Although the Rothschild story has been long told about how they rose out of poverty and became one of the most wealthy families in the world, it is still a mystery to what happened to the Rothschild women.  

A new book tells the tale of how the Rothschild women came to be, from those who built the bank in 1800s to the ones who rejected the expectations of their rich family. 

The Women of Rothschild – The Untold Story of The World’s Most Famous Dynasty, Natalie Livingstone is a journalist and historian who examines the remarkable women in each generation of this family. 

Livingtone, who is married to property billionaire Ian Livingstone – owner of the Cliveden estate – previously wrote The Mistresses of Cliveden, detailing the lives of women who lived in the house whose histories were overlooked in favour of more famous men. 

It’s a similar theme for her latest book, which took six years of research starting at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, when she discovered that the five daughters of Gutle and Mayer Rothschild had ‘just been written out of history’, after their father set the tone in his will in 1812, saying that women must not be part of the bank or directly inherit wealth. 

‘I would never be able to forgive any of my children if, contrary to these my paternal wishes, it should be allowed to happen that my sons were upset in the peaceful possession and prosecution of their business interests,’ he said. 

Gutle is the founder matriarch of Gutle’s family. Gutle’s dowry was the reason that the bank existed in the first instance. Henriette, who went on to become a well-known society hostess, is also featured. 

The book examines the journey of each woman who forged her own path within the shadow of the bank dynasty, from those who were a major force in late-Nineteenth-century women’s movements to those who gave up their wealth for jazz music. 

GUTLE ROTHSCHILD, THE FOUNDING MARIARCH  

Gutle Rothschild, dubbed the 'mother of the Rothschild dynasty' was crucial in the initial years of the Rothschild bank, helping fund the organisation with her dowry and helping with cashing and issuing bills

Gutle Rothschild, dubbed the ‘mother of the Rothschild dynasty’ was crucial in the initial years of the Rothschild bank, helping fund the organisation with her dowry and helping with cashing and issuing bills

Mayer and Gutle Rothschild had 19 children and 10 survived, five of which were women. But they have largely been overlooked in the family's long and prestigous history, de

Mayer Rothschild and Gutle Rothschild had 19, and 10 of them survived. Five of these were women. They have been largely overlooked throughout the long, prestigous family history.

Gutle is often referred to as the “mother of Rothschild dynasty” because she was born in Frankfurter Judengasse in 1753, which was one of the first ghettos of Germany. 

The Holy Roman Emperor imposed strict rules on the Jewish people, which included the ban of touching any fruit at the markets.

They also had to immediately raise their hands and stand aside when someone shouted ‘Jud! Mach mores! (Jew, do your duty)’.  

History of the Rothschild family  

The Rothschild family is a wealthy Jewish family originally from Frankfurt that rose to prominence with Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744–1812), a court factor to the German Landgraves of Hesse-Kassel in the Free City of Frankfurt, Holy Roman Empire, who established his banking business in the 1760s.

Mayer built a financial house, and he spread his wealth by placing each of his five children in five major European financial centers to do business.

His children were:  

  • Amschel Mayer Rothschild (1773–1855): Frankfurt, died childless as his fortune passed to the sons of Salomon and Calmann
  • Salomon Mayer Rothschild (1774–1855): Vienna
  • Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777–1836): London
  • Calmann Mayer Rothschild (1788–1855): Naples
  • Jakob Mayer Rothschild (1792–1868): Paris

Rothschild was not like other previous court officials. His five sons established an international family of banks through which he left his fortune. They also started their own businesses in London Paris Frankfurt Frankfurt Vienna and Naples. 

Mayer Rothschild was also successful in keeping control of their bank accounts in their family, so they could keep their secrets about how much money they have. 

Mayer Rothschild was able to keep the fortune intact by carefully arranging marriages. Often, these were between the first and second cousins. 

The Holy Roman Empire elevated the family to the noble rank of the United Kingdom.

Its history is documented as beginning in the 16th Century in Frankfurt.

The Rothschilds held the record for the biggest private fortune during the 19th Century, and in modern history.

The wealth of the family declined in the 20th century and it was eventually divided between many descendants.

Their interests today span a wide range of areas, such as financial services and real estate.

There are many examples of rural architecture by the same family all over northwestern Europe.

 

Christians had been banned from lending money for interest in 1179, so Jews were able to set up their own financial organisations – despite being prohibited from other forms of work. 

Despite the discrimination they faced, Gutle’s father Wolf Salomon Schnapper ran one such institution and while they were not massively wealthy, they were more prosperous than most living in the ghetto. 

