You won’t find the Rothschild family in Forbes because its heritage belongs to many heirs. The accurate sum they possess is unknown, but it’s said it’s somewhere between $350 billion and $1 trillion. Modern family members live in different countries and some of them have nothing in common with the family business: they’re maintaining historical archives in museums or saving the Arctic’s ice from global warming.
Tobe Gists was really curious to find out something interesting about this family. By the way, some of these facts are relatively unknown.
The 18th & 19th centuries
- The first generation of the Rothschilds lived in a house, which had a plate depicting a golden eagle and a red shield in the background. In German, “red shield” sounds like “Rothschild.”
- In the 18th century, Amschel Mayer Rothschild managed to establish a bank in a German town and passed it on to his 5 sons. The young men were really savvy and turned that one bank into 5 banks, which were located in different parts of Europe. The banks worked cooperatively and the brothers never had any conflicts.
Amschel Mayer Rothschild (left) and his 5 sons (right): Nathan, Salomon, James, Carl, and Amschel
- The Rothschilds established their own courier company that delivered information on what was going on in the world on time. It also used pigeon post, which was really beneficial as the company was always the first to know something new. If necessary, their couriers would spread rumors. This what happened during the war with Napoleon in 1815. Agents found out that England was about to win and sent a pigeon to Rothschild. In turn, Rothschild ordered his brokers to sell shares at slightly reduced prices. People decided that this meant that England was losing the war and started selling their shares at really low prices. So Rothschild bought almost all their shares and increased his wealth just in one day. He knew about the victory of England, and that it meant the prices were going to rise after everyone realized England had won.
- In the 19th century, the family had its own code of laws that every family member had to follow. It also stated that a woman wasn’t allowed to manage the money. This right belonged to the men only.
- In most cases, family members had to marry their own cousins for the benefit of the family wealth. As a result, their number of ancestors were reduced. An average person has 2 parents, 4 grandparents, and so on. But for example, Lionel Walter Rothschild had only one great-grandfather and one great-grandmother.
- By the end of the 19th century, the family controlled almost half of the world: they financed the Japanese army during the Russo-Japanese War, invested in the building of a railroad in Europe, financed the building of the Suez Canal, and so on. Thus, the surname Rothschild became a synonym for wealth.
- There’s a story, that sounds like a myth, that shows how strong the family’s influence was. According to the diary of one of the family members, Queen Victoria of England often used to visit the Rothschilds. During one of these visits, Baroness Alice Rothschild abruptly told the sovereign to get off the grass when the Queen stepped on her lawn, and Victoria obeyed.
- Their moral principles are also impressive. In 1861, the Russian government turned to the family for a loan and was refused. The thing is, the loan was needed to suppress a rebellion in Poland. The Rothschilds would have made a lot of money, but they didn’t want to support a government that wanted to suppress national liberation movements.
- The war against Napoleon was won with the help of the family. The Rothschilds sponsored the English army and helped to transport expensive metals that were used for weapon production.
The 20th century
Celebration of the 200th anniversary of the dynasty. From left to right: Jacob Rothschild, Amschel Rothschild, Guy de Rothschild, and Edmond de Rothschild
- The greatest collector in the family was Ferdinand and everyone knew this. According to him, he was going to donate all of the things he collected to the British Museum. So the heads of the museum used this to their advantage: they essentially tricked him into buying all the things they couldn’t afford, knowing he would one day give them to the museum.
- Almost all women in the family were described as persistent and vigorous, though, as a rule, mostly only men possess these qualities.
Famous choreographer and ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev with Marie-Helene Rothschild
- Walter Rothschild is also well-known for having a hobby. He used to collect butterflies: he had around 2.25 million species. But he also had another hobby: he organized expeditions to the farthest corners of the world. Thanks to his adventurous spirit, new animals and insects, from bugs to kangaroos, were found. The Rothschild’s birdwing (a butterfly), the Rothschild’s giraffe, and the Leucopsar rothschildi (The Bali myna), were named in his honor.
Walter Rothschild riding a Galapagos tortoise outside of his mansion
- During World War II, German soldiers arrested one of the Rothschilds and offered him a deal: he would be set free if he gave them his steel factory and a certain sum of money in cash. Rothschild agreed, but requested to be paid for it. The process of bargaining was long, and finally the Germans accepted the baron’s conditions. Rothschild was let go, but the deal never took place: after a few days, the German army occupied the territory where the factory was located, so there was no need to pay him for it.
The 21st century
The Rothschilds nowadays. From left to right: Jessica, Edouard, Ondine, and David
- The family owns wine estates all over the world. Château Lafite Rothschild is the most famous among them. What’s more, on the label of one of their Israeli wines, the portrait of Baron Edmond James de Rothschild is depicted.
- The president of France, Emmanuel Macron, started his career in one of the Rothschilds’ companies and was such a good employee, he was nicknamed the Mozart of finance.
- In Cambridge, there’s something called The Rothschild Archive. Emma Rothschild maintains the history of the family. By the way, she’s the youngest person to ever enter Oxford University. When she became a student, she was only 15 years old.
- One of the descendants of the family, David Rothschild runs Adventure Ecology. He’s trying to save the planet: in 2006, he organized an expedition to the Arctic region to study the ice; in 2007, he traveled to the forests of Ecuador to protect them from pollution and deforestation; and in 2010, he constructed a vessel made from 12.5 thousand plastic bottles and crossed half of the Pacific Ocean on it.
David Rothschild and his vessel called Plastiki
Who from the family do you like the most? Why?
Preview photo credit Pierre VAUTHEY / Contributor / Getty Images