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Lionel Nathan de Rothschild OBE was an English banker and a Conservative politician who was well known as the creator of Exbury Gardens near the New Forest in Hampshire. Born in London on 25 January 1882 he was the eldest of the three sons of Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917) and Marie, née Perugia (1862-1937), and a part of the illustrious Rothschild banking family. Using the birth, marriage and death records on TheGenealogist, we can find that Lionel Nathan de Rothschild’s birth was registered in the district of St George, Hanover Square in London in the first quarter of 1882. Turning next to the education records on TheGenealogist provides us with an entry in the Harrow school register. This provides us with the information that Lionel de Rothschild went on to Trinity College, Cambridge, became a banker and the MP for Aylesbury; was a major in the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, received an OBE in 1917 and served as a Justice of the Peace and also provides us with his year of death.

Another educational record, this time for the Trinity College Admissions, reveals that the younger Lionel Nathan de Rothschild graduated from Cambridge with a BA in 1903 and a MA in 1908. Political service ran in the family. When on 25 January 1910 Lionel Nathan de Rothschild was elected to the House of Commons, he was following in his cousin’s and in his grandfather’s footsteps by becoming a Member of Parliament. All three of the de Rothschild men had the first name Lionel – though his cousin would go by the name of Walter. It was into Lionel Walter’s shoes, as the MP for Aylesbury, that Lionel Nathan stepped when he won the seat in the next election after his cousin’s retirement from politics. Lionel de Rothschild, their grandfather, had paved the way when he had been elected to parliament several times for the City of London. As a member of the Jewish religion he wouldn’t swear the Christian oath required at the time by MPs and so was unable to take up his seat in the Commons.

gro birth record of Lionel de Rothschild

GRO birth records on TheGenealogist show the index entry for Lionel N de Rothschild

Harrow school register

Harrow school register from the educational records on TheGenealogist

extract from Jewish Cronicle

The Jewish Chronicle 1907 on TheGenealogist

view of exbury house

Exbury House

In 1912 we can learn from the Overseas BMD records on TheGenealogist that he married Marie Louise Eugénie Beer in Paris, the wedding being registered with the British Consul there. As with any ancestors in the Overseas BMDs, the references provided by these records make it possible to order a certificate from the GRO in Southport to glean further details.

At the outbreak of World War I, Lionel’s younger brothers Evelyn and Anthony both joined the British Army. Lionel, however, being the eldest son was needed as the heir to take over the family’s NM Rothschild & Sons banking house and so, no doubt to his frustration, he had no choice but to remain at home. In spite of this, he held the rank of major in the Royal Buckinghamshire Yeomanry and served the Army by carrying out recruiting duties in the conflict. Both of Lionel Rothschild’s brothers were wounded in battle, with Evelyn dying of his injuries at the 1917 Battle of Mughar Ridge. A search of the military records on TheGenealogist reveals that Lionel de Rothschild, nonetheless, appears in the Roll of Honour for Cambridge University and we can also find his World War I campaign medals from a search of the military records on TheGenealogist.

Cambridge University war list

Cambridge University war list in the roll of honour records

Lionel’s father, Leopold, was to die in early 1917 and this meant that he and his brother, Anthony, now became the managing partners of NM Rothschild & Sons bank. Lionel, however, had developed an interest in horticulture at a very young age, reputedly having planted his first garden at the age of five. In 1919 he purchased the Mitford estate at Exbury in Hampshire and it was here that he devoted a great deal of time and money transforming it into what, some say, is one of the finest gardens in England with more than one million plants. Lionel went on, in the 1920s, to build Exbury House around an existing structure in a neo-Georgian style. Lionel de Rothschild’s horticultural interest saw him co-sponsoring planthunting expeditions to isolated areas of the world, such as the Himalayas, in order to collect seeds for plant growth and experimentation. It is reported in several horticultural articles that he developed 1,204 new hybrids of rhododendron and azalea that were recognised and sold around the world. Despite continuing to work at the family bank, he described himself in a quote as ‘a banker by hobby – a gardener by profession’.

Lionel Nathan de Rothschild died in London, aged 60, in 1942 and was buried in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery. His son Edmund assumed the management of Exbury Gardens and would go on to put in place a charitable trust to manage the property. In 2001, the American Rhododendron Society recognised Lionel Nathan de Rothschild’s significant contribution, posthumously bestowing on him a Pioneer Achievement Award.

The Jewish Synagogue Seatholder records, on TheGenealogist, allows those family history researchers with Jewish ancestors from London to find out more about their forebears. As to be expected of such an eminent member of society, Lionel de Rothschild is found several times within this collection. These records show the positions held by members of 18 London synagogues spanning the years 1920 to 1939. Researchers can track ancestors who became wardens, council members, or served on committees of the synagogue, as well as the seatholders in synagogues from around the capital city. The fully indexed records are searchable by name, keyword, synagogue and address and, with one click, we can see an image of the page from the Seatholders for Synagogues in London. Selecting ‘Miscellaneous’ records and then ‘Jewish Synagogue Seatholders’, from the dropdown menu, we enter Lionel as a forename and de Rothschild as the surname to return us several positions that de Rothschild held in three different synagogues. We can see that he was the Warden of the Great Synagogue which once stood in Duke’s Place, north of Aldgate – unfortunately this building was destroyed in the London Blitz – and we also find that de Rothschild was the President of the United Synagogue in North Finchley. Selecting that record allows us to view the actual image of the page taken from the Seatholders for Synagogues in London 1920.

From the death records on TheGenealogist we can see that on 28 January 1942 Lionel de Rothschild passed away aged 60. As can be seen from this example, the rich resources of TheGenealogist allow us to trace lives from birth, to school, university and in later life.

jewish seatholders record

Lionel de Rothschild recorded in the Jewish Seatholders collection

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