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Ferdinand James Anselm de Rothschild (1839-1898)

Ferdinand James Anselm de Rothschild, the son of Anselm and Charlotte, was born in Paris on 17 December 1839 and educated in Vienna. His memories of his mother (who died when he was 19) were warm; less so for his father whom he thought remote. England, his mother's home country became his adopted home, where he adopted the 'de' prefix rather than the von' of his native Austria. Arriving in England in 1860, Ferdinand lived near his English Rothschild relatives in London, mixing in the same social circles as his brother-in-law, Natty, Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), and counting the Prince of Wales among his friends. 

Ferdinand married his cousin Evelina (Evy) (1839-1866), the daughter of his uncle, Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) on 7 July 1865. After their marriage, Ferdinand purchased 143 Piccadilly, in London’s fashionable district of Mayfair, as a town home for himself and Evelina; his parents-in-law lived at 148, Piccadilly. However, the marriage was struck by great tragedy; Evelina died in childbirth; her infant child also perished.  Ferdinand’s sister, Alice von Rothschild (1847-1922) purchased 142, Piccadilly in 1866 after the death of her sister-in-law Evelina, so that she could be close to her widowed brother; a connecting door was made between the two properties. Ferdinand created a lasting memorial to his wife and child, establishing and supporting the Evelina Hospital for Sick Children in London, which continues today.

Waddesdon Manor

In 1874 Ferdinand bought “a lovely tract of land, [with] beautiful soil...and very pretty scenery” in the Vale of Aylesbury. Inspired by the châteaux of the Valois, Ferdinand employed Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur to build him his own French-style country house, with towers and external staircases such as he had seen while in Touraine. Destailleur submitted elaborate plans for a vast mansion, nearly twice the length of the house as built, with a ballroom and a winter garden. Ferdinand wanted the scale reduced and a new design was approved, although the architect warned him that ‘one always builds too small’ a mistake Ferdinand later rued. Waddesdon, perhaps the most well-known of all the great Rothschild houses in England, became the setting for Ferdinand's collection of art and objets d'art, and the scene of splendid entertainment. In a family of collectors of distinction, Ferdinand was pre-eminent, perhaps collecting to mask his sense of loss. The Waddesdon Bequest Room at the British Museum was established to accommodate the enormous collection he left the institution in his will.

In Rothschild fashion, Ferdinand settled into the community around his estate, representing Aylesbury as Liberal MP from 1885 and serving as JP and Deputy Lieutenant and Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. An active Freemason, he was a founder member and master of the Ferdinand de Rothschild Lodge in 1892. No less prominent in the Jewish community, Ferdinand served as Treasurer of the Board of Guardians from 1868-1875, was Warden of the Central Synagogue and founded the Ferdinand de Rothschild Technical Scholarship at Stepney Jewish Schools. Ferdinand died at Waddesdon on his 59th birthday.

Archive sources

A copy of Ferdinand de Rothschild's Red Book, a privately printed album of photographs and an essay by Ferdinand recording the building, interiors, and collections assembled at Waddesdon can be found in The Exbury Collection, reference 000/880/21/1. Another copy of the 'Red Book' can also be found in the collections of Waddesdon Manor. A digitised version of their copy can be viewed here » The Rothschild Archive London holds a small amount of Ferdinand's private correspondence to other members of the Rothschild family.

Copies of published works by Ferdinand de Rothschild in the collection are listed below; in addition, a copy of Ferdinand's essay, 'The expansion of art' from The Fortnightly Review, vol. XXXVII., 1885 and 'Village lectures: Queen Elizabeth; The Reign of Queen Anne; John Wilkes; George III' c.1885 will be found in the Reading Room.

Further papers relating to Ferdinand de Rothschild are held by The Archive, Windmill Hill, Waddesdon Manor »

Ferdinand de Rothschild, family correspondence, 1863-1892

000/26, 109 items

A collection of 108 letters from Ferdinand, dating from between 1863, before his marriage to Evelina the daughter of Charlotte and Lionel, and 1892, are addressed mainly to his parents-in-law and, after their deaths, to Leopold. The letters written on his European tour after the death of his wife are valuable for the information they reveal about his collecting interests in the years before he built Waddesdon.

Note: item 000/26/109 is an unknown carte de visite, found with these letters. It is not known to relate to any of the letters in the collection. Some items in this collection are believed to have been extracted from the XI/109 series. Letters written by Ferdinand on the subject of his wife Evelina's death in 1867, to his cousin Leopold de Rothschild, will be found in the Ascott Collection, (000/924/13/3).

Transcripts available in the Reading Room

Ferdinand de Rothschild, correspondence with N M Rothschild & Sons, 1879-1880

000/1200, 6 items

Six letters from Ferdinand de Rothschild to N M Rothschild & Sons concerning personal banking matters. [Note: it is believed that at some time these letters were extracted from sundry series within the NMR archives, and the original provenance of these letters is now lost].

