Mannheim, starving Jews in concentration-camp garb came up to him out of the crowd. 

N M Rothschild & Sons

Having joined the family bank in 1939, Mr Eddy, as he was known by the staff, became its effective head in 1955, when his uncle Anthony de Rothschild (1887-1961) suffered a severe stroke. A partner from 1947, from 1952, Mr Edmund's chief preoccupation was with what was then the most costly project ever undertaken by private enterprise: the development of the vast hydroelectric potential of the Hamilton (later Churchill) Falls in Labrador. He led the consortium, and crossed the Atlantic more than 400 times over the 20 years the project took to complete.

Edmund de Rothschild became senior partner in 1960. He opened the partnership to non-family members, beginning with David Colville, brother of Sir John Colville, Churchill's private secretary who was appointed in July 1960 as the first non-Rothschild partner. Mr Edmund presided over the bank's transition from a highly conservative family firm to a modern institution, and oversaw the demolition and rebuilding of New Court 1962-1965. In 1966, Mr Edmund de Rothschild welcomed the Japanese Economic Mission to Europe to New Court strengthening ties between the UK and Japan; in 1973, The Order of the Sacred Treasure, one of Japan’s highest honours,  was conferred upon Edmund de Rothschild by Emperor Hirohito “in full recognition of your great contributions in the international monetary field to the economic and industrial development of Japan and the ceaseless endeavours you have devoted to the promotion of Japanese-British friendship"

Edmund de Rothschild bcame the first Chairman of N M Rothschild & Sons Limited in 1970, when the firm became the last London accepting house to relinquish its private partnership status. He stepped down as chairman in 1975, to be succeeded briefly by his cousin Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990), and then by his cousin Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (b.1931). 

Exbury

After his return from the Second World War, Edmund set about the restoration of Exbury Gardens in Hampshire, the 260-acre woodland garden created by his father Lionel in the 1920s and 1930s.  The gardens had been greatly neglected since Lionel's death in 1942, as Exbury House had been requisitioned by the Admiralty as a “Stone Frigate”, HMS Mastodon, responsible for the administration, victualing and training of the crews moored in the Beaulieu River during the war.  Over the next 50 years he replanted some three-quarters of the acreage, and produced several dozen new rhododendron hybrids.  In 1955 he opened Exbury Gardens to the public.

Eddy worked hard for charitable causes, in particular the Queen's Nursing Institute, of which he was a trustee, the Not Forgotten Association, and the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women, of which he was for many years president.  He was a vice-president of the Council of Christians and Jews. He held the Territorial Decoration, and was appointed CBE in the New Year's Honours, 1997. In 2005 he received the Royal Horticultural Society's highest award, the Victoria Medal of Honour. His autobiography, A Gilt-Edged Life, was published in 1998.

Edmund de Rothschild married Elizabeth Lentner (1923-1980) in 1948, and together they had four children; Katherine, Nicholas, Charlotte and David Lionel. In 1982, he married Anne Harrison (née Kitching) (1921-2012). 

Mr Eddy died on 17 January 2009, aged 93.

Edmund de Rothschild, artefacts, medal, medallion and coin collection, c.1950-1980

000/1181, 2 boxes

Collection of late twentieth century medals and other commemorative medallions, coins and other commemorative items collected by Edmund de Rothschild.

List available

Edmund de Rothschild, artefacts, The Japanese Imperial Order of the Sacred Treasure, 1st Class, 1973

000/1906, 2 items

The Japanese Imperial Order of the Sacred Treasure, 1st Class (Grand Cordon) awarded to Mr Edmund de Rothschild. The Order of the Sacred Treasure is a Japanese Order, established on 4 January 1888 by Emperor Meiji as the Order of Meiji. The award is bestowed upon individuals of merit, in recognition of their national or public services, & in honor of their distinguished accomplishments in various areas of society. Two types of decoration are awarded to foreigners; ceremonial decorations presented to state guests upon arrival or to diplomats leaving office & decorations conferred on foreigners who made notable contributions to enhance bilateral relations. Always open to new opportunities, Mr Eddy learnt Japanese in 1960s and was a key member of a City of London delegation to Japan in 1962 to reopen commercial ties. Mr Eddy maintained close links with Japan, visiting many times. The Order of the Sacred Treasure, one of Japan’s highest honours, was conferred upon him in 1973 by Emperor Hirohito “in full recognition of your great contributions in the international monetary field to the economic and industrial development of Japan and the ceaseless endeavours you have devoted to the promotion of Japanese-British friendship”. 

Edmund de Rothschild, private papers, 'World Tour' 1937-1939', diaries and sundry papers, 1937-c.1945

000/1243, 1 tin trunk, 1 box

In 1937, Edmund de Rothschild was sent by his father on an 18-month tour around the world. Drawing on the diaries he kept during his travels, he later published and account of his experiences, Window on the World, (London: Peter Davis, 1949).

