The Rothschild family has grown into one of the most prominent, and controversial, lines of wealth and power in the world. The saga of the Rothschilds began in the 16th century and still continues to this day. It all began with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, a banker who elevated his family from poor peasants living in a crowded hovel, all the way up to the heights of fortune and fame.
A Fortune Built on Nepotism
Amschel Rothschild started his business by exchanging currencies across European countries, providing his services to the elite, including princes and kings. As his business grew, Amschel was able to open up multiple branches across the continent, which he put his children in charge of running. Before Mayer passed away, he would leave his entire fortune to his five sons.
Keeping the wealth and business in the family was a large point of concern for the Rothschilds. Routinely, Mayer Rothschild would arrange marriages between first cousins. Although it wasn’t taboo at the time, the thought of building wealth and power by sleeping with your relatives seems more than a little bit icky today.
Expanding Across Europe
When the family finally ran out of attractive cousins to marry, the Rothschilds began to spread out. They expanded their empire all across Europe, opening branches in England, France, Italy, and Austria. The family kept doing what they do best, made an absolute ton of money and grew in power and influence.
By 1980 the business had thousands of employees, but trouble was looming on the horizon. The French President, Francois Mitterrand, nationalized the local Rothschild banking branch and changed the name to Compagnie Europeenne de Banque. Instead of accepting these changes, Baron David de Rothschild opted to fight back, opening Rothschild & Cie Banque in order to compete with his former business.
Trials and Tribulations
While things were bad in France, times were even worse in Austria. World War II was the start of the family’s dramatic fall. All of the Rothschild palaces that were located in Austria were seized by Nazi Germany and the family was forced to flee. With the turbulence and looting that followed, it wasn’t until 1999 that the Austrian government was able to recover most of the belongings lost in the war.
The family also had its fair share of infighting and internal problems. They were split over their support for Zionism, with many family members directly supporting the Israeli state. Not only has this lead to the majority of conspiracy theories, but the Rothschilds have also seen their fortune diminished in disputes over land and commodities in the troubled area.
Giving A Little Bit Back
Philanthropy was also a large part of the Rothschild family. The arts were very important to the family, and an undisclosed amount has been given to support museums and collections. It is estimated that their contributions are well into the tens of millions of dollars. There are museums all across Europe today that still proudly display artwork donated by the Rothschilds, in galleries built through their generous donations.
A Continuing Legacy
There are still many members of the Rothschild family that live today. These include Hannah Rothschild, Robert Baron Rothschild and Victoria Katherine Rothschild. Although the name is not as powerful as it once was, there is no doubt that the Rothschilds were one of the most influential and richest in world history. Without them, the face of England, Europe, and talk radio would have looked very different.