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(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990)

The Rothschild Archive has very few private papers of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild. 

Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild, (1910-1990), was a biologist, a cricketer, a wartime officer for the UK Security Service (MI5), a senior executive with Royal Dutch Shell and N M Rothschild & Sons, and an advisor to the UK governments.

Early life

Known throughout his life as Victor, he was the third child and only son of Charles and Rozsika Rothschild. The family home was Tring Park Mansion. He attended Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge, where he worked in the Zoology Department before gaining a PhD in 1935. At Trinity College, Cambridge, he read Physiology, French and English. While at Cambridge Victor was said to have a playboy lifestyle, enjoying water-skiing in Monaco, driving fast cars, collecting art and rare books and playing cricket for the University and Northamptonshire. Victor became the third Lord Rothschild in 1937 on the death of his uncle Walter. He sat as a Labour Party peer in the House of Lords.

Wartime service

During the Second World War, Victor worked for the Intelligence Service. In 1939, he was recruited to work for MI5 where he remained for the duration of the War. He was attached to B division, responsible for counterespionage. Working in the 'explosives and sabotage section', he worked on identifying where Britain's war effort was vulnerable to sabotage and counter German sabotage attempts. This included personally dismantling examples of German booby traps and disguised explosives. For this, he was awarded won the George Medal in 1944 for dangerous work in hazardous circumstances. For drawings of devices see Named Collections: The Laurence Fish Counter-sabotage Drawings Collection. In 1946, Victor married Teresa Georgina Mayor who had been his secretary at MI5. 

Research and business

After the War, Victor combined his academic interests with work for industry, joining the zoology department at Cambridge University. In 1961 he began work for Shell Research Ltd., serving as its Chairman from 1963 until his retirement in 1970. Victor was the first Director General of the Central Policy Review Staff from 1971 to 1974 (known popularly as 'The Think Tank'), a unit which researched policy specifically for the Government. Throughout his life he was a valued adviser on intelligence and science to both Conservative and Labour Governments. Victor briefly served as Chairman of the family banking business N M Rothschild & Sons Limited in 1976. 

Later life

Victor's later years were marked by unsubstantiated suspicion. In 1986, Victor took the step of publishing a letter in The Daily Telegraph on 3 December 1986 to state that the "Director General of MI5 should state publicly that he has unequivocal, repeat, unequivocal, evidence, that I am not, and never have been a Soviet agent". In a written statement, to the House of Commons, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher confirmed that there was no evidence that he was ever a Soviet agent.

In later years golf took over from cricket as an active pursuit, but a love of jazz and the piano remained with him. In addition to his many scientific papers, reports and studies, Victor published an autobiography, Random Variables in 1984, and Meditations of a Broomstick, a collection of autobiographical notes and materials.  Numerous honorary degrees and awards were conferred upon him in his lifetime, and together with his sister Miriam, they share the distinction of being the only brother and sister to have both been made Fellows of the Royal Society.

Victor left instructions that his remains were to be buried next to those of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the founder of the English branch of the family, in a Jewish cemetery in the East End of London, disused since 1858. Victor died on 20 March 1990, and his wishes were duly carried out.

See also Named Collections, The Rushbrooke Collection for further scientific papers of Victor. A catalogue of Victor's collection of rare books, 'The Rothschild Library', Vols I and II, published by Dawsons in 1969 will be found in the Reading Room (ref 18/2017).

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, papers concerning Jewish relief, 1939; 1940

000/2003, 000/1251, 1 item

Open letter signed by Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild that appeared in the March 1939 issue of Connoisseur magazine calling for donations for a sale at Christies in aid of the Lord Baldwin Fund for Refugees held on 25 and 26 May 1939 (000/2003); Souvenir Programme for performance of conductor Schnéevoigt and pianist Sundgren in Sydney on 28 October 1940 in aid of Lord Rothschild's Jewish Relief Fund for War Victims and Refugee Children in Britain. (000/1251).

