For all the money in the Rothschild banking houses, and the power and patronage that it buys, there are some things that a Rothschild just cannot buy. One of those things is sincerity and, in the case of this book, the satisfaction of knowing for sure that all the admiration, fawning and accolades bestowed upon his family by sympathetic biographers and family historians are really genuine. Is this book an honest appraisal of the Rothschild family by an independent researcher or just another 'apologia' by a kept stooge written to fill the vacuum that would undoubtedly be left if it were not written? Well, let's try and shed some light.
This book encompasses some 470 pages of text, with 19 pages of notes, 24 illustrations and photographs, 6 pages of bibliography, five pages of Rothschild Family Index, eight pages of General Index and seven pages of Rothschild Family Tree. The front cover impresses with a coat of arms bearing the words "Concordia, Integritas, Industria" (Harmony, Honesty, Diligence), and an eagle and lion and a hand holding five arrows (one for each of the original five sons who dominated the banking systems of the five wealthiest European countries). This is flanked by the usual lion and unicorn. The back cover shows a painting of a rather over-ornate nineteenth century drawing room with appropriately dressed figures, including a negro servant girl, part of a table laid with a sumptious feast, an armoured vizor with a stack of books exuding learnedness heaped nearby, a Grecian urn, a figure of Venus, a fabulously expensive swish curtain, high, lead-painted windows, and . . . oh, the list is endless. The immediate impression is one, not just of splendour, but of zealous over-indulgence in the outward display of material wealth.
What of the book itself? The writer's viewpoint is established in the title to the first chapter, "A Civilised Life, Amidst Barbarism". The reference is to the cramped quarters of the Judengasse (Jew Street), the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt where the population had increased over the years but the ghetto had not. The Judengasse became overcrowded, squalid and smelly. This is the "civilised life" of the chapter title. The "sea of barbarism" is a reference to the heart of Europe, at that time approaching what was arguably its most civilised condition in all history, and producing many fine works of art that future Rothschilds would be so keen to collect.
The period covered purports to be from 1560, but in fact there is nothing to say until 1744, when the founder of the Rothschild banking house, Mayer Amschel, was born. At the age of eleven his parents died and he was sent to Hanover by his guardians, to stay with his late parents' friends, the Oppenheims, a banking family. During his six year stay he made the acquaintance of General von Estorff, a keen coin collector and adviser to William of Hesse, Count of Hanau, the heir to the principality of Hesse-Kassel. In the 1760's he began supplying coins to the young prince, often at a loss, with the aim of becoming "court Jew to the wealthiest and shrewdest ruler in Europe". Quite how he managed to afford this isn't explained. But there are so many things in this history of the Rothschilds that are shrowded in secrecy.
For example, the rapid expansion of Rothschild wealth and power in the early nineteenth century was a "remarkable coup (which) could only have been achieved by a complex series of dealings, many of which were encased in a secrecy which cannot now be penetrated". In other words, Rothschild wealth was accumulated by means of deception, bluff, market manipulation, speculation and most other devices not engaged in by the honest business sector. Why else would there be such complexity and secrecy, even after all these years? By now we are reading about the second generation of Rothschild bankers. Mayer had five sons who, just by happenstance, set up five banks in the five leading European nations and came to dominate the finances of each of those countries. Not a preconceived plan, the writer assures us. It was really very haphazard and more complicated than that.
They certainly owed a lot to old man Mayer, who was always in the right place at the right time, cultivating relationships with the powerful and influential, looking after their money and interests. Yes, he was a real friend to the likes of Prince William and other European royal families. Funny old world, though. All those royal families have long since disappeared without trace. The Rothschilds, however, are still very much around. But back in those days Prince William was Europe's biggest money lender, and when the French Revolution and subsequent European war came along he needed to borrow more money to finance his activities, and there was Rothschild with his consortium to lend it to him. More and more did the heads of Europe come to rely on Rothschild "discretion and reliability" for loans and information, and in 1800 Mayer was appointed Imperial Crown Agent to the Emperor of Austria. The era of international banking had begun.
