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Leopold David de Rothschild (1927-2012)

Leopold David de Rothschild was born in London on May 12 1927, the youngest child of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1882-1942) and Marie Louise née Beer (1892-1975).  Leo, as he was known, was brought up mostly at Exbury House, on the estate his father had acquired in late 1918, which is bounded by the New Forest, The Solent and the Beaulieu river.  It was there that his father created the 250-acre woodland garden, famous for its rhododendrons and azaleas. A keen yachtsman, he fondly remembered family holidays with French cousins on his father’s yacht, Rhodora; and continued to sail all his life, becoming a leading figure in The Solent Dragon fleet for many years.

During the Second World War, Leo was evacuated for three years to North America with other young Rothschild cousins from Austria and England, with whom he formed enduring bonds.  Returning to England in 1943, Leo went to Harrow, where he sang in the school choir; and later, during two years’ National Service in the Royal Navy serving in the cruiser Kenya, he formed a gramophone club which gave weekly concerts.

He went to Trinity College, Cambridge, to read French and Russian.  After leaving Cambridge and brief training at other banks, Leo joined his family’s bank, becoming a partner in 1956 and in 1970, when NMR became the last London accepting house to relinquish its private partnership status, an executive director.  From 1970 to 1983 he sat as a director on the Court of the Bank of England.  He was heavily involved in re-establishing Rothschild’s Latin American offices, especially Mexico, Chile and Brazil, where he was responsible for leading the financing for the Rio-Niteroi Bridge.  He played an integral part in the development of the Banking Division and established Rothschild Intercontinental Bank in 1969.  He was always committed to the welfare of the bank’s staff and pensioners, whom he regularly invited to visit Exbury Gardens.

Leo’s French-born mother, Marie-Louise Beer, was a great-great-niece of the composer Giacomo Meyerbeer and she encouraged his musical interests.  When he began working in London he joined the Bach Choir, and sang as second bass for some 50 years.  Eventually he served as chairman, and later president, of the choir.  Over the years he served as either president or chairman of many other leading British musical institutions, including the English Chamber Orchestra, English National Opera and the Royal College of Music Theatre; he was also a friend of Sir George Christie and helped raise funds for the new opera house at Glyndebourne. Through the Leopold de Rothschild Charitable Trust he provided support to the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, the Rambert Dance Company and the St John’s Hospice.  The trust also funded scholarships at the Royal College of Music.  Perhaps the charity closest to his heart was The Countess of Munster Musical Trust, which helped countless musicians over the years.  He also served on the board of the National Theatre; he was a keen theatregoer and also something of a film buff. In 1985 he was appointed CBE for services to music and the arts. 

Leo’s other great passion was steam trains, and he served as a trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry and as a member of the National Railway Museum Advisory Committee. At Exbury, he built a narrow-gauge steam railway; his good friend James Dunbar-Nasmith designed the station. Leopold de Rothschild died April 19 2012. 

Leopold David de Rothschild, sundry private papers, 1948-2011

000/1333, 000/2093, 1 file, 1 box

Letter from Kenneth Rose to Leopold David de Rothschild, 20 November 2003, enclosing a copy of his diary entry for 26 April 1962, when he visited New Court just prior to the demolition; collection of memorabilia, letters, postcards, photographs, press cuttings etc. collected by Leopold, including play bills and musical programmes; postcards; newspaper cuttings; orders of service; invitations; correspondence.

Leopold David de Rothschild, sundry private papers, 1955-2012

000/2104, 2 boxes, 2 items

A collection of private papers of Leopold de Rothschild, including papers relating to his death, including copies of the death notice, obituaries and press cuttings,  together with the Order of Service for the funeral; CD recording of Mr Leopold David de Rothschild's obituary featured in the BBC Radio Programme 'Last Word', 1 June  2012 and programme for the Leopold David de Rothschild memorial concert, held at the Cadogan Hall, 1 November 2012; copy of  notice to all Rothschild offices and pensioners concerning the passing of Mr Leo; file of papers concerning New Court, 1962;  presentation volume of photographs and other material relating to New Court, compiled when New Court was rebuilt in 1962;  photographs; programmes, dinner invitations and engagements attended by Mr Leopold David de Rothschild, 1973-1994; programmes for musical events and theatre shows attended by Mr Leopold David de Rothschild in New York, 1956-1957; miscellaneous items and recordings relating to the musical interests of Mr Leopold David de Rothschild; framed engraving of Nathan Mayer Rothschild c.1837 by William Walker, Cavendish Square, London, 1837; eulogy delivered by Mr Leopold David de Rothschild at the Memorial service for his brother, Mr Edmund de Rothschild, Tuesday 21 April 2009; copy of Programme for memorial concert for Mr Leopold David de Rothschild given by the Bach choir in 2014; photograph album recording the move of Mr Leopold from Campden Hill Square to Cumberland House; press cuttings collected by Mr Leopold concerning family and friends. 

Leopold David de Rothschild, Royal correspondence, 1960-2010

000/2026, 3 boxes

Private correspondence between Mr Leopold de Rothschild and members of the Royal Family, including invitations to royal events, Christmas cards received from members of the Royal family and photographs. Includes a volume of papers and photographs of the private luncheon party given by Mr Leopold David de Rothschild for HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, 6 April 2000. 

Leopold David de Rothschild, artefacts, naval uniform, c.1945

000/1878, 3 boxes

Naval Reserve uniform belonging to Leopold David de Rothschild.  Consists of: greatcoat, short dress jacket (no epaulettes), waistcoat, two jackets (suit length), blouson jacket, three pairs of trousers, two caps. From 1945-1947 Leopold derved his National Service in the Royal Navy serving in the cruiser Kenya, where he formed a gramophone club which gave weekly concerts.

Leopold David de Rothschild, 70th birthday tributes, 1997

000/581, 000/1865, 2 video cassettes, 1 file

Two videos recording events held in May 1997 to celebrate the 70th birthday of Leopold David de Rothschild: a concert at the Science Museum; and a birthday party on board a steam train from Victoria to visit Exbury Gardens. 000/581 is a file containing ephemera relating to the celebration of Leopold David de Rothschild’s 70th birthday.

Leopold David de Rothschild, 80th birthday tributes, 2007

000/1779, 000/1811, 2 files

Papers concerning Mr. Leopold David de Rothschild's 80th birthday party at Exbury 12th May, 2007: invitation to 80th birthday party for Leopold David de Rothschild at Exbury, 12 May 2007. menu card, place card, letter of instruction to guests and Exbury Garden railway tickets. The party was held in a marquee in Exbury Gardens.

Leopold David de Rothschild, personal stationery, c.1989-2007

000/1122, 000/1870, 2 files

Selection of stationery produced within N M Rothschild & Sons on behalf of Leopold David de Rothschild, including lunch menus, blank embossed cards and Exbury invitations, displaying two style of arrows; examples of NMR, English Chamber Orchestra and Music Society, Royal College of Music and personal stationery from the office of Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012) who was also chair of the two musical organisations. Includes colour postcard of a map showing New Court and environs.

Leopold David de Rothschild, photographs, c.2002

000/1188, 1 file

Photographs of Mr Leopold David de Rothschild (1927-2012); four passport photographs; informal photograph of Mr. Leopold at his desk with picture of a railway train in his hand; informal photograph of Leopold in panama hat at an event (possibly the opening of Exbury steam railway).

Leopold David de Rothschild, secondary sources, 'Private Passions', 1995

000/440, 1 cassette tape

Recording of Private Passions, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 2 September 1995, featuring Leopold David de Rothschild.