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, private papers, 1956

000/992, 1 item

Example of Victor Rothschild’s Christmas card, 1956, featuring a version of the Five Arrows on the front and a photograph of a sea-urchin egg inside.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, private papers, c.1996

000/531, 1 item

Sale particulars for 11 Herschel Road, Cambridge, the former home of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild and Lady Rothschild.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, Order of Service, marriage, 1933

000/1251, 1 item

Order of Service for the marriage of Victor Rothschild and Barbara Hutchinson, 28 December 1933.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, Order of Service, funeral, 1990

000/2153, 2 items

Order of service for the funeral of Nathaniel Mayer Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild held Tuesday 15 May 1990 at the West London Synagogue.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, obituaries, 1990

000/557, 1 file

Volume of photocopies of obituaries and reports of the death of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990), 1990. These news items appeared in the UK national press. The volume may have been prepared by the NMR Information Department.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothscild, secondary sources, 1993

000/2446, 1 item

Printed monograph Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild G.B.E, G.M. Third Baron Rothschild (1910-1990) by Suzanne Reeve, (The Royal Society, 1993).

Publications and scientific papers

The Rothschild Archive holds printed copies of many of the scientific publications and printed works of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild. In addition to the items listed below, a file containing 79 off-prints of articles by Lord Rothschild, largely on scientific subjects, will be found in the Ashton Wold Collection, 000/1323/24/1. Further publications will be found in the Reading Room Library.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, scientific research papers, c.1935-c.1990

000/2304, 13 boxes

A collection of scientific papers of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, from Rushbrooke Hall. The papers include research notes and published material.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, publications, 1954;1957

000/1756, 2 volumes

The Lycurgus Cup by Victor Rothschild (Cambridge: Victor Rothschild, 1954); The Nelme Cup by Victor Rothschild (Cambridge: Victor Rothschild, 1957).

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, publications, 1946

000/2048, 1 item

The Theory of Alternating Current Measurements in Biology and its Application to the Investigation of the Biophysical Properties of the Trout Egg by ‘Lord Walter Rothschild’ from the Department of Zoology, Cambridge. Off-print from the Journal of Experimental Biology, October 1946.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, publications, 1947

000/2048, 1 item

An Electro-Magnetic Mixer for Manometric Experiments; by H Laser and Lord Rothschild from the Molteno Institute and Department of Zoology, Cambridge. Off-print of and article from the Journal of Experimental Biology, December 1947.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, publications, c.1970-1973

000/140, 000/279, 1 file, 1 microfilm reel

Research notes and papers of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild concerning compilation of the 1973 Rothschild family tree. 000/279 is a reel of microfilm containing a copy of The Frankfurt Memorial Book, 1626-1900, acquired by Lord Rothschild for research into the family tree, c.1970.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, publications, 1982-1983

000/221, 5 boxes

Research notes and papers of Victor, 3rd Rothschild relating to his privately printed book, Shadow of a Great Man, about his great-great-grandfather, Nathan Mayer Rothschild. A copy of Shadow of a Great Man is available in the Reading Room.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, publications, 1982-1983

000/294, 1 file

Research notes and papers of Victor, 3rd Rothschild relating to his privately printed book, You Have It, Madam, about the Suez Canal Share Purchase loan, 1875. A copy of You Have It, Madam is available in the Reading Room.

(Nathaniel) Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild, publications, 2001

000/597, 3 items

Lord Rothschild’s Favourite Recipes containing the favourite recipes prepared for Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild by his cook Mrs Prentice. In 1922, Ena Mary Huxley (1907-1989), later Mrs Prentice, and affectionately referred to as ‘Mrs P’ started work as a scullery-maid at Palace Green, the London home of Charles (1877-1923) and Roszika Rothschild (1870-1940). In 1953 she went to work for Victor, the late 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990) at Merton Hall, Cambridge, where she married his chauffeur, Wally. Mrs P  wrote down her recipes - many of them given to her by chefs of her era - in her own neat handwriting, in two hard-backed exercise books. Privately printed by Sarah Daniel, daughter of Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild in 2001.