Back home in the Judengasse, though, not all was domestic bliss. There was an air of acrimony and strife. Mayer's third son, Nathan, frequently insulted and castigated other members of the family who lacked his financial acumen. "NM", as he was known, left for England in 1796 or 1798 (the author is unclear here) and stayed in London until moving to Manchester, at this time the fastest growing industrial city in Europe, in 1799. Here he skimmed the cream off the profits of the cotton industry before deciding to return to the more familiar territory of banking and to London. There he married the daughter of the leading London financier, Levi Barent Cohen, whose other daughter later married Moses Montefiore, whose brother married Nathan's sister, Henriette, thereby connecting the Rothschilds to the Salomons, Goldsmids and other prominent banking families.
The duplicity and treachery of a family that put self-interest and the accumulation of wealth and power before everything else is naturally glossed over. Back on the continent, the family had taken full advantage of the emancipation of the Jews in 1811, courtesy of Napoleon. However, it still secretly plotted against the French while at the same time pretending to place its allegiance with the Emperor. extending low-interest loans to and establishing good relations with the administration in Frankfurt. This was only made possible, says Mr Wilson, because some of Napoleon's agents were "corrupt". Just the right kind of people, then, for the House of Rothschild to do business with.
Whilst the old man looked after Prince William's money during his exile, Nathan was building his wealth and reputation in England. Having a natural "nose for the market", he speculated intensly, especially in gold, which rose sharply in value in the latter years of the war. He also wheeler-dealed in British Government bonds on a massive scale, part of his capital base in the early days having been provided by Prince William's money. William was afraid of being rumbled in his financing of Napoleon's enemies and so all the dealing was in Rothschild's name. At this time the British government desperately needed gold, in its misguided way, to pay its huge army both here and in the Spanish peninsular, and large amounts were imported from the colonies and North America. Nathan, at the same time, frequently smuggled gold out of the country to finance the family's various activities on the continent. With all the fluctuations in the fortunes of war, coin-smuggling was a very profitable occupation and the name of Rothschild was well known around certain circles of Folkestone to whom smuggling was a remunerative, if risky, sideline to their legitimate shipping businesses. How much Nathan was involved in this trade is uncertain, as "the detailed truth will never be known". So there.
As the war dragged on the British government got deeper and deeper into debt, borrowing £23.5m in 1811 and £32.25m in 1812, with Nathan establishing himself as the chief creditor. In 1814 when Louis XVIII re-entered Paris in triumph it was only possible (so we are told) through a loan of £200,000 from Rothschild. The following year, when a British/Dutch/Prussian army of 209,000 fought at Waterloo, this too was financed by Rothschild.
After the Napoleonic Wars the House of Rothschild grew rapidly, its capital base expanding from £42.48m in 1818 to £106.51m in 1828, according to their figures. It would be interesting to see how much credit had actually been advanced by all the Rothschild banks on the basis of this capital, but no such critical appraisal can be expected of an author who glosses over Nathan's overt treachery in the aftermath of Waterloo. If there was one thing apart from the loan business at which the Rothschilds excelled it was running their own information network. Nathan knew the outcome of the battle before anyone else. Mr Wilson's account of how Nathan tried to inform the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, but was prevented from doing so, is far from convincing. Having been told by his butler that Liverpool had retired for the night, he returned again the next morning. Incredibly, so we are told, Liverpool refused to believe him. So what was poor old "NM" to do, but console himself by "(obeying) his second impulse - to go down to the Exchange and invest heavily in government stock." Why, of course! What else would any decent chap do? It was merely a "sound business move" (too true!), "but," intones Mr Wilson, "by no stretch of the imagination can he be said to have made the 'killing' some writers later claimed". Come on, Mr Wilson! Get real!
The rest of nineteenth century Rothschild history is dealt with in the same manner of fawning subservience. Expansion into America, consolidation in Europe, the way in which the Rothschilds and their agents managed to get control of virtually every treasury in the western world, all this is dealt with in superficial detail but with no effort to question whether this was a good thing. Much is made of how governments came to depend on these people for both money and information. For example, at the time of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, inter-government messages often went via the Rothschilds. Here, again, the family had a field day, with Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (most of them were Barons or Lords by this time) supplying financial advice to the French government at the subsequent peace conference, when France had to pay a staggering five thousand million francs indemnity. He then made a "major financial coup" in brokering two loans to cover this. Wasn't that splendid? Of course, while French families mourned their dead sons, the post-war arrangements "brought huge profits to the participating banks, whose commission ran into tens of millions. They had to risk none of their own money; and they had the short term use of an immense flow of funds."