Gutle grew up in a family that was heavily involved with banking and was expected to have the ability to assist his father’s business.

In 1770, at the age of 17, Gutle’s father matched her with Mayer Amschel Rothschild – who had spent the last few years working as an apprentice in a bank at Hanover and had decided to set up a business of his own. 

Gutle’s 2,400-gulden dowry was crucial for his expanding business. Gutle and Gutle began their family after he left the ghetto.  

Ten out of nineteen of her pregnancies would live to adulthood. Gutle, while caring for her children would assist her husband in cashing and issuing the bills as well as managing household finances. 

She learned many skills as a child that would help her husband Mayer later in his work to establish the bank. 

Despite remaining a crucial cog in the bank’s wheel until her death in 1849, Gutle’s talents were to go unnoticed by the men in her family-  with her son Carl writing to his brother Salomon in their adult years dubbing women ‘bad cashiers’. 

‘Much like the Jews of Frankfurt themselves, the women of the Rothschild business tirelessly turned the wheels of industry, and were often rewarded with contempt’, writes Livingstone. 

THE ‘DARING ROTHSCHILD’ DAUGHTER, WHO DIED FROM THE GERMAN ARM THE FAMILY

Born in 1791, Henriette was the youngest of Gutle and Meyer’s daughters and ‘provided a more daring model of what a Rothschild woman might be’.  

Henriette, now sixteen years old, was the sole girl who worked for the family’s business and was also a Rothschild-born Rothschild. 

She remained unmarried until the age of 21, when her father died and left behind a dowry of 33,000 gulden and a wish for his youngest daughter to be appointed a match by his eldest sons Amschel and Salomon.   

While the will technically allowed Henriette to choose her own match, the reality meant she had little choice, and her brothers quickly found a suitor for her –  a man from Hamburg known as Hollaender. 

Hollaender’s wildly high expectation for a dowry of 100,000 Gulden – three times what was mentioned in Meyer’s will – as well as Henriette’s entanglement with a Frankfurt man called Kaufmann meant that over the course of three years, their match had fallen apart. 

Gutle was horrified by the thought of her youngest child being unmarried when she turned 23. She decided that her daughter would go to England to find a man to marry her brother Nathan. 

It didn’t take long before Nathan found a match, Abraham Montefiore, who had been thrust out of society because of a previous marriage with Mary Hall, the daughter of a Christian stockbroker.  

In 1815, a marriage of convenience took place without Henriette informing her Frankfurt family, something they viewed as ‘a pointed snub’.

Although she was happy in her new house, her brother felt increasing animosity towards her younger sibling. 

Livingstone writes: ‘By May 1817 Salomon and James had joined Amschel in the chorus of animosity towards Henriette and Abraham, writing from Paris to express their horror at the discourtesy with which they were routinely treated by the couple on their visits to London.’

Within two years, Henriette and her husband had turned their attention away from the Rothschild business and towards the stock market – further ostracizing her from her family.  

After Abraham’s death in 1824, Henriette split her time between her three houses – the country estate at Worth Park Farm in Sussex, the old family home in Stamford Hill, and her London residence in Stanhope Street.

She spent time spending her fortune and hosting legendary parties, where Benjamin Disraeli courted his wife, and was remembered for her pronounced German accent and ‘great fund of the racy old Jewish humour’.  

Born in 1791, Henriette Rothschild was known for her legendary parties at her three homes in the UK

Hannah Mayer De Rothschild went against her family's wishes to marry  Christian MP Henry FitzRoy, the son of a prominent aristocratic family

Henriette Rothschild was born 1791. She is known for throwing legendary parties at three of her homes in the UK. Hannah Mayer De Rothschild resisted her family’s requests to wed Christian MP Henry FitzRoy. FitzRoy is the son of an influential aristocratic family.

DAUGHTER EXILED FROM MARRYING A CHRISTIAN 

Nathan’s second child was born to his wife Hannah Mayer in 1815.

According to family tradition, Henriette was to be married to Joseph Montefiore’s son.

The pair did not match up. Hannah became increasingly annoyed at the ‘dreadful, tedious, long dinners’ in Frankfurt. Joseph was also disgusted by Hannah’s’very distant’. 

Nathan’s wife Hannah was looking for the right match for their child, but Hannah Mayer overcame her, and she was swept off her feet when Christian MP Henry FitzRoy (the son of an aristocratic family) stepped in.

