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Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879)

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild was the eldest son and main business heir of Nathan Mayer Rothschild. He spent some time at the University of Göttingen, before embarking on an apprenticeship in the family business in London, Paris and Frankfurt. Lionel was admitted to the family partnership in 1836 at a family gathering in Frankfurt to celebrate his marriage to his cousin, Charlotte, on 15 June. Nathan's death just days later left Lionel as senior partner in the new firm N M Rothschild & Sons, which he formed with his three brothers. Business continued steadily under Lionel and in the 1860s, New Court, the home of the business was rebuilt.

Lionel undertook a lengthy campaign to become the first Jewish Member of Parliament. He took his seat as Liberal Member for the City of London in 1858, 11 years after he was first elected. See below for papers relating to his campaign.

Lionel and his wife Charlotte (1819-1884) entertained a wide circle of friends at 148 Piccadilly and at Gunnersbury Park, many of whom actively supported Lionel's campaign to become the first Jewish Member of Parliament. In the 1850s, Lionel began to acquire large tracts of land in the Vale of Aylesbury which he children finally inherited and developed still further. He also bequeathed to them his magnificent collection of Old Master paintings.

Collections of private correspondence of Lionel are listed below. Rothschild family correspondence with Disraeli will be found in 000/11; see Rothschild family papers: Sundry Correspondence, non-Rothschilds »

For further private papers of Lionel see Named Collections, The Ascott Collection »

For private receipts and accounts of Lionel, see The London Banking house, Estates Department, Gunnersbury Park estate »

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), artefacts, railway token, c.1850

000/1911/6, 1 item

Ivory circular token of the Chemin de Fer du Nord and display stand. Given to Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), as an administrator, allowing him free travel on the railway.  The reverse depicts a locomotive of the company. With contemporary glass domed wooden miniature display case.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), artefacts, railway token, c.1860

000/1494, 1 item

Silver circular token granting free transport on the ‘Lombardy and Central Italian Railway’, c. 1860. One one side a decorative locomotive engine, engraved by Desaide-Roquelay.  On the other side an inscription: Mr le Baron Lionel de Rothschild.When the new Imperial Lombardo-Venetian and Central Italian Railway Company company was launched in 1856, £1.2 million of its £6 million shares were taken by an English group led by the London house, which also undertook a £3.1 m bond issue for the company. The Rothschilds and their associates, as majority shareholders, controlled over 600 miles of Italian railways, which were soon merged with the Austrian Sudbahn (bought by James from the Austrian government in 1858 for 100 million gulden) to form the South Austrian Lombardo-Venetian and Central Italian Railway Company. Another railway token, of the Chemin de Fer du Nord, given to Lionel de Rothschild (as an administrator, allowing him free travel on the railway will be found in 000/1911/3.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), family correspondence, 1835-1878

000/13, 402 items

Correspondence of Lionel with his wife Charlotte and his children.

Transcripts available in the Reading Room

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), family correspondence, 1836

000/27, 46 items

Correspondence of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild with his mother and brothers. The letters mainly concern family matters such as the ill-health of his father Nathan, but some letters concern business.

Transcripts available in the Reading Room

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), sundry correspondence, Austrian Consul General, 1845-1847

000/2016, 1 file

Papers of Lionel de Rothschild de Rothschild (1808-1879) as Austrian Honorary Consul General in London,1845-1847. Subjects include quicksilver and railways. 

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), sundry correspondence, 1844

000/1434, 1 item

Letter from Sir Henry Bulwer (1801-1872) during his time as Ambassador at the Spanish court of Isabella II, to Lionel Nathan de Rothschild dated April 9th 1844 concerning recommendations on the appointment of a Spanish Minister in London.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), degree certificate, 1825

000/274/7, 1 item

Matriculation degree certificate for Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) from Göttingen University, 1825.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), estate papers and inventories, 1847-1899; 1937-1938

000/176, 4 boxes

Papers concerning the estate and collections of Lionel: Congratulations from the Manchester Jewish Community, on his election to Parliament, 1847; papers relating to his will and probate; papers concerning life insurance, inheritances; inventories of silver and plate at 148 Piccadilly and Gunnersbury Park; estate accounts, surveys and valuations for 148, Piccadilly and the Gunnersbury estate; catalogue of pictures at Piccadilly and Gunnersbury Park; inventories of the division of Lionel's property amongst his sons. Also included are later valuations and sales catalogues for 148 Piccadilly, 1937.

List available 

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), library collections, n.d.

000/375/9, 1 volume

Printed and bound prayers on various occasions including the deliverance of Jewish brethren at Damasacus, and a poem on the return of Moses Montefiore from a Russian mission, by Rabbi Abraham Belais (Lionel de Rothschild's own copy). 