Ferdinand de Rothschild, executors' papers , 1898-1901

000/110, 1 box

Rothschild family papers transferred to the Archive from the New Court vaults. It is believed that the papers were held by various solicitors acting for members of the Rothschild family, before being sent to the New Court vaults, and largely concern legal matters. Papers of the Executors of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild concerning matters pertaining to his estate, including: folder od sundry correspondence, copy correspondence and papers between Messrs. Rothschild [N M Rothschild & Sons] and Salomon Albert Rothschild (1844-1911), Ferdinand’s brother; correspondence between Messrs Rothschild Rothschild [N M Rothschild & Sons] and Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922), Ferdinand’s sister; Case Opinion of Mr. Swinden Eady re. Baron Rothschild dec'd, 2 March 1899; Case Submitted by Mr. Swinden Eady, 10 March 1899; Case Opinion of Mr. John Henderson re. Baron Rothschild dec'd, 1899; correspondence, copy correspondence and papers between G.E.Renwick and H.Wyatt; between G.E.Renwick and Messrs. Glasden & Trekerne; between N M Rothschild & Sons and  de Rothschild Frères and other sundry correspondence, 1899; correspondence, copy correspondence and papers between Messrs. Rothschild and Messrs R.S. Taylor, Son & Co. 1899-1900.

Ferdinand and Evelina de Rothschild, marriage contract and sundry legal papers, 1865-1900

000/108/1-6, 1 box

Rothschild family papers transferred to the Archive from the New Court vaults. It is believed that the papers were held by various solicitors acting for members of the Rothschild family, before being sent to the New Court vaults, and largely concern legal matters. Papers of the Executors of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild concerning matters pertaining to his estate, including: Contract of marriage between Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) and Evelina de Rothschild, dated 3 June 1865; Deed of marriage dated 6 June 1865; two Alliance Assurance Company policy certificates for fire assurance taken out on property owned by Ferdinand de Rothschild, June 1875, 43 Piccadilly; Leighton House, Leighton Buzzard; folder of sundry correspondence and accounts relating to finances of Ferdinand de Rothschild, mainly securities, 1895-1900; typescript catalogue of the collections in the Smoking Room at Waddesdon Manor, 20 October 1897; Copy of the will of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, dated 20 October 1897; printed copy of the will of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, dated 20 October 1897 and codicil dated 9 December 1897; printed list of ‘Legatees of Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild deceased’ prepared by R.S.Taylor, Son and Humbert, Gray’s Inn, W.C. [1898].

Ferdinand de Rothschild, volumes of collected printed obituaries, 1898

000/345, 000/377, 000/1557/5, 6 volumes, 1 item

Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898): volumes of printed obituaries and other press cuttings:

  • Five volumes of obituaries and other press cuttings, including order of service for the funeral of Ferdinand de Rothschild. These volumes would appear to consist of a set of three, labelled Vols 1, 2 and 3, plus two other volumes which seem to be unique individual volumes rather than a set. These volumes were transferred to the Archive from the NMR vault, rather than directly from a family member, so it is possible that they were in the second New Court, possibly in the Partners’ Room, or the New Court Library. (000/345);
  • One black leather bound album with gold tooling of press obituaries for Ferdinand de Rothschild. These include London, national and international newspaper cuttings, some with illustrations, describing the sudden death, funeral and burial of Baron Ferdinand. Published between 19 December 1898-4 January 1899. The provenance would appear to be the same as that of the volumes in 000/345;
  • Copy of the Daily Graphic newpaper, 19 December 1898 which includes an obituary for Ferdinand de Rothschild. (000/1557/5)

Ferdinand de Rothschild, probate of will, 1899

000/420, 1 item

Manuscript parchment probate of the will of Ferdinand de Rothschild.

Ferdinand de Rothschild, publications, 'Three weeks in South Africa, A Diary', 1895

000/2570/1, 1 volume

Three weeks in South Africa, A Diary, by Ferdinand de Rothschild, (Messrs Hathchard, Piccadilly, London, 1895). The volume is the personal impressions of a visit to South Africa with the Hon. Alexander McDonnell from December to February 1894-1895, recorded in a daily journal. The journal records the voyage on the Dunottar Castle, visits to Cape Town, the Kimberley diamond mines, and mission establishments, meetings with the Jewish community and leading figures in the colony, and observations on people, flora and fauna. This volume is signed by the author, 11 March 1896.

Ferdinand de Rothschild, publications, 'Personal Characteristics From French History', 1896

000/2570/2, 1 volume

Personal Characteristics From French History, Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, M.P. with portraits, (Macmillan and Co, Ltd, London 1896). The volume contains biographical character sketches drawn from the reputed sayings of notable figures in French history c.1000-1836. Ferdinand is believed to have used his growing book collection to research this volume. 

Ferdinand de Rothschild, publications. 'The Comte de Clermont', 1890

000/2461, 1 item

Essay, "The Comte de Clermont", by Ferdinand de Rothschild, extracted from The Nineteenth Century, 1890.