The purchase by the British government a few years later of the Suez Canal shares was only made possible by - yes - the Rothschilds. It was Lionel, this time, who came up with £4m at a mere 5% with only 2.5% commission. "The deal was pulled off with very little time to spare," as there was a great danger that the French would get hold of the shares, stiffling British control of a vital artery of trade and expansion throughout the British Empire. "None of this would have been possible without Lionel de Rothschild's dispatch and utter reliability." Yes, quite.
While the banking side of the family was collecting into its hands control of the financial affairs of nominally independent nations, another side of it was busy buying up works of art of all kinds. Many family members became experts on paintings, sculptures and fine arts. Only one setback here, which was when Baron Wilhelm Carl Rothschild bought himself a fine drinking horn encased in elaborately chased silver, set with polished stones and supported on an intricate silver base of gryphons, spires and tracery. The trouble was that this "fifteenth century masterpiece" was later unmasked as a nineteenth century forgery by the celebrated German faker Rheinhold Vasters. How embarrassing! But then this was only detected by art experts in the 1970's. "Clearly, it took a very clever man to deceive the Rothschilds". So that's all right then, as long as he was a respectable faker. Just like the Rothschilds themselves, really.
As the nineteenth century wore on, so more and more British statesmen and politicians became simply pawns of the Rothschild bankers. As further generations of Rothschilds grew up, not all of the menfolk wished to work in the banking business (it had always been Rothschild policy to exclude all women and anyone else outside the immediate family). Take Edmund, for example. "He might have become, like some of his cousins, a playboy or a mildly eccentric devotee of expensive hobbies." Ah, yes, those Rothschilds. What would modern civilisation have done without them?
There seems scarcely a major historical figure, from whatever side of the political spectrum, with whom the Rothschilds did not have a close association. Gladstone, Disraeli, Rosebery, Randolph and Winston Churchill. These were only some of the personages that participated in "country house politics" at which the Rothschilds were so adept. Often these people must have wondered whose side the Rothschilds were really on. Take Cecil Rhodes, for example, who, with the aid of Rothschild money, made a fortune trading in diamonds in Southern Africa. The capitalist system enabled him to gain control of the De Beers company and then systematically wipe out the competition. He had imperialist ambitions and wanted to see a chunk of Africa from the Cape to Cairo become a British colony. He invited Lord ("Natty") Rothschild to join him in a secret society to promote this plan. Rhodes had to discover for himself that a Rothschild's only loyalty, apart from to money itself, was to the Rothschilds. After becoming Prime Minister of Cape Province, Rhodes discovered that his "ally" had floated a loan to his potential enemy, the Boer government of the Transvaal.
The twentieth century brought problems for the family, we are told. The current generation of males were all dead by 1918 and one of nature's laws (genetics) was beginning to tell. A century or more of inbreeding was leading to decreased fertility, and whilst the chances of any future offspring being a genuis were high, so also were the chances that it would be an eccentric. But the policy of large families saw them through, so when one branch of the family died out, as it did in Germany and Austria, another one was ready to assume the mantle. The family bank, of course, lived on, although the Frankfurt branch had to be closed when there were no more male heirs left to run it. Letting the in-laws take it over was out of the question, even though they were in most cases established bankers.
A great deal is made from time to time in the book of how the family played a key role in supporting the rickety financial system, even the Bank of England. In 1868 Alfred Rothschild was appointed a director of the Bank - "the first Jewish director - another Rothschild record". Are there no limits to what this family can do? Well, yes. He was forced to resign in 1889 after breaching confidentiality by checking the account there of a business rival. In fact, there is much about Alfred, it seems, that we're not allowed to know, and "the familiar smoke screen of Rothschild secrecy blows across the path leading to the real Alfred de Rothschild". I suppose that, in fairness to the writer, we must remember that the records relating to the family have long been heavily censored, and most, if not all, leading members of the banking side of the family ensured that, on their deaths, many sensitive documents were burnt. Destroying the evidence, as it's called where I come from.
During his lifetime, it seems, Alfred was blackmailed for hundreds of thousands of pounds. What it was that he was so afraid of coming to light we can only speculate. Had he fathered an illegitimate child? