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Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836)

Nathan Mayer Rothschild was born in Frankfurt at the house of the Hinterpfann on 16 September 1777. In the intervening 59 years, Nathan Mayer Rothschild - the name he never changed in spite of honours offered and declined - led his brothers to the pinnacle of the financial world.

Nathan almost burst out of Frankfurt, the first of his brothers to found a branch of the family firm, to settle in England in 1798, initially as a textile merchant in Manchester and subsequently as a London bill broker nonpareil. His marriage in 1806 to Hannah, daughter of Levi Barent Cohen, gave him a position in society and a range of business contacts which might have taken him years to achieve alone. Building on this foundation and wedding it to the Rothschild network, Nathan was credited by his brothers with securing for them the best opportunities to achieve their position in the world of finance.

Nathan was a popular 'Manchester man', an indulgent father, a respectful husband, an admired (if occasionally feared) brother. He was a larger than life figure on the London exchanges, giving himself totally to his business, permitting no half measures. His brusqueness and off-handedness were legendary, and his tactics were examined and re-examined time and time again. Nathan's London House, N M Rothschild, dealt in bullion and foreign exchange, and his remarkable successes in these fields earned him the contract from the British Government to supply Wellington's troops with gold coin in 1814 and 1815, leading up to the Battle of Waterloo. He issued 26 British and foreign government loans between 1818 and 1835 and in 1824 floated the Alliance Assurance Company.

Moving to New Court, St Swithin's Lane in London in 1809, Nathan initially raised his family there too, but by 1816 had found a villa at Stamford Hill to provide more space and better air. In 1825, the family's town home was established at 107, Piccadilly and in 1835, Nathan took on Gunnersbury Park in west London. In June 1836 Nathan travelled to Frankfurt for the wedding of his son Lionel to his niece Charlotte; Nathan died in Frankfurt on 28 July 1836.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, artefacts, cameo, c.1836

000/1911/13, 1 item

Miniature oval cameo on black glass/jet of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836). In a leather box. Inscribed on reverse "Baron N M de Rothschild Obt July 28 1836 cetat 59".This may have been made as a mourning piece, possibly French.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, artefacts, death mask, 1836

000/1963, 000/1964, 4 items

Three plaster copies of the death mask of Nathan Mayer Rothschild. One plaster copy of the death mask of Nathan Mayer Rothschild is mounted in a two part showcase. Small wooden box with the inscription "Death Mask of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, July 28th 1836" which was used to contain the original death mask of Nathan Mayer Rothschild. The original death mask was retained by Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild in 1988.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, artefacts, mourning handkerchief, 1836

000/2694, 1 item

Large framed original crimson silk handkerchief, depicting Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) on the London Stock Exchange. Printed by H Heath in 1836, as a mourning item in memory of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836). 

The handkerchief depicts Nathan Mayer Rothschild centre, with the caption 'Nathan Mayer Rothschild on the London Exchange'. Above his head is 'Died at Frankfort, July 1836 Aged 59 Leaving Property to the Amount of 5,000,000 sterling'. The corners contain roundels referring to loans issued by Nathan's business house, while the bottom bears the caption 'Equally distinguished for his commercial skill and Enterprize [sic] and for his charitable and benevolent disposition' This is translated into German, French and Italian on the other three sides.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, artefacts, wax mould for commemorative medallion, c.1836

000/1911/44, 1 item

Small wax relief effigy of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, in a glass roundel, framed in a small ebony frame. This wax mould was created for the commemorative medallion commemorating the death of Nathan Mayer Rothschild ‘Pioneer of Finance’ in 1836. The medallion was commissioned by King George IV.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, artefacts, commemorative medallion, 1836

000/1447, 000/2171, 000/1546, 000/2335, 4 items

Examples of the medallion struck in 1836 to commemorate the death of Nathan Mayer Rothschild: two bronze medallions; two silver medallions.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, appointment as Austrian Consul General in London , 1820; 1825

000/274/5, 000/274/8, 000/274/11, 3 items

Imperial Letters Patent with seal of Francis I of Austria appointing Nathan Mayer Rothschild Austrian Consul General in London. Wax seal of the Emperor in an engraved brass tin affixed to the document, April 1820; Recognition from the British Government of Nathan Rothschild's appointment as Austrian Consul in London. Signed on behalf of King George VI by Viscount Castlereagh,  12 July 1820; Passport issued by Nathan Mayer Rothschild as Austrian Consul in London for Mr Charles Stuber, 1825.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, correspondence, 1834

000/1855, 1 item

Letter dated 1 July 1834 from Nathan Rothschild to his brother Salomon, asking the latter to provide any necessary assistance to the wife of John Abel Smith MP.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, correspondence, 1836

000/28, 2 items

Two letters from Nathan written during illness, prior to his son Lionel's wedding in 1836, in Frankfurt to Nathaniel and Anthony. The letters also include letters (using reverse side of the above) from his son Lionel, and his wife Hannah. Shortly after the wedding, Nathan died in Frankfurt due to an infected boil. The letters from Nathan primarily concern business and advice and instructions. The letters from Lionel and Hannah concern Nathan's health, the imminent wedding and other family news. The letters are presumed to have been extracted from XI/109/40, and taken to Ascott, from where this correspondence was transferred to The Rothschild Archive.

Transcripts available in the Reading Room

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, evidence to the Select Committee on the Usuary Laws, c.1821

000/2048/1, 1 item

Report from the Select Committee on the Usury Laws, (London, Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 1818). Mr N M Rothschild as witness, 30 April 1818 (House of Commons reprint 16 April 1821). The Select Committee on the Usury Laws, was appointed "to consider the effects of the laws which regulate or restrain the interest of money, and to report their opinion thereupon to the House…" The question of the Usury Laws had first been raised in the house of commons by Brougham in a speech of 1 February 1816. The law then in force was a 1712 Act of Queen Anne (12 Anne Stat. 2. c. 16) which capped the rate of interest at five per cent. Following a number of unsuccessful attempts at forcing discussion and repeal, a Committee was appointed to review the laws. The Committee took evidence from twenty-one witnesses representing the commercial and landed interests; almost every one of the witnesses declared that the Laws were either injurious, particularly to the landed interest, or inoperative’. The enquiries of the Committee resulted in three resolutions: 1. The laws were extensively evaded and that they succeeded only in adding to the expense incurred by borrowers on real security; 2. That the laws are antiquated in their construction which casts doubt on the legality of common contemporary transactions resulting in needless embarrassment and legal proceedings; 3. That the present period, when the market rate of interest is below the legal rate, provides a rare opportunity for a painless repeal of the laws. Despite repeated attempts to pass Bills through the House to abolish the Usury Laws, the repeal process was a slow and piecemeal one which began in 1833 but was not completed until the Usury Laws Repeals Act of 1854 (17 & 18 Vict. c. 90).

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, English grant of arms, 1818

000/306/2, 1 item

Grant of Arms to Nathan Mayer Rothschild, his brothers and his heirs, 1818, under George III by George Harrison, Clarenceux King of Arms. The document has been removed from its original red leather box, which has been retained. This box bears the monogram 'GR', and contains two small tins containing the wax seals that were originally attached to the document. 

The first title of nobility granted to the Rothschild brothers was given by Austria in 1817; this title permitted the use of the 'von' in the name and stems from an Order in Council of Francis I of 21 October 1816. The Rothschild brothers asked for separate patents of nobility for each of the four brothers as they lived in different countries. The separate patents were granted, but the design originally submitted by Salomon Mayer Rothschild (1774-1855) was considered too grand.  A letter in the Archive from Amschel to Salomon and Nathan in November 1816 reads, ".....James and Carl received the nobility.  It is a pity that Nathan did not want it."  

The English grant of arms to Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836), his brothers and his heirs  issued in 1818 refers to Nathan's brothers as 'de' Rothschild. It was accompanied by the following armorial design: Azure, a lion passant guardant erminois grasping five arrows the pheons downwards, or, and for the crest on a wreath of the colours, out of a crown vallery gules a demi lion erminois holding between the paws five arrows as in the arms. In 1822, Salomon von Rothschild and his brothers were awarded an Austrian Barony granted by Imperial Decree.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, Letters Patent of Denization, 1804

000/306/1, 1 item

Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836): Letters Patent of Denization, 1804. Nathan was the first of the five Rothschild brothers to leave Frankfurt, and arrived in Manchester in May 1799, after spending several months in London gaining experience of English trading methods. He arrived with capital of around £20,000 (over £1.5m today), part of his father’s attempt to consolidate and extend the family’s trade in English printed textiles. Nathan was accompanied by his father's chief bookkeeper, Siegmund Geisenheimer, and he opened a warehouse in Brown Street, in the commercial heart of the city, establishing his firm N M Rothschild. 

