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Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879)

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild was born in London on 22 November 1808, 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.

By the 1860s, N M Rothschild & Sons was at the peak of its powers. Business continued steadily under Lionel; the traditional clutch of sovereign clients was nurtured and extended, and railway loans became a strong feature. In 1860, the Partners, led by Lionel agreed that it was time for a new building, reflecting the firm's position in the world. Between 1860-1865, the domestic feel of the old New Court building was swept aside in favour of something more imposing and business-like, in a style which echoed the palazzi of the great Italian banks. 

Few business papers of Lionel de Rothschild (1808-1879) survive. Much of his personal private correspondence was destroyed by his executors (following his wishes) after his death; including papers held by the London bank. A few small collections of private letters received by Lionel survive, including correspondnece with Disraeli. For further information, see Rothschild family papers: English family: Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879) »

Famine relief, 1846-1847 

In December 1846, The British Association for the Relief of Extreme Distress in the Remote Parishes of Ireland and Scotland, was established with Lionel de Rothschild in the lead, in response to the Great Famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1849, which resulted in mass starvation, disease, and emigration. To alleivate hardship, the Irish 3% Loan, for £8.9m, was issued by N M Rothschild & Sons and with Baring Brothers in 1847. Although few papers relating to the Association and the Irish 3% loan survive, for further information, see Rothschild family papers: Insitutions: The British Association for the Relief of Extreme Distress in the Remote Parishes of Ireland and Scotland »

Lionel's campaign to enter Parliament, 1847-1858

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. For papers concerning Lionel's campaign to enter Parliament see Rothschild family papers: English family: Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879) »

The Suez Canal purchase loan, 1875

Lionel is remembered in business for his assistance to the British Government in 1875, helping his friend, Disraeli, secure the necessary sum to procure the Khedive of Egypt's share in the Suez Canal. For papers concerning the Suez Canal Purchase loan, see Loans business: Suez Canal Purchase loan »

Business papers of Baron Lionel de Rothschild


The Archive holds little of Baron Lionel de Rothschild's private and business correspondence; it is believed that much of his private collection of papers was destroyed by his executors in accordance with his wishes.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1808-1879), British Government loan 1855, Parliamentary report, 1855

000/2056/1, 1 volume

In 1855, N M Rothschild & Sons contracted for the British Government 3% Loan, for £16m, issued on par. Two further British Government loans followed in 1856, the British Government 3% Loan, for £8.9m (raised to help cover the losses incurred as a result of the Crimean War) and the British Government 3% Loan for £5.4m, issued at a price of 93. Very little documentation about these loans survives in Archive collections.

  • Parliamentary Paper 331, June 1855 concerning the loan by N M Rothschild & Sons to the British Government. The report includes a copy of the contract entered into 'between Baron Lionel de Rothschild and Her Majesty's Government on or about the 20th day of April last, for a loan of sixteen millions for the public service'.