Contents of a tin trunk formerly held in the vault at New Court:  ‘Edmund L de Rothschild, 233’ containing material concerning Mr Edmund de Rothschild’s World Tour in the 1930s.

  • Mr Edmund's private diaries: leather diary for 1937; silver Diary for 1937; silver Diary for 1939; silver Diary for 1941; 
  • Drafts of the text for ‘Window on the World’ (some drafts marked with an early title, 'The Great Globe Itself’; seven volumes of drafts for ‘Window on the World’; 
  • Four envelopes containing slides in silver mounts. 

Contents of a tin trunk formerly held in the vault at New Court:  ‘Edmund L de Rothschild, 235’, containing:

  • War diary to 11 May 1940;
  • diary of round the world trip, from January 1939;
  • letters home from travels, 1938 onwards, together with typed transcripts of some of them.
  • Typed diary of round the world trip, labelled ‘Copy of Diary 1937-1939’ and folder ‘Diary Africa and America’.
  • six packets of small photographs of people, views etc., marked in pencil ‘India/Delhi’, ‘India (North)’, ‘India (Rashmi)’, ‘India (Gwalior)’, ‘Puri, Darjeeling, Mysore’ and ‘Afghanistan’.

Edmund de Rothschild, private papers, 'World Tour' 1937-1939', sundry papers, 1937-1939

000/1535, 5 boxes

In 1937, Edmund de Rothschild was sent by his father on an 18-month tour around the world. Drawing on the diaries he kept during his travels, he later published and account of his experiences, Window on the World, (London: Peter Davis, 1949).

Contents of a tin trunk formerly held in the vault at New Court: 'Box 463: Various odd papers, maps etc. regarding Mr Edmund de Rothschild's world tour 1937-1939'. Includes correspondence, brochures, photographs, itineraries, maps, press cuttings and a souvenir snake skin. The countries visited by Edmund de Rothschild included in South Africa, Kenya, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, The East Indies (Indonesia), French Indochina (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia), India, Burma and Afghanistan.

Edmund de Rothschild, private papers from Exbury, 1799; 1900-2007

000/1018, 163 boxes, 10 items

Private papers and personal artefacts relating to the life and work of Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009). Most papers were transferred to the Archive by Mr Edmund de Rothschild in 2001; further papers were added by the executors of Mr Edmund de Rothschild in 2009 after his death, transferred from his Exbury office, and include items that were transferred to Exbury from Mr Edmund de Rothschild's office at New Court, vacated when New Court was rebuilt in 2008.  

The papers concern business of the Exbury Estate (the running of Exbury House, Exbury Gardens and associated Exbury businesses), local Exbury affairs, Jewish affairs, charitable and philanthropic activities,  family matters, papers relating to his parents, Mr Edmund de Rothschild’s World Tour 1937-1939, and his later wartime service, and family photographs. The files includes some papers concerning the business of N M Rothschild & Sons, and other business matters including Churchill Falls and BRINCO and Straflo. Some files concern private affairs relating to Elizabeth, Mrs Edmund de Rothschild (née Lentner) (1923-1980).

Note item 000/1018/429, dated c.1799, is a framed original map of ‘British America comprehending Canada, Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia etc.’, believed to have been given to Mr Edmund de Rothschild as a gift, commemorating the Churchill Falls project. Note most papers are closed.

Edmund de Rothschild, Royal correspondence, c.1950-c.1970

000/1601, 1 file

File of copy correspondence between Edmund de Rothschild and various members of royal familes concerning gifts from Exbury of azaleas, rhododendrons and other plants. The royal families concerned are British, Swedish, Danish and Japanese. 

Edmund de Rothschild, sundry photographs, 1957; 1960; 1975; 2006

000/892, 000/901, 000/1150, 000/1625, 12 items

Edmund de Rothschild, sundry photogarphs:

  • Mr and Mrs Edmund de Rothschild exiting a KLM jet, 1957;
  • Mr and Mrs Edmund de Rothschild outside New Court, c.1960;
  • six photographs of the Signing Ceremony between NMR and Nippon Fudosan Bank, 1975 featuring Mr. Edmund de Rothschild and Tatsuo Shoda, President of NFB;
  • three photographs taken of the visit of Tatsuo Shoda to Exbury, c.1975
  • colour photograph, originally published in the Jewish Chronicle, January 2006, showing Edmund de Rothschild, Jacque Weisser, Michael Martin MP (Speaker of the House of Commons), and Harold Newman at the Speakers House, House of Commons. Edmund de Rothschild is being presented with a photograph of himself by AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women) to mark his 90th birthday.