Nathan was one of a number of German Jewish merchants who arrived in England at the turn of the eighteenth century. Jews born in England, while not receiving the same privileges of citizenship as Englishmen, were protected under English law. Foreign born Jews, however, in certain conditions, could, after 1740 become 'denizens', the then equivalent of naturalization. This was an expensive affair, and for this purpose several persons usually clubbed together. Denization dates back to the 13th century, by which an alien (foreigner), through letters patent, became a denizen, thereby obtaining certain rights otherwise normally enjoyed only by the King's (or Queen's) subjects, including the right to hold land. Denizens paid a fee and took an oath of allegiance to the crown. The denizen was neither a subject (with citizenship or nationality) nor an alien, but had a status akin to permanent residency today. While one could become a subject via naturalisation, this required a private act of Parliament; in contrast, denization was cheaper, quicker, and simpler. Denization fell into obsolescence when the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 simplified the naturalisation process.  

While the Napoleonic wars raged in Europe, Nathan was anxious to secure residency rights in England, and wrote to business contacts for advice on the best method. In his signed application (now in The National Archives, TNA HO/44/26) dated 16 May 1804, Nathan states that he “has resided for three years last Past in that Part of the Kingdom of Great Britain called England and being an alien born is desirous to settle in the said Kingdom ... to which he has removed his effects.” Nathan's cautious statement of the length of time he had been in the country probably reflects the period of transition during which he was still travelling to and from Frankfurt. Further evidence of Nathan’s application can be found in the 'Aliens entry book', also in The National Archives, TNA HO/5/5.

Nathan's denization was granted by the Crown, on payment of a fee, in the form of Royal Letters Patent. The Letters Patent of Denization were granted on 20 June 1804. The document records Nathan's name at the end of a list of seven individuals: Gottlieb Wolf, from Wurtemburg, Simon Levin, from Konisburg, Roderick Willink, from Altona, Natan Ben Rindskopf  [a cousin of Nathan’s], from Frankfurt, Charles Frederick Straubert [all from London], Solomon Oppenheimer, from Prussia, and Nathan Mayer Rothschild, from Frankfurt, [both from Manchester].

Note: This accession also includes photocopies of documents in the collection of The National Archives referred to above. See also 000/635/2 for further papers relating to Letters of Denization for Nathan Mayer Rothschild: Observations by Dawes, Chatfield & Dawes on the Letters of Denization of N M Rothschild Esq, [c.1804].

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, catalogue of library collections, c.1835

000/162, 1 vo;lume

Catalogue of Nathan’s library, probably the library at Gunnersbury Park, Nathan’s country estate.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, library collections, Hebrew texts, undated

000/375/8, 1 volume

Printed and bound order of service for the first two nights of Passover (N M Rothschild's own autograph copy).

Nathan Mayer Rothschild: library collections, Hebrew texts, 1716; 1806

000/1061, 3 volumes

This small cache of books is believed to have been in the library, Chetwynd House. Chetwynd house was one of the London offices occupied by NMR. Their provenance is not known, but they date from the time of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, and it is conceivable that they may have been in his personal library, or his library at New Court.

  • Biblia Hebraica, (edited by Georg Christian Bürcklin, originally printed in Frankfurt by Joannis Philippi Andreae, typeset by Joannis Koelneri, imprinted by John, Philip and Andrew, London, 1716), 
  • The Form of Prayers for the Feast of Passover, (A. Alexander, 1806) and a similarly titled volume, by David Levi, also 1806. 

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, library collections, Hebrew texts, The Roedelheim Mahzor, 1800-1805

000/375/1/1-7, 7 volumes

Hebrew texts belonging to N M Rothschild. The volumes are from The Roedelheim Mahzor, the first complete translation into German, first written in Hebrew characters. They were printed in Roedelheim by Rabbi Wolf Heidenheim (1757-1832). From 1838 on, the Heidenheim Press published editions in Hebrew which included a translation into German, while continuing to publish some editions with the Judeo-German translation. With diverse and changing features such as rite, language, and layout, there were up to three different versions of the prayer book published in a given year. 

  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. The Roedelheim Mahzor. (Heidenheim Press, Roedelheim, 1800). Leather bound with tooling “1. N.M.Rothschild”. The title page bears a Hebrew inscription relating to Nathan. (000/375/1/1)
  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. The Roedelheim Mahzor. (Heidenheim Press, Roedelheim, 1800). Leather bound with tooling “2. N.M.Rothschild”. The title page bears a Hebrew inscription relating to Nathan. (000/375/1/2)
  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. The Roedelheim Mahzor. (Heidenheim Press, Roedelheim, 1805). Leather bound with tooling “3. N.M.Rothschild”. The title page bears a Hebrew inscription relating to Nathan. (000/375/1/3)
  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. The Roedelheim Mahzor. (Heidenheim Press, Roedelheim, 1800). Leather bound with tooling “5. N.M.Rothschild”. The title page bears a Hebrew inscription relating to Nathan. (000/375/1/4)
  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. The Roedelheim Mahzor. (Heidenheim Press, Roedelheim, 1803). Leather bound with tooling “7. N.M.Rothschild”. The title page bears a Hebrew inscription relating to Nathan. (000/375/1/5)
  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. The Roedelheim Mahzor. (Heidenheim Press, Roedelheim, 1800). Leather bound with tooling “8. N.M.Rothschild”. The title page bears a Hebrew inscription relating to Nathan. (000/375/1/6)
  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. The Roedelheim Mahzor. (Heidenheim Press, Roedelheim, 1803). Leather bound with tooling “9. N.M.Rothschild”. The title page bears a Hebrew inscription relating to Nathan. (000/375/1/7)