FitzRoy was a man with promising potential in politics. His ancestry can be traced back as far back as the 1st Duke and he had been elected MP for Lewes when he turned thirty.

Livingstone says that FitzRoy’s family did not like the possibility of FitzRoy marrying someone from “mercantile” backgrounds, but they were really horrified by the Rothschilds’ decision.

‘The family’s attempts to fit in with Christian upper class society didn’t in any way indicate an acceptance of “marrying out”, which was still considered a grave betrayal, and an assault upon an identity that had for centuries been at risk.

The couple married despite the best efforts of their families on the 29th April 1839 at St George’s Church in Hanover Square. Hannah Mayer was required to publicly repudiate Judaism, declaring that she wanted to be a Christian from the age 15 and to declare her desire to become one.

Hannah was accompanied by Nat in the carriage from the house to the church. Nat, however, was the only family member who attended. 

She and Henry had two children; Arthur Frederick in 1842 and Caroline Blanche Elizabeth two years later. 

Arthur died in his 15th year after falling from a horse. Arthur’s death caused severe illness in his father who also died soon after. 

Her niece Constance, would later write: ‘I cannot help thinking that all the misfortune and distress which have overwhelmed poor Aunt Hannah Mayer have been a punishment for having deserted the faith of her fathers and for having married without her mother’s consent.’ 

THE PIONEER OF WOMAN’S RIGHTS  WHO WAS FRIENDS WITH QUEEN VICTORIA 

Constance de Rothschild was the elder daughter of Sir Anthony and Lady Louise de Rothschild, born in London in 1843, though she spent her early years in Paris before returning to Britain

Constance de Rothschild is the older daughter of Sir Anthony de Rothschild. Constance was born in London 1843. However, she lived her first years in Paris and returned to Britain in 1904.

Constance de Rothschild is the older daughter of Sir Anthony de Rothschild. Constance was born in London in 1843. However, she lived her first years in Paris and returned to Britain in 1904.  

When she was a young girl, she worked in the Jews’ Free Schools near Aston Clinton and wrote a book entitled The History and Literature of the Israelites.

In 1864 she met Cyril Flower, a property developer and Liberal Party politician who later became Lord Battersea, through her cousin, Leopold de Rothschild, and the pair married in 1864. 

Constance became Lady Battersea and had no children. Constance would then become a strong advocate for social reform. 

She joined the British Women’s Temperance Association after a Fanny Morgan, a suffragette and friend of Fanny Morgan was the catalyst for her entry into England’s reform movement regarding women’s prisons.

Constance struck up a friendship with Queen Victoria’s ‘wild’ daughter Princess Louise at a meeting hosted by Constance and Cyril at Surrey House in aid of one of their many campaigns.

Louise was said to have arrived as an ‘interested member of the audience and left as a friend’, soon inviting Constance down to Windsor, where she stayed for the first time in 1886.   

Their friendship sparked Queen Victoria’s interest and Constance was invited to dine with Her Majesty, who told her a story about how she saw her great-grandfather, Mayer Amschel, when she was visiting Frankfurt as a child. 

Yet Constance telling Her Majesty that her great-grandfather had died seven years before she was born, the monarch rubbished her claims and insisted that ‘it surely must have been the husband of that wonderful old Frau Rothschild [Gutle]’.  

Constance returned to Windsor several times over the next few years. Constance died in November 1931.  

THE WOMAN WHO HELPED HER HUSBAND BECOME PRIME MINISTER  

The granddaughter of Nathan and the sole heiress of Baron Mayer, Hannah de Rothschild was born into a world of wealth and luxury but renounced her family name after falling in love with a Christian

Hannah de Rothschild is the grand-daughter of Nathan, and also the sole heiress to Baron Mayer. She was born in a world filled with wealth and luxury. But she gave up her family title after falling for a Christian.

The granddaughter of Nathan and the sole heiress of Baron Mayer, Hannah de Rothschild, was born into a world of wealth and luxury.  

After inheriting her father’s fortune in 1874 at the age of 22, she became the richest woman in Britain with an excess of £2 million and properties including 107 Piccadilly and Mentmore.  

Baron Mayer had been a lover of horse racing, and Hannah met Archibald Primrose, Lord Rosebery at Newmarket Racecourse in Suffolk.   

Archibald Philip Primrose Rosebery who was Prime Minister for just one year in 1894

Archibald Philip Primrose Rosebery, Prime Minister of 1894 for only one year 

There were rumors that Hannah had met Archibald shortly after her father died.

