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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, In the north east corner of the gardens runs the 12¼in (311mm) gauge Exbury Steam Railway that goes on a journey through a tunnel, around Dragonfly Pond, through the Summer Lane Garden, along the top of the rock gardens and into the American Garden. The railway was built in 2000–2001 as an additional attraction in the gardens at the request of Mr Leopold de Rothschild; his good friend James Dunbar-Nasmith designed the main station. Two narrow gauge style 0-6-2 tender tank locos were built specially for the line by the Exmoor Steam Railway.

Leopold de Rothschild died April 19 2012. One of his last wishes was that after his death, his coffin be carried on one last circuit of the private railway he created. See Estates: Exbury estate, Exbury Gardens for secondary soures concerning 'Mr Leo's railway'.

See also Records of the London banking house, Partners' Room for personal papers and artefacts of Mr Leopold de Rothschild from his New Court office.

Leopold David de Rothschild, sundry private papers maintained by Ms Jennifer Jacobs, 1956-2014

000/2104, 3 boxes

Leopold David de Rothschild (1927-2012): sundry private papers, maintained by Ms Jennifer Jacobs, private secretary to Mr Leopold de Rothschild for over 25 years. The papers include press cuttings photographs and other printed material such as concert programmes, Also included is a folder of papers compiled by Ms Jacobs relating to the death of Mr Leopold de Rothschild:

  • Folder containing obituaries, press cuttings and other sundry papers collected by Ms Jacobs after the death of Mr Leopold de Rothschild; Order of Service for the funeral of Mr Leopold de Rothschild; CD recording of Mr Leopold de Rothschild's obituary featured in the BBC Radio 4 Programme The Last Word, broadcast 1 June 2012; 
  • Folder containing programmes, dinner invitations and engagements attended by Mr Leopold de Rothschild, 1973-1994;
  • Folder containing programmes for musical events and theatre shows attended by Mr Leopold de Rothschild in New York, 1956-1957
  • Folder of programmes and related papers for Memorial Concerts, held in memory of Mr Leopold de Rothschild, 2012-2014;
  • Photographs, estate agents’ particulars and ‘New Home’ cards, commemorating the house move of Mr Leopold de Rothschild in July 2010. Mr Leo moved from 11 Campden Hill Square, W8 to Cumberland House, Kensington Road, W8: Photograph album entitled From CHS to CH or An epic journey across the Park with photographs of the move; estate agents’ particulars for 11 Campden Hill Square, W8 and Cumberland House, Kensington Road, W8; congratulatory cards from friends, 2010;
  • Sundry newspaper cuttings and magazine articles relating to other Rothschilds and friends of Mr Leopold.
  • Folders  of programmes of performances by the English Chamber Orchestra, correspondence, concert programmes, tickets relating to the Royal College of Music, and sundry programmes for concerts and other events, such as the Bach Choir, English Chamber Orchestra, 1983-2000.

Leopold de Rothschild: sundry private papers and artefacts, gifted to the Archive, 1846; 1938; 1952-2011

000/2094, 2 boxes, 2 tin trunks

Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012): sundry private  papers and artefacts, gifted the the Archive by the executors of the estate of the late Mr Leopold David de Rothschild. The papers reflect his business activities and his private interests, such as music and railways, and include private correspondence, official documents, awards, honours and artefacts, the contents of ‘Trunk 245’ (mainly legal documents and other official personal papers) and 'Trunk 245a’ (mainly awards and honours conferred upon Leopold de Rothschild and artefacts collected by him). These trunks were formerly stored in the NMR vaults at New Court. Most items are closed with the exception of some printed items:

  • Folder of playbills and musical programmes for concerts and shows attended by Leopold de Rothschild at Exbury, Cambridge University, Dartmouth Naval College, and London and provincial theatres, 1952-1957; 
  • Folder of sundry press cuttings collected by Mr Leopold de Rothschild. The clippings have a personal significance and concern musical topics, Mr Leopold de Rothschild becoming a Partner with N M Rothschild & Sons, and other items which caught his attention, 1954-1967;
  • Folder of Orders of service and funeral memorials for friends, family, and acquaintances of Leopold de Rothschild' 1965-2010; 
  • Folder of invitations to dinners attended by Mr Leopold de Rothschild; some private functions, but mainly official dinners attended representing of N M Rothschild & Sons, or the Bank of England, or State banquets held by HM The Queen. Some invitations include menu cards, 1952-2010.

