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James Mayer de Rothschild (1782-1868)

James Mayer de Rothschild was the youngest child of Mayer Amschel Rothschild. He was born in the house of the Grünes Schild in the Jundengasse in Frankfurt on 15 August 1792. Six years later his brother Nathan left Frankfurt to further the family business which James himself was eventually to lead after Nathan's death.

From the age of 19, James was in Paris co-ordinating the purchase of specie and bullion for Nathan, and in 1814 and 1815 he was the linchpin in Nathan's masterplan to furnish Wellington's armies with funds. Remaining in Paris, first at rue Pelletier and then rue Laffitte, James founded the Rothschild firm of de Rothschild Frères. The House funded many loans to European governments and was instrumental in the development of railways in France and the rest of Europe.

James married his niece, Betty, the daughter of his brother Salomon, on 11 July 1824. The couple entertained on a grand scale, first in Paris and then in the château de Boulogne and at Ferrières. James became the trusted adviser of ministers and kings.

James held on to the reins of power within the family firm after the death of Nathan in 1836. His sons, brothers and nephews were in awe of his dynamic authority. Contemporaries remembered his quick wit, expressed in a heavy German accent, though the sharp tongue which went with it was not always benign. James was devoted to his extended family, but it was not beyond him to turn against any member whom he felt to have acted improperly. His response to the marriage of his niece, Hannah Mayer, displayed at once his demand for obedience and his faithfulness to the family's Jewish beliefs. His domination of the firm ended with his death on 15 November 1868.

The Archive holds little of James' private correspondence, and very few records relating to his estates and collections of art and objets d'art. A large commemorative photograph album (with images believed to be by Édouard Baldus) and one small volume containing a map (numbered volumes from a set of 25 each), commissioned by James de Rothschild in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Chemin de Fer du Nord, recording the line between Paris and Boulogne, c.1855, will be found listed under The Paris banking house: French railway business: papers held in London.

James Mayer de Rothschild, sundry private correspondence, 1817; 1839; 1865-1868

000/1231, 000/1402, 000/1696, 000/2013/8, 000/2125/2, 000/2125/4, 000/2169, 000/2451, 8 items, 2 files

Sundry private correspondence of James Mayer de Rothschild. Many of these items have been acquired individually by the Archive.

  • Letter from James de Rothschild to the chevalier de Broval (Private Secretary to the Duke of Orléans, future Louis Philippe), offering his services to the Duchess of Orléans, 1817 [000/2125/4]
  • Letters of condolence written in 1864 (from family members and others) to James de Rothschild on the occasion of the death of his son, Salomon James de Rothschild (1835-1864) [000/2125/2]
  • Letter dated 6 March 1865, signed by James de Rothschild to the opera singer Adelina Patti, congratulating her on the previous evening's performance when she performed one of his niece's (possibly Hannah Mathilde) songs.  He sends her a pineapple from Nice. [000/1696]
  • Letter dated 29 April 1865 from Baron James de Rothschild to Frédéric Le Play (1806-1882), organiser of the Universal Exhibition, Paris. The International Exposition of 1867 (Exposition universelle d'art et d'industrie de 1867), was the second world's fair to be held in Paris, from 1 April to 3 November 1867. The letter concerns the financing methods necessary to ensure the success of the Exhibition. [000/2451]
  • Letter signed by James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868) addressed to Monsieur le Chambellin, written from Compiègne (in French); note signed by R Bischoffsheim, written from rue Taitbout (in French); letter signed by R. Bischoffsheim. [000/1231]
  • Letter from James Mayer de Rothschild to 'My Dear Count' [possibly Felix Baciocchi] explaining that an eye illness prevents his appearing in front of the Emperor as requested. [000/2013]
  • Letter (undated) to James Mayer de Rothschild from Cavour [Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour,  Italian statesman and a leading figure in the movement towards Italian unification]. [000/1402]
  • Letter dated 1839 to James Mayer de Rothschild from 'Thiers'. [000/1402]
  • Sundry papers including a small photograph of Ferrières; a blank invitation card to a hunting party; a receipt, signed by James, for the purchase of shares on Roman loan; a number of letters addressed to Mr de Beaumont de lapeyrouse; a statement of account;  an official document announcing the awarding of the contract of the Société Anonyme du Canal de Jonction de la Sambre à l'Oise, 1835. [000/2169]

James Mayer de Rothschild, collection of autograph letters, 1848-c.1870

000/1618, 206 items

Collection of autograph letters addressed to James and Betty de Rothschild by members of the French royal family, members of the aristocracy, government ministers and politiciansThe letters were acquired on the open market from a dealer; it is believed that they once formed part of the collection of archives of de Rothschild Freres that was subsequently deposited with the Archives Nationales de France by Baron Elie de Rothschild. It is thought that before the deposit was made, Baron Elie removed certain autographs and retained them; these were then subsequently lost or stolen, finding their way to the open market. The letters are arranged into folders under the following headings (this is the arrangement in which the letters arrived in the Archive):

  • Orléans Family;
  • Other Royal Houses;
  • French Politics And Government;
  • Ambassadors;
  • Other Correspondents;
  • Letters From Members of The Rothschild Family.