However, it was not until the death of her mother that they were able to confirm their plans with Sir James Lacaita who would be their wedding broker. 

Male members of the Rothschild family were once again furious at a woman ‘marrying out’ and refused to attend the wedding in 1878. Hannah Primrose was made Countess at Rosebery. 

Archibald later stated that at the tender age of 15, he decided on three major life goals: to marry an heiress and win Epsom Derby. He also wanted to become Prime Minister. These ambitions were much more easily achieved after his marriage with Hannah.  

The couple’s London base was Lansdowne House off Berkeley Square, and because Rosebery was planning a move into liberal politics, Hannah’s cousin Constance and her husband became close with the couple despite their ‘disdain’ of her.  

Hannah was her husband’s driving force and motivation and Archibald, a friend of William Gladstone, was considered to be ‘quiet, impressive, earnest and full of interest . . . Constance defines a person as both a human being and a great stateman.  

The birth of their first daughter Sybil did nothing to deter Hannah’s role in her husband’s political campaign – with Hannah turning her London home into ‘the social headquarters of Liberalism and Her husband is now prime minister. 

However, she suddenly died in 1890, aged 39, leaving him, distraught and bereft of her support, to achieve the political destiny which she had plotted. 

In 1894 Archibald was elected as Prime Minister of the UK, serving just one year in office. Archibald resigned after the Liberal party lost 1895. 

Despite speculation, Archibald never remarried after his wife’s death. 

THE ‘JAZZ BORONESS’, WHO LIVED A LIFE FULL OF MUSIC 

Pannonica Rothschild, better known as Nica, was the daughter of Rózsika and Charles Rothschild and later becoming a leading patron of bebop, she would be dubbed the 'jazz baroness'

Pannonica Rothschild, better known as Nica, was the daughter of Rózsika and Charles Rothschild and later becoming a leading patron of bebop, she would be dubbed the ‘jazz baroness’ 

American jazz musician Thelonious Monk and his patron, British Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter at the Five Spot jazz club in New York in 1964.

American jazz singer Thelonious Montk with his patron, British Baroness Nica De Koenigswarter. They were at the Five Spot Jazz Club in New York City in 1964.

Pannonica Rothschild, better known as Nica, was the daughter of Rózsika and Charles Rothschild.

Her father had introduced her to jazz at a young age and she developed a great interest in the art form in her teens – later becoming a leading patron of bebop, she would be dubbed the ‘jazz baroness’.

Nica was badly behaved growing up and in her teens would terrorise her mother by ‘corridor creeping’ – summoning giving her siblings wine and playing them jazz music in the small hours of the morning when her parents were asleep.  

At nineteen she and sister Liberty were sent to France for finishing school, which  later in life, she would say was just ‘three lesbian sisters’ who gave nothing but lessons in wigs and lipsticks. 

Nica with her dog Jack, pictured in 1930. The socialite and jazz patron was a regular fixture at nightclubs and music venues of the West End and FitzroviaThank y

Nica and Jack are pictured with Jack in 1930. The socialite and jazz patron was a regular fixture at nightclubs and music venues of the West End and FitzroviaThank y

After their time at finishing school, Nica and Liberty toured the continent before enrolling for classes at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts. 

On their return to London, Rózsika arranged her daughter’s debutante season, but Nica felt more at home at the nightclubs and music venues of the West End and Fitzrovia, like Café de Paris and the Kit-Kat Club. 

Nica’s brother secured tuition from the swing pianist Teddy Wilson, which his sister sat in on, and she quickly befriended the pianist, bonding over records, venues and artists. 

She would meet the saxophonist Bob Wise as she emerged deeper into the London jazz scene, who would later inspire her love of flying, obtaining her pilots license in  the early 1930s

Nica was 10 years older than Jules de Koenigswarter when she met Jules de Koenigswarter in 1935. He was a 33-year-old widower and a “suave, handsome” widower.  After spending the summer flying across Europe, Jules proposed. 

Friends in high places! Actor James Cagney with Baron Jules De Koenigswarter and Baroness Nica De Koenigswarter in Hollywood in 1937

High places are friends! James Cagney as actor, with Baron Jules De Koenigswarter (Baroness Nica De Koenigswarter) in Hollywood, 1937

The couple married after months of traveling and settled down in Paris. Nica was enthralled in Paris’s jazz scene, before she returned to London to give birth to Patrick.  

In the following years, the couple continued to travel between Paris, London, and Paris, with two additional children born before 1935 when the Second World War broke out.  

