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Mayer Carl (Charles) von Rothschild (1820-1886)

Mayer Carl von Rothschild was born in Frankfurt on 5 August 1820, the eldest of the sons of Carl Mayer von Rothschild (1788-1855) founder of Naples branch of the family business. He eventually took a controlling role in the management of the Frankfurt House after the death of his uncle Amschel in 1855. Mayer Carl studied at the University of Göttingen and in Berlin. In 1854, the firm was made Banker to the Court of Prussia. Mayer Carl acquired personal honours too, such as the Duchy of Parma consulship in Frankfurt, Consul of Bavaria and Austrian Consul-General. He undertook more demanding roles, when in 1866, he took part in a Frankfurt delegation to Berlin to demand a reduction in the contribution to the war effort, was a deputy in the North German Diet, a member of the German Reichstag and took a seat on the Frankfurt city parliament. In 1871 he became the first Jew appointed to the Prussian Upper House.

Marriage and children: seven daughters

He was married to his cousin Louise at Gunnersbury Park by the Rev. Dr. Herschel on 6 April 1842. In Frankfurt, the couple lived at first on the Zeil, before acquiring a house on the Untermainkai and the Günthersburg mansion outside the city. Together they brought up seven daughters in Frankfurt: Adèle (1843-1922), who married Baron Salomon James de Rothschild (1835-1864) and later made her life in Paris; Emma Louise (1844-1935) who married Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild and made her life in England; Clementine (1845-1865) who died tragically young, aged just 20; Laura Thérèse, who married Baron James de Rothschild; Hannah Louisa (1850-1892), who never married, devoting her life to charitable work in Frankfurt; Marguerite Alexandrine (1855-1905) who married Agenor, Duc de Gramont; and Bertha Clara (1862-1903), who married Alexandre Berthier, Duc de Wagram.  Of the daughters, Margaretha and Bertha Clara incurred their father's great displeasure by marrying out of the Jewish faith.

A magnificent collection of silver and gold objects

Mayer Carl and Louise amassed an incomparable collection of over 5,000 works of art; displayed in their house in the Untermainkai and the Günthersburg mansion. Mayer Carl was a noted and discerning collector of silver and gold objects and his collection was one of the finest ever created. A large part of this collection consisted of gold and silver plate made in Augsburg and Nuremberg in the 16th century of which there were more than 400 items. During Mayer Carl's lifetime the collection was on display to the general public every Sunday. Drinking vessels, jugs, cups representing women, birds and cherubim, as well as ewers and chalices made up the collection. It also included some fine examples of work based on 16th-century engravings. Many involved not only gold and silver, but also other precious materials, such as jade, tortoiseshell, ivory and agate. The collection was described in two catalogues, (known as ‘Luthmer’ catalogues after their author) published in 1883 and 1885. Today these volumes, with their exquisite photographic plates, are an important source for scholars of gold and silver work, and provenance researchers. Copies of these catalogues are in the Archive collection. See Mayer Carl von Rothschild: collector or patriot? in The Rothschild Archive Annual Review 2003-2004 for more information about Mayer Carl and his collections.

Mayer Carl died on 16 October 1886. Much of his magnificent collection was divided at his death between five of his seven daughters, Adèle, Emma, Laura Thérèse, Hannah Louisa and Bertha Clara. Carl’s daughter Clementine predeceased him, and his daughter, Margaretha, was not included in the bequest.

See also Louise de Rothschild »