List available

James Mayer de Rothschild, phrenological assessments, 1869

000/2196, 1 item

The American Phrenological Journal And Life Illustrated: A Repository of Science, Literature and General Intelligence, Vol 49, 1869. The volume contains a phrenological assessment of James de Rothschild.

James Mayer de Rothschild, printed pamphlet, 'Rothschild 1er ses valets et son peuple', 1846

000/225 , 1 item

Between 1838 and 1851, Mathieu Georges Dairnvaell (1818-?) a French journalist and pamphleteer (who used the nom de plume 'Satan'), published several anti-semitic tracts. In 1846 he published a 36-page pamphlet, Rothschild 1er ses valets et son peuple [The first Rothschild, his servants and his people], by ‘Satan Dernier’,  (Paris, 1846). The pamphlet was a savage anti-semitic attack on the Rothschilds, launching the canard that the fabulous wealth of the Rothschild banking family was amassed by Nathan Rothschild through obtaining advance knowledge of the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and using this information to successfully play the stock market, and other false allegations against the Rothschild family. James Mayer de Rothschild published a response to this attack; Réponse de Rothschild 1er Roi des Juifs a Satan Dernier, Roi des Imposteurs [Response of the first Rothschild, King of the Jews, to the Last Satan, King of Impostors], (Ballay Aine, Paris 1846), will be found in 000/1038.

James Mayer de Rothschild, printed pamphlet, 'Réponse de Rothschild 1er Roi des Juifs a Satan Dernier, Roi des Imposteurs', 1846

000/1038, 1 item

Printed pamphlet, Réponse de Rothschild 1er Roi des Juifs a Satan Dernier, Roi des Imposteurs [Response of the first Rothschild, King of the Jews, to the Last Satan, King of Impostors], by James Mayer de Rothschild, (Ballay Aine, Paris 1846). The pamphlet was written in response to Georges Dairnvaell’s anti-semitic attack on the Rothschilds earlier in 1846. The publication takes the form of an illustrated, satirical pamphlet in verse prose, which is a defence of James’s father, Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), and an account of the rise of the house of Rothschild, including an independent account of the derailment that took place on the Chemin de fer du Nord on 8 July 1846. Dairnvaell's pamphlet, Rothschild 1er, ses valets et son peuple [The first Rothschild, his servants and his people], by ‘Satan Dernier’ (Dairnvaell's nom de plume),  (Paris, 1846) will be found in 000/225. 

James Mayer de Rothschild, printed pamphlets, 'Public Letter' addressed to James Mayer de Rothschild, 1848

000/1241, 1 item

Printed pamphlet taking the form of a 'Public Letter' addressed to 'M.Rothschild' [James Mayer de Rothschild] from E.Barrault, Paris, August 1848, concerning the Saint-Simonism cause and the revolution. The Saint-Simon movement was founded by Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Count of Saint-Simon (1760-1825). He envisaged a synthesis of science and philosophy which could play a vital role in the new century. His ideas became linked to socialism,as Saint-Simonism theories emphasised the exploitation of the workers by a minority. In France, prior to 1830, the Saint-Simonians constituted a socialist movement which was confined to an elite. Following the revolutions, the movement spread both in Paris and the provinces.

James Mayer de Rothschild and Betty de Rothschild, marriage poem, 1824

000/1322, 1 item

Poem on the occasion of the marriage of James and Betty de Rothschild, Frankfurt, 11 July 1824, in German, printed on silk and bound in red velvet with family arms embroidered on the cover, bearing the bookplate of the library of James de Rothschild.  

James Mayer de Rothschild, 70th Birthday Testimonial, 1862

000/2054/2, 1 item

Testimonial in the form of a song written in the honour of James de Rothschild on the occasion of his seventieth birthday on 5 May 1862.   

James Mayer de Rothschild, funeral invitation, 1868

000/2125/3, 1 item

Printed invitation to the funeral of James de Rothschild, to be held on 18 November 1868.

James Mayer de Rothschild, will and codicils, 1868

000/240, 000/2054/1, 2 items

Copies of the will of Baron James de Rothschild, November 1868 and codicil, 1 September 1868.

