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Nathaniel Charles (Jacob) Rothschild (1936-2024)

Nathaniel Charles (Jacob), 4th Lord Rothschild (1936-2024) was the eldest son of Nathaniel (Victor), 3rd Lord Rothschild and Barbara Judith, Lady Rothschild (née Hutchinson). Jacob was educated at Eton College and then at Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained a First in history, tutored by Hugh Trevor-Roper. In 1961, he married Serena Mary Dunn (1935-2019), a granddaughter of the Canadian financier Sir James Dunn.

Business career

Joining in 1959, from 1963 he was a partner in the family business N M Rothschild & Sons at New Court. In 1976, the chairmanship of the bank had passed from his father, who had chosen to follow a scientific career, to his cousin Sir Evelyn de Rothschild (1931-2022) and Jacob left the bank in 1980, taking independent control of Rothschild Investment Trust (now RIT Capital Partners plc), an investment trust listed on the London Stock Exchange. After leaving N M Rothschild & Sons Limited, Jacob went on to found J. Rothschild Assurance Group (now St. James's Place plc) with Sir Mark Weinberg in 1991. In 1989, he joined forces with Sir James Goldsmith and Kerry Packer, in an unsuccessful bid for British American Tobacco.

Lord Rothschild was Chairman of RIT Capital Partners plc, one of the largest investment trusts quoted on the London Stock Exchange. He was Chairman of J Rothschild Capital Management, a subsidiary of RIT Capital Partners plc. He retained many other venture capital and property interests. From November 2003 until his retirement in 2008, he was Deputy Chairman of BSkyB Television and until 2008 he was a Director of RHJ International. He had many interests in oil and energy.

Arts and heritage interests

Jacob Rothschild played a prominent part in arts philanthropy in Britain. He was Chairman of Trustees of the National Gallery from 1985 to 1991, and from 1992 to 1998, chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. From 1994 to 1998, and at the invitation of the Prime Minister, he was chairman of the British National Heritage Lottery Fund responsible for distributing the proceeds of the National Lottery to the heritage sector, an influential post which oversaw the distribution of £1.2 billion in grants.

He had also been a Trustee of the State Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg (retired 2008), a Trustee of the Qatar Museums Authority (retired 2010), Chairman of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture (2002–2004);  Chairman of both the Gilbert Collection Trust and the Hermitage Development Trust, Somerset House; a Trustee and Honorary Fellow of the Courtauld Institute, Somerset House; and a Fellow, Benefactor, and member of the Visitors' Committees of the Ashmolean Museum Oxford (retired 2008). In 2014, he received the J. Paul Getty Medal "for extraordinary achievement in the fields of museology, art historical research, philanthropy, conservation and conservation science".

Lord Rothschild was especially active in the project to restore Somerset House in London, for which he helped secure the Gilbert Collection and ensured the long-term future of the Courtauld Institute of Art. As a private project, he carried out the restoration of Spencer House, one of the finest surviving 18th century London townhouses, adjacent to his own offices. In 1993, he joined with Baron Sainsbury of Preston Candover to set up the Butrint Foundation to record and conserve the archaeological site of Butrint in Albania.

Waddesdon Manor

In 1988, Jacob inherited from his aunt, Dorothy de Rothschild (1895-1988), the Waddesdon and Eythrope estates in Buckinghamshire, and began a close association with Waddesdon Manor, the house and grounds which were built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839-1898) in the 1880s and bequeathed to the National Trust in 1957 by his cousin, James de Rothschild (1878-1957). He was a major benefactor of the restoration of Waddesdon Manor through a private family charitable trust and, in a unique arrangement with the National Trust, Waddesdon is managed as a semi-independent operation. Under Lord Rothschild’s auspices, Waddesdon Manor was a regular venue for visiting heads of state including Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Margaret Thatcher received French President François Mitterrand there at a summit in 1990. He hosted the European Economic Round Table conference there in 2002.


Jacob Rothschild also followed the Rothschild family's charitable interests in Israel and was the chairman of Yad Hanadiv, the family foundation which gave the Knesset and the Supreme Court buildings to Israel. He was also President of The Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, and Patron and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Rothschild Foundation. In addition, he was Honorary President of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. He served as a Member of the Arts & Humanities Research Board, set up by the British Government, was an honorary fellow of the British Academy and a Trustee of the Prince of Wales’ Prince’s Charities Foundation. In the past, he had been a Member of the UK Main Honours Board, (retired 2008); Chairman of the Honours Committee for Arts and Media (retired 2008); Trustee of the Edmond J Safra Foundation (retired 2010); and a Member of committee of the Henry J Kravis Prize for Creative Philanthropy (retired 2010).

Awards and honours

From his headquarters in St James's Place in London, Lord Rothschild cultivated an influential set of clients, business associates and friends. Lord Rothschild was appointed a Member of the Order of Merit by the Queen in 2002, and during his lifetime he held many other fellowships and honorary awards, in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States.  Jacob, 4th Lord Rothschild died in March 2024.