Lord Jacob Rothschild dies aged 87

The scion of the Rothschild banking dynasty was a passionate supporter of Israel and Jewish causes


Lord Rothschild and painting of King David (John Nguyen/JNVisuals)

Lord Rothschild, who was a direct descendant of Mayer Amschel Rothschild, the Frankfurt-based coin dealer, has died aged 87.

His family announced his death in a statement, saying: “Our father Jacob was a towering presence in many people’s lives, a superbly accomplished financier, a champion of the arts and culture, a devoted public servant, a passionate supporter of charitable causes in Israel and Jewish culture, a keen environmentalist and much-loved friend, father and grandfather.

“He will be buried in accordance with Jewish custom in a small family ceremony and there will be a memorial at a later date to celebrate his life.”

Lord Rothschild, who was educated at Eton, and then Oxford started his career at the family bank NM Rothschild & Sons in 1963. 

He went on to co-found a number of firms including J Rothschild Assurance Group, now St James’s Place, with Sir Mark Weinberg in 1980.

The British peer held a number of senior roles in business including deputy chair of BskyB between 2003 and 2008 and was heavily involved in arts and philanthropy.

Lord Rothschild was a former chair of trustees at the National Gallery as well as the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

In April last year in an interview with the JC, he explained why he had brought Il Guercino’s portrait of King David to be on display at Waddesdon Manor, saying: “It’s a real masterpiece and it belongs somehow to Waddesdon Manor more than anywhere else.”

Describing the Baroque masterpiece he said: “There are very few portraits of King David as a king on his own.

“There are lots of King David slaying Goliath and lots of him playing the harp.
"But very few — what I would call — big formal portraits. It’s a real masterpiece.”

There was no doubting the personal significance of this moment for Lord Rothschild.

He said: “given the long-standing connections we have had with the state of Israel and the Jewish community here that it would be a wonderful thing if it could come here. It was a difficult choice, but we made it.”

He inherited the 4,000 acre estate in Aylesbury from his cousin Dorothy de Rothschild.

In 2019 former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks put up a mezuzah at Waddesdon Manor to commemorate the official opening of the James and Dorothy de Rothschild room to mark the couple’s immense contribution to Israel and the Anglo-Jewish community.

The Board of Deputies paid tribute to Lord Rothschild. 

In a statement posted on X/Twitter they said: “The Jewish community mourns the death of Lord Rothschild, a giant of Britain's business and philanthropic worlds, whose positive contribution to so many aspects of British life was incalculable.”

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: "Lord Jacob Rothschild will be remembered as a most extraordinary philanthropic leader whose generosity was surpassed only by his humility. His contribution to our national life here in the UK, Israel and to good causes around the world was immeasurable. May his memory be a blessing."

In 2002 he was awarded the order of merit for his service in the field of arts, literature, learning and science, and in 2019, he lost his wife Serena to cancer after 58 years of marriage. They had three daughters and a son. 

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