James Mayer de Rothschild, death notices and press reports, 1868

000/1622, 000/1814, 3 items

James Mayer de Rothschild: death notices and press reports:

  • L'Univers Illustré, 21 November 1868, announcing the death of James de Rothschild, with portrait of James taken from a photograph and a brief obituary. [000/1814]
  • Le Monde Illustré, 21 November 1868.  Contains an article following the notice of the death of James de Rothschild and an engraving of the Baron from a Disderi photograph on the front cover. The article, by Pierre Veron, contains a number of anecdotes about James. [000/1622]
  • L'Univers Illustré, 28 November 1868, with a front cover illustration showing the James's funeral. [000/1814] 

James Mayer de Rothschild, Catalogue of Manuscript and Library collections, 1884-1920

000/2656, 5 volumes

Catalogue of the Library of James de Rothschild (1792-1868): Catalogue des Livres composant La Bibliothèque de Feu M. Le Baron James de Rothschild (Paris, Damascène Morgand, Librarie, Édouard Rahir Successeur. 55, Passage des Panoramas). Vol I (1884); Vol II (1887); Vol III (1893); Vol IV (1912); Vol V (1920).

James Mayer de Rothschild, Manuscript and Library collections, 'Talmudic commentaries', c.1798

000/437, 1 item

Talmudic commentaries, Hebrew manuscript dated c.1798, believed to have been owned by James. Catalogues of James' private library will be found in the Reading Room: Catalogue des livres composant la bibliotheque M. le Baron James de Rothschild, five volumes, Emile Picot (Damascene Margone Libraire, Paris, 1884) (ref 20/2017);  Catalogue des livres composant la bibliotheque M. le Baron James de Rothschild, five volumes, Emile Picot (Burt Franklin, New York, 1965) (ref 19/2017).

James Mayer de Rothschild, Manuscript and Library collections, volume of early French verse, 1882

000/2565, 1 volume

Volume, Les Continuateurs de Loret. Lettres en Vers de La Gravette de Mayolas, Robinet, Boursault, Perdou de Subligny, Laurent wt Autres (1665-1689), Recueilles et Publiées par le Baron James de Rothschild. Tome Second (Juillet 1666-Decembre 1667)' (Damascène Morgand Libraire, Paris, 1882). A volume of early French verse by various authors in the style of Jean Loret collected and published by Baron James de Rothschild. Jean Loret (c.1600-1665) was a French writer and poet known for publishing the weekly news of Parisian society (including the court of Louis XIV) from 1650 until 1665 in verse in what he called a gazette burlesque. He is sometimes referred to as the 'father of journalism' as a result of his topical writings. After his death, several other writers continued the tradition of gazette burlesque until nearly the end of the century.

James Mayer de Rothschild, memorial tributes, 1868; 1898

000/852/12, 000/1290/4, 1 item, 1 volume

Sundry memorial tributes to James Mayer de Rothschild:

  • Program for the Gedächtnisfeier [Memorial celebration] for James de Rothschild, 29 November 1868, in the Great Synagogue, Frankfurt am Main [photocopy];
  • Bound collection of pamphlets in Hebrew, (1874-1898). The last item in the volume is a tribute to the life of Baron James de Rothschild.

James de Rothschild: memorial volume published by the Directors of the Chemin de Fer du Nord, 1868

000/2731, 1 volume

James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868): memorial volume published by the Directors of the Chemin de Fer du Nord, 1868: Black cloth binding, with monogram 'RR'  in gold on the cover, and James' French Rothschild crest in gold on the back cover: A La Mémoire du Baron James Mayer de Rothschild, Président do Conseil D’Administration du Chemin du Fer du Nord, (Published by L. Daniel, Lille, 1868) [In Memory of Baron James Mayer de Rothschild, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Northern Railway Company]. Recuil des discourses pronouncés sur le tomb de Baron James de Rothschild et des principaux articles de journeax publiés a l'occassion de sa mort et de ses funérailles. Ce recueil, tiré à vingt-cinq exemplaires est offert a Madame Baronne James de Rothschild et a sa famille par le personnel du Chemin de Fer du Nord. [Collection of speeches made at the tomb of Baron James de Rothschild and of the main articles of the newspapers published on the occasion of his death and his funeral. This collection, printed in twenty-five copies is offered to Baroness James de Rothschild [Betty, Baroness James de Rothschild (née von Rothschild) (1805-1886)] and her family by the staff of the Northern Railway Company]. The volume includes copies of speeches made by the Directors of the Chemin du fer du Nord and funeral sermons and obituaries published in Le Temps, Journal des debats, L'Epoque and other perodicals. 

Another copy will be found in the Ascott Collection I, 000/924/3/2, bookplate 'Ascott House'; this copy has James' French Rothschild crest in gold on both sides of the the cover. Another copy will also be found in the Rushbrooke Collection I, 000/848/9/2, bookplate 'Tring Park', this copy has James' French Rothschild crest in gold on both sides of the cover.