Return to the Forum homepage


Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1882-1942)

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild was the eldest of the three sons of Leopold and Marie. He was born on 25 January 1882. Lionel was educated at Harrow and Trinity College Cambridge before taking his place as a partner at New Court.

In 1912 he married Marie-Louise Beer the sister of Nelly de Rothschild (née Beer) who had married Robert de Rothschild in 1907.  Lionel and Marie had four children; Rosemary, Edmund, Naomi and Leopold.  Along with Robert, Nelly and their children, Lionel and his family enjoyed long summer holidays touring Europe on his yacht, The Rhodora.

The official insistence that he remain at New Court to direct the affairs of the London House did not prevent Lionel Nathan de Rothschild from serving his country with distinction during the first world war.  He served in the reserves as a major in the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry and managed the City of London's recruiting office, earning an OBE and a 'valuable services' mention.

Between the wars, the bank was led by Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (1882-1942), who became Senior Partner in 1923. Under Lionel, the bank began a steady transition towards advisory work and finance raising for commercial concerns, including successful bond issues for the London Underground, and issuing shares in the UK business of F.W. Woolworth.

Lionel was closely attached to the Vale of Aylesbury, serving as MP from 1910 to 1923.  Selling Halton House in 1918 which he inherited from his uncle Alfred, Lionel developed his estate of Exbury in Hampshire.  Exbury became the focus of his life, the scene of his many triumphs in rhododendron hybridization, many specimens being named after family and friends.

A founder member of the Roads Beautifying Association, Lionel sought to combine two of his pleasures: horticulture and motoring.  A third diversion, yachting, he also combined with horticulture, collecting seeds and plants on longer journeys.  He was a keen photographer and early experimenter with film.

Lionel de Rothschild died at his London address, 18 Kensington Palace Gardens, on 28 January 1942, three days after his 60th birthday.  His sons Edmund and Leopold dedicated their lives to the family business.

Lionel's Autochromes - the colours of another age

The autochrome, the first colour widely available photographic process, was launched in Britain in September 1907. The invention of the French Lumière brothers, the process had first been demonstrated publicly in Paris. Lionel had a passion for photography, and loved to experiment; it was inevitable that he would try his hand with the autochrome, and so he did, and with considerable success. The 733 glass plates in his collection in The Rothschild Archive represent the largest single collection of autochrome plates by an individual British photographer to have survived.

Lionel’s earliest experiments appear to date from 1908 and by 1909 he was bringing back from his tour of Spain colour plates of Granada and other points en route. At home he began to take pictures in the gardens of Ascott in Buckinghamshire, the family home designed for Lionel’s father in the 1880s. Other images were taken at Gunnersbury Park in west London, and the French estate of his cousin Edmond at Boulogne-sur-Seine, outside Paris. His work also includes portraits of family and friends.

Browse the Autochromes Gallery for a selection of these arresting images of a vanished world. (Please note that reproduction of these images is forbidden without the express written permission of The Rothschild Archive London). For further information about the Rothschild Autochromes, see The colours of another world, in the Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2005-2006.