Nica joined the Free French Army in the fight against Nazi Germany. After the fall of Hitler Nica was discharged from active duty with the rank Lieutenant. 

She was awarded the Médaille commémorative des services volontaires dans la France libre, while Jules received the prestigious Ordre de la Libération. 

THE WOMAN DUBBED THE QUEEN OF FLEEAS’  

Miriam Rothschild, born in 1908, had inherited a love of nature from her father Charles and would later become the Natural History Museum's first trustee

Miriam Rothschild was born 1908 and inherited her love for nature from Charles. She would become later the Natural History Museum’s first trustee. 

Nica’s sister, Miriam Rothschild, born in 1908, had inherited a love of nature from her father Charles and first indulged her enthusiasm for the environment on a trip to Cséhtelek shortly before the start of the First World War. 

Before the family evacuated, she spent her time ‘counting ladybird spots and learning the difference between small tortoiseshells and comma butterflies’.   

Miriam began her exploration of zoology years after Charles died. Miriam brought home an unopened frog that her brother had taken from Harrow. He was going to use it in science class.  

They visited Tring, the Tring Zoological Laboratory, and Walter 2nd Baron Rothschild’s private museum, to begin the procedure. 

‘As she gazed in awe at the incredible beauty of the blood system and the arteries and veins laid out in front of her, Miriam knew that her attempts to distance herself from her father’s zoological passions were futile’, writes Livingstone. 

Miriam quickly enrolled at evening classes in zoology at Chelsea Polytechnic while continuing her main lessons in literature at Bedford College, University of London, continuing her mollusc research into her 20s.  

In late August 1937, Walter died in his sleep meaning Miriam’s brother Victor inherited the majority of his uncle’s art and property, apart from his zoological legacy – the bulk of which would go to Miriam. 

He left her a portion of his moth and butterfly collection, as well as the editorship of Tring Museum Journal. 

The museum at Tring and its entire contents were left to the Museum’s Natural History Department with the condition that if not left intact they would go to Miriam. 

Miriam worked at Bletchley Park on codebreaking with Alan Turing and was awarded a Defence Medal from the British government for her efforts

Miriam, who worked with Alan Turing at Bletchley Park to crack code, was given a Defence Medal of the British government.

Both Miriam and Victor spent much of the late thirties campaigning and fundraising in support of German Jewry and by 1938 Miriam’s research commitments had ‘become a secondary consideration’.  

Miriam worked at Bletchley to crack code with Alan Turing in World War II. She was given a Defence Medal for her efforts by the British government.

Further more, she pressed British government to to admit more German Jews as refugees from Nazi Germany and arranged to house 49 Jewish children – several of whom stayed at her Northamptonshire. home. 

Ashton Wold served also as a hospital to treat wounded military personnel including Captain George Lane, her future husband. Lane, a Hungarian-born British soldier. 

Four children were born to the couple, of which three survived into adulthood. The couple split in 1957, but they remained close friends. Ashton Wold’s heart attack caused Dame Miriam to die on 20 January 2005. 

BRITISH ROTHCHILD FAMILY TREE

In a very different way than their European counterparts the British Rothschild branch is happy to combine politics and parties – the new generation has multiple aristocratic unions.  

Granddaughters of Victor, 3rd Barron Rothschild and Alice Rothschild married Ben and Zac Goldsmith respectively in high-profile weddings. Kate and Ben have now separated. James Rothschild was their brother and married Nicky Hilton in 2015, a hotel heiress.

Alice Rothschild with her husband Zac Goldsmith

Kate Rothschild with her then husband Ben Goldsmith in 2011. The pair are now divorced

Famous British Rothschilds: From left, Alice Rothschild (with her husband Zac Goldsmith); Kate Rothschild (with her former husband Ben Goldsmith) in 2011. Both are divorced.

Nathaniel Rothschild was born to Annabelle Neilson and died at 49 in 2018. Loretta Basey, a former Page 3 girl is his wife.

Nathaniel, known as Nat, also has highly publicised friendships with people such as Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska whose £80million yacht was the scene of an infamous gathering in Corfu with George Osborne and Peter Mandelson which led to Nat’s dramatic and widely reported fall-out with Mr Osborne, an old school friend. 

The Rothschilds have experienced turbulent times in Europe. Amschel Rothschild (son of the 3rd Baron Rothschild and Anita Guinness) took his life at the Le Bristol Hotel in Paris, in 1996. Public feuds broke out between the Swiss and French branches of the Rothschild family over the Rothschild name. The matter was settled in 2018.