Rothschild, Lionel

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Rothschild, Lionel (1808–79). Banker and politician. Rothschild's father, of an international family of German Jews, came to England in 1797 to conduct business and was greatly employed in financing the Napoleonic wars. Lionel succeeded to the English business in 1836, supplied loans for the Crimean War, and provided Disraeli with £4 million in 1876 for the purchase of the Suez canal shares. Returned to Parliament in 1847 for London as a Liberal, Rothschild could not take the required oath as a Christian and was not allowed to sit. Though re-elected in 1849, 1852, and 1857, it was not until the law was changed in 1858 that he could take his seat. His son Nathan was created Baron Rothschild through Gladstone in 1885, the first practising Jew to be ennobled. Disraeli offered an idealized portrait of Rothschild in Coningsby (1844) as Sidonia, a man of profound wisdom, though it is not clear what it was: a less flattering portrait was given by Trollope, who is said to have drawn on Rothschild for elements of Melmotte, the great fraudulent financier in The Way We Live Now (1874).

J. A. Cannon