Edmund de Rothschild, horticultural papers, awards and competitions, 1930-2005

000/2227, 1 box

Papers of Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) and Edmund de Rothschild from Exbury concerning horticultural matters. Most of the papers are Royal Horticultural Society plaques, certificates and awards for growing and showing orchids and cymbidiums, awarded to Lionel de Rothschild, and Edmund de Rothschild. A few papers relate to local Hampshire shows: Medal Award plaques, 1930-1953; 1959; 1983; 1989; 1992; 1997; certificates of Merit, 1930-1952; 2004-2005; correspondence and papers concerning competitions, 1930-1939; 1947, 1982-1985, 2004; watercolour of an orchid 'Cym. Swallow Var.Phantasy, RHS A.M. April 2, 1935'.

Edmund de Rothschild, sundry press cuttings, 1929-1998

000/527, 000/601, 000/1245, 2 files, 1 item

Sundry press cuttings concerning Mr Edmund de Rothschild:

  • Cutting from The Daily Telegraph concerning Edmund de Rothschild’s barmitzvah, 1929. (000/601)
  • Collection of press cuttings collected by George Ireland during the preparation of A Gilt-Edged Life, the memoirs of Edmund de Rothschild. The cuttings concern Mr Edmund de Rothschild and the family at Exbury; the Rothschild family and events of the Second World War, including work for refugees and property sequestrations in Austria (1936-1960); N M Rothschild & Sons (1955-1996); Churchill Falls; obituaries of Anthony Gustav de Rothschild (1887-1961) and Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990) (000/1245)
  • Copy of Hello! magazine no.500, 14 March 1998 featuring an interview with Edmund de Rothschild. (000/1245)
  • Copy of Hello! magazine, 2 November 1996, including photographs of Edmund, Leopold and Nicholas de Rothschild in fancy dress at the 70th birthday party of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. (000/527)

Edmund de Rothschild, 80th Birthday Tributes, 1996

000/513, 1 item

Typed copy of a song written by Richard Stilgoe for Edmund de Rothschild's80th birthday, to the tune of “Burlington Bertie”.  Signed by Stilgoe.

Edmund de Rothschild, 90th Birthday Tribute Book, 2006

000/1678, 000/2295, 2 items

Edmund de Rothschild 90th Birthday Tribute Book, 2 January 2006 containing tributes and reminiscences from family and friends of Edmund de Rothschild. 000/1678 is a photocopy of the book.

Edmund de Rothschild, memorial papers, 2009

000/1914, 1 file

Edmund de Rothschild (1916-2009): memorial papers:

  • Notice of the death of Edmund Leopold de Rothschild in 'The Rhododendron, Camellia & Magnolia Group' newsletter of the Royal Horticultural Society, Bulletin 99, March 2009;
  • Folder of newspaper and magazine obituaries for Edmund de Rothschild;
  • Order of Service for the funeral of Edmund Leopold de Rothschild held Tuesday 21 April, 2009 at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London;
  • Transcripts of Eulogies given by Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012), Michael Heseltine and Lord Guthrie at the Memorial Service for Mr. Edmund de Rothschild, Tuesday 21 April, 2009 at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London;
  • Order of Service for the service of thanksgiving to celebrate the life of Mr Edmund de Rothschild, held 21 April 2009 at The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St. John's Wood, London.

Edmund de Rothschild, published memoirs, 'Window on the World', 1949

000/2728/1, 1 volume

Window on the World, Edmund de Rothschild (London, Peter Davis, 1949). In 1937, Edmund de Rothschild was sent by his father on an 18-month tour around the world. Drawing on the diaries he kept during his travels, he later published an account of his experiences as Window on the World. See 000/1243 and 000/1535 for original diaries, papers and other documents relating to Mr Edmund's World Tour.

Edmund de Rothschild, published memoirs, 'A Gilt-edged Life: memoir', 1998

000/2728/2, 1 volume

A Gilt-edged Life: memoir, Edmund de Rothschild  (London: John Murray, 1998). Mr Edmund's memoirs, recalling his early life, his experiences as a Partner, then  Senior Partner and Chairman of N M Rothschild & Sons and N M Rothschild & Sons Limited, the development of the 'Churchill Falls' project, his wartime service and the restoration and enjoyment of his beloved Exbury.

Edmund de Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Meridien News', 1995

000/405, 1 VHS cassette

Recording of a news item about Edmund de Rothschild at Exbury, broadcast on Meridien News, 4 January 1995.

Edmund de Rothschild, secondary sources, 'War Stories', 1999

000/766, 1 VHS cassette

Recording of an episode from the Discovery Channel’s War Stories series of documentaries c.1999. This episode features The Jewish Brigade, and Mr Edmund de Rothschild.