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, Library collections, Hebrew texts and printed books, c.1814

000/375/1/8-10, 3 volumes

Hebrew texts belonging to Nathan Mayer Rothschild. 

  • Robertson’s Compendious Hebrew Dictionary Corrected and Improved by Nahum Joseph, Teacher of Hebrew, (Richard Cruttwell, Bath, 1814). Inscribed “Charlotte Rothschild, London, November 1818, bound May 19, given by Charlotte to her brother Lionel, written by Nat.” [This inscription would suggest that it was given by Nathan's daughter Charlotte (1807-1859) to her brother Lionel (1808-1879) in 1818, when Charlotte was 11 and Lionel 10, the inscription being written by their brother Nathaniel (1812-1870) when he was 6]. (000/375/1/8)
  • Hebrew prayer book for the Jewish high holidays. (000/375/1/9)
  • Rituel des Prières Journalières, a l’usage des Israélites. Traduit de l’Hébreu par J[oel]. Anspach. 5580 [1820] (000/375/1/10)

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, library collections, Hebrew texts and printed books, c.1825-1836

000/376, 1 box

A small collection of printed books, including some Hebrew texts believed to have belonged to Nathan Mayer Rothschild, marked 'NMR'. Nathan Rothschild's copies of four books of the Pentateuch: four volumes, comprising Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and bearing the bookplate of N M Rothschild. The copy of Genesis, bound in red leather, was issued by Lion Soesmans of Duke Street, Aldgate, corrected and translated by David Levi. The bookplate, pasted inside the cover, reads 'N.M. Rothschild Esqr.' The other three volumes, also in Hebrew and English and bound in green, are perhaps the edition of 1789 produced by David Levi. The volumes are absent from the 1835 'Catalogue of the books belonging to the principal library of Baron N M de Rothschild' (000/162); this catalogue describes books at Gunnersbury Park, so it may be that the volumes here were kept at New Court.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, library collections, Hymn for the funeral of King George III, 1820

000/375/6, 1 item

Printed and bound copy of a dirge and hymn chanted in the Great Synagogue, St James Place, Aldgate on the day of the funeral of King George III, by Harman Harwitz of Highgate (printed on silk), 1820. 

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, wedding invitation, 1806

000/87/13, 1 file

Invitation to wedding of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) to Hannah Cohen (1783-1850) addressed to Michael Bing Nathan married Hannah in Frankfurt in 1806. It is possible that Michael Bing, a close associate or the Rothschild family in Frankfurt, Manchester and London, married into the Sichel family, already related to the Rothschilds since the marriage or Nathan's sister, Isabella, to Bernhard Judah Sichel.These papers were transferred to the Archive from the New Court vaults. It is likely that these papers were sent to New Court when the Frankfurt business was liquidated in 1901. Note: a transcript in English, c.1889 is included in this file. A manuscript copy of this invitation was sent from G.F. Sichel from Paris in 1889 to Lucien Wolf in London, who was planning a comprehensive history of the Rothschild amily. A framed modern version of this invitation (RAL 000/2610), in the style of a ketubah was produced for the 1998 Museum of London exhibition 'The Life and Times of N M Rothschild 1777-1836'. See exhibition catalogue, p.92. 

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, elegy on the death of N M Rothschild, 1836

000/376/8, 1 volume

Elegy on the death of N M Rothschild, Dr Benjamin Franklin, 1836. The general verses of mourning are interspersed with specific references to the circumstances of Nathan's life and death, explained in footnotes. His altendance at the wedding of his eldest son is noted,"the nuptial mirth must yield to grief and woe" as is his desire to be buried in London. Franklin makes particular reference to the Jews' Free School and the Jews' Hospital as recipients of Nathan's charily. Nothing is known of Franklin, though he may be equated with a Jewish merchant of that name, bom in Manchester in 1811 and specialising in Jamaican trade, who died in 1837.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, obituary, 1837

000/2441, 1 item

Printed Biography and Obituary of Nathan Meyer [sic] Rothschild, Esq, 1837, in a paper cover.