Nathan Mayer Rothschild was born on September 16, 1777 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was one of five sons, and the fourth child of Mayer Amschel Rothschild and Gutle Schnapper. In his brief 59 years, Nathan Rothschild would lead his four brothers to the peak of the financial world and synonymize the Rothschild name with international wealth and power.
Nathan was certainly the most restless and gifted of the Rothschild brood. He had enormous energy, creativity and ambition, and it came as no surprise when he left Frankfurt at age 21 to launch a branch of the family’s firm in Manchester. He initially worked as a textile merchant, but soon found his true passion working in the world of finance.
He moved to London and began trading bills of exchange through a banking enterprise that he founded in 1805. In 1806, Nathan married Hannah, the daughter of Levi Barent Cohen. This union lifted him into a prominent position in London society and provided him with invaluable access to business contacts among London’s elite. What may have taken years to accomplish was quickly within his grasp, and Nathan wasted no time amassing a substantial fortune.
His brothers, as part of the Rothschild network, were able to build on the foundation that Nathan had established. They were in position to achieve great things in the world of finance, and they quickly gathered fortunes of their own. As their fortunes skyrocketed, so did their social standing, and in 1816, Nathan’s two older brothers were granted noble status by the Austrian Emperor. The brothers prefixed the Rothschild name with von or de to show their new status; however, Nathan chose not to use his aristocratic title though he too was elevated.
He was a popular man, enormously respected and admired. He doted on his wife and children, providing for them indulgently. In the business world, his brusque determination and high standards were legendary. His London house, NM Rothschild, dealt in foreign currency exchange and gold bullion which brought him extraordinary success. The man was brilliant, and while his business dealings and strategies have been examined down through the years, few fully understand how he achieved such rapid supremacy on the world scene.
So enormous was his wealth and business success that he was approached with contracts from the British Government. Through 1814 and 1815, he supplied Wellington’s troops with gold coin, and went on to issue 26 government loans between 1818 and 1835.
Aside from his business successes, Nathan Rothschild was a prominent campaigner against the slave trade. He spoke out strongly against the slave trade and partially financed the 20 million pound government buyout of the slaves on Britain’s foreign plantations.
As with any figure who achieved such high status on the global scene, legends and conspiracy theories sprung up around the Rothschild name – and particularly around Nathan Rothschild. Many of these stories are largely embellished of have been twisted over time; however, the fact remains that Nathan Rothschild was truly one of the most successful immigrants in history. By the time he passed away in 1836, his personal fortune made up as much as 0.62% of British National income and he had established the Rothschild family as Europe’s most prominent investment bankers.