Leopold David de Rothschild, artefacts, Royal Naval Reserve uniform, c.1958

000/1878, 3 boxes

Royal Naval Reserve uniform belonging to Leopold David de Rothschild (1927-2012). Consists of: greatcoat, short dress jacket (no epaulettes), waistcoat, two jackets (suit length), blouson jacket, three pairs of trousers, two caps. From 1945-1948, Leopold de Rothschild served his National Service in the Royal Navy, serving from 19 November 1945 to 3 March 1948, successively in The Royal Arthur, Glendower, Valkyrie, Drake, Kenya, and Pembroke. Whilst serving on the Kenya, he was said to have formed a gramophone club which gave weekly 'concerts'. In 1958, Leopold was appointed a Lieutenant (Special Branch) in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

Leopold David de Rothschild, 70th birthday celebrations, sundry papers, 1997

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

Mr Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012): 70th birthday celebrations, 1997: A special party was held for Mr Leopold's 70th birthday on Sunday 11 May 1997. Invited guests boarded a special steam excursion train from London Victoria station to Eastleigh, and thence by diesel train to Brockenhurst, where buses took guests to Exbury. The return journey was made in reverse. Lunch and tea were served aboard the train, with a special birthday cake cut at Exbury. On the following day, Monday 12 May, a surprise birthday concert was held for Mr Leopold at the Science Museum in South Kensington, with performances by the Bach Choir and others.

  • Sundry papers concerning the event on Sunday 11 May: Invitation; Souvenir booklet with menu, guest list and other information; Souvenir train ticket; letters of thanks received after the event. (000/581)
  • Sundry papers concerning the event on Monday 12 May: Programme for the concert. (000/581)
  • Two videos recording the events held in May 1997 to celebrate the 70th birthday of Leopold David de Rothschild: a birthday party on board a steam train from Victoria to visit Exbury Gardens, and a concert at the Science Museum. (000/1865)

Leopold David de Rothschild, 80th birthday celebrations, sundry papers, 2007

000/1779, 1 file

Mr Leopold de Rothschild (1927-2012): 80th birthday celebrations, 2007: An 80th birthday party for Mr Leopold was held at the Exbury esate, 12 May 2007. The party was held in a marquee in Exbury Gardens, and included a special train ride on the Exbury Steam railway for guests.

  • Invitation to 80th birthday party for Leopold David de Rothschild at Exbury, 12 May 2007;
  • Menu card, guest place card;
  • letter of instruction to guests;
  • Exbury Garden railway tickets;
  • Folder of private photographs of guests, Mr Leopold de Rothschild, the marquee, etc.

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, recordings, 'Private Passions', 1995

000/440/1, 2 cassette tapes, 1 CD

Recordings on cassette tape and CD of Private Passions, broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 2 September 1995, featuring Leopold David de Rothschild.

Leopold David de Rothschild, recordings, 'Mad about Music', 2010

000/440/2, 1 CD

CD of Mr Leopold de Rothschild's radio interview with Gilbert Kaplan on Mad about Music, WQXR, New York, 4 April 2010.

Leopold David de Rothschild, recordings, 'Acis and Galatea', n.d.

000/440/3, 1 CD

Commercial CD recording of Acis and Galatea. Dame Janet Baker (narrator), Anna Maria Labin, Ed Lyon, Joao Fernandes, Richard Edgar-Wilson (soloists). English Chamber Orchestra, Choir of the 21st Century with singers from London Voices. Mr Leopold de Rothschild is one of the singers.