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), marriage contract, 1836

000/89, 1 file

Marriage contract between Lionel and Charlotte de Rothschild.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), passport, 1848

000/274/9, 1 item

Passport for Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), despatch courier, permitting travel from Boulogne or Calais to London. Issued by the Austrian Embassy in Paris, 28 November 1848.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), photographs, n.d.

000/1695, 1 item

Oval framed photograph of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild. From the collection of his son Alfred de Rothschild (1842-1918), Halton House. This miniature can be seen on a desk  in the photograph of the Library, Halton House, in the photograph album in 000/880/20.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), pocket book, 1862-1863

000/239, 1 volume

Lionel’s pocket book, with jottings, figures and illustrations.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), publications, 1867

000/263, 1 volume

Le Peuple Juif, a poem written by Barthelemy and dedicated to Lionel Nathan de Rothschild.  (Copy is signed by the author).

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), 'The Order of the Rose', 1859

000/2423, 1 item

Papers concerning Imperial Letters Patent, grant of title of Commander of the Order of the Rose upon Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1876); Anthony de Rothschild (1810-1876) and Mayer de Rothschild (1818-1874), 1859. The Imperial Order of the Rose ('Imperial Ordem da Rosa') was awarded by the Emperor of Brazil. It is a Brazilian order of chivalry, instituted by Emperor Pedro I of Brazil on 17 October 1829 to commemorate his marriage to Amélie of Leuchtenberg. On 22 March 1890, the order was cancelled as national order by the interim government of United States of Brazil.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), travel journal, 1827

000/239, 1 file

Modern copy of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild’s travel journal, 1827 (original in Frankfurt); Lionel’s pocket book, with jottings, figures and illustrations.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), will, 1878

000/972, 1 item

Typescript copy of the will of Baron Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879), dated 1878.

Baron Lionel de Rothschild's campaign to enter Parliament

In 1847 Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879) stood as a Liberal candidate for the City of London. On the 8th of July in that year a meeting of Liberal electors endorsed him as a candidate along with Lord John Russell, James Pattison and Sir George Larpent. His principal concern was to integrate the theme of Jewish Emancipation into the broader Liberal agenda of civil and religious liberty. His determination was that the Liberals should adopt Jewish Emancipation as a cause.

In the ensuing poll he came third, with 6792 votes, only a few hundred behind the Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, who came first in the poll. On hearing of his success, his Uncle Salomon wrote from Vienna congratulating him for the wonderful achievement on behalf of the Jewish community at large. Throughout the campaign, people had been aware that Lionel, if he was elected, would face the problem of having to take an oath on the Bible (both the Old and New Testaments), on “the true faith of a Christian”.

Once Lionel had been elected, Russell introduced a Jewish Disabilities Bill, which would have overcome this problem. The Bill was passed in the Commons in February 1848. However, the Lords threw it out in both 1848 and 1849. Lionel was re-elected in 1849 winning by a two to one majority. On 25 July 1850 there was a meeting of electors at the London Tavern which resolved that Lionel should take up his seat in the House. Lionel duly turned up the next day. The Clerk rose to tender the oath. Lionel demanded to swear on the Old Testament. There were howls of protest from the Tory benches. Lionel was called upon to withdraw, which he did. He reappeared on 29 July 1850 and got right through the oath until the final clause where he had to swear “upon the true faith of a Christian” at which point he had to withdraw. “I omit these words as not binding on my conscience”. In 1851, another Bill was thrown out by the Lords, and in 1852, Lionel was re-elected for London. In each year from 1853 to 1857, the Disabilities Bill was put to the Lords and defeated. In 1857 Lionel was re-elected, this time coming second in the Poll. This time, when the Bill was again defeated, he resigned from his seat but was returned at the subsequent by-election.

Disraeli had now become the Prime Minister and was keen not have Conservative Peers block the Disabilities Bill in the Lords. He therefore arrived at a compromise whereby each House was allowed to decide for itself the formula which it used to administer the oath. The House of Lords therefore became an irrelevance to the issue and Lionel’s re-entry to the Commons followed without further protest. He finally took his seat in 1858 and remained in the House until 1874.

For more information about Lionel’s campaign see our online exhibition From Bank to Westminster »

Further papers concerning Lionel's campaign will be found in Named Collections, The Ascott Collection » ; a volume of press cuttings entitled ‘Baron Rothschild and the House of Commons Debate etc. 1850’ containing press cuttings taken from The Times relating to the circumstances leading to Lionel's entry to the House of Commons in 1850 and a copy of the House of Commons division list on the vote on the Jewish Disabilities Bill (000/924/4/2); a further volume, (000/924/4/3) contains newspaper and magazine articles on the death of Lionel de Rothschild in 1879.        

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, artefacts, 1858

000/669, 1 item

Framed illuminated address from the vestry of the Great Synagogue, London, to Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild on the occasion of his entry into the House of Commons.  

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, City electors list, 1847

000/2027, 1 volume

This volume, also known as a ‘Poll Book’ is entitled 'City Electors list' 1847 and is a record of votes cast in the 1847 election. The volume records the names of the nine candidates who stood at the election, and the name and address of each individual who placed a vote. Each voter was allowed to place up to four votes. The four Members of Parliament securing the most votes were duly elected. Until the adoption in 1872 of the secret ballot, Acts of Parliament of 1696 and 1711 together required the keeping of a record of who had voted and how they voted. A copy was retained by the Clerk of the Peace and made available to anyone making enquiry. This volume appears to have been made privately and was retained for many years in the Partners’ Room at New Court. (NMR ref 18/2).

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, sundry printed material, c.1847-1851

000/2323/1-4, 4 items

Sundry printed material relating to Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) and his campaign to enter Parliament:

  • Mounted print of an engraving captioned Election de M de Rothschild, Londres, n.d. (printed in an unidentified French newspaper). (000/2323/1);
  • Defamatory notice printed by King, College Hill City of London 'To the electors' claiming that Lionel 'is' guilty of bribery and corrupt practices in the election held 29 July 1847. (000/2323/2)
  • Defamatory notice on the subject of 'Free Trade' mocking Lionel's position on the subject, 1849. (000/2323/3)
  • Engraving from an unknown French newspaper 'Election anglaises - Députiés de la Cité des Londres, M.Masterman, Lord John Russel, M.Pattison, Rothschild’ showing the four MPs elected for the city constituency. The date '1847' has been added in manuscript.  (000/2323/4)

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, pamphlets, 1847

000/2210, 1 item

Pamphlet Ought Baron de Rothschild to sit in Parliament? An Imaginary conversation between Judaeus & Amicus Nobilis, by Barnard van Oven M.D. London Effingham, Wilson, 11 Royal Exchange, 1847. A pamphlet arguing in favour of Jewish emancipation.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, pamphlets, 1850-1851

000/1146, 2 items

Modern photocopies of Rothschild & Victory And the glorious majority of 3515 and Rothschild for Ever! And the City won't be conquer'd: two sheets of verse dated 1850 and 1851 respectively, celebrating Lionel’s election victory. 

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, pamphlets and sundry correspondence, 1753-1851

000/573/6, 31 items

Collection of pamphlets, tracts and publications and sundry correspondence concerning the question of religious disabilities in Great Britain in the cases of Jews, Quakers and Roman Catholics. It is believed this set of papers was compiled by Lionel de Rothschild in support of his campaign to enter the House of Commons. This collection originates from a tin trunk labelled 'Box 64' in the New Court vaults.

30 records available

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, prayers, 1847

000/375/4, 1 item

Printed and bound Hymn and Prayer...on the ...election of Baron Lioned de Rothschild as MP for the City of London by Rabbi Abraham Belais (copy of "Sir A de Rothschild Bt").

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, press cuttings, 1847

000/235/2, 1 item

Press cuttings concerning the election of Lionel to Parliament as MP for the City of London, 1847.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, press cuttings, 1847

000/2674/1, 1 item

Extract from The Pictorial Times, Saturday 7 August 1847, Vol X, No.230: 'A Sign of the Times'. The article concerns Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild's election  to the House of Commons.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, press cuttings, 1850

000/2674/2, 1 item

Extract from The Illustrated London News, Saturday 3 August 1850, No.439, Vol XVII: 'The Jewish Question'. The article concerns Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild's election to the House of Commons, and the admissibility of Jews.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, press cuttings, 1858

000/1740, 1 item

Issue of Punch No. 873 Volume 34, 3rd April 1858 containing an article 'The Passport System' a satirical article on Lionel Nathan de Rothschild becoming an MP.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, secondary sources, 2008

000/1926, 2 CDs

Audio CD recording of Hannah Rosenfelder's articles on Westminster Hour on BBC Radio 4 for the 150th Anniversary of Lionel Nathan de Rothschild's entry into Parliament.  The articles were presented on 13 July 2008 and 20 August 2008.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), papers concerning his campaign to enter Parliament, secondary sources, 2008

000/1924, 1 file

Invitation to lecture held at National Gallery, Tuesday 24th June 2008 by Niall Ferguson and buffet lunch held Thursday 17th July 2008 at House of Lords to celebrate 150th anniversary of Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild taking his seat in the House of Commons. Both hosted by Jacob, Lord Rothschild and Nat Rothschild. Also transcript of speech given by Lord Rothschild and booklet detailing history of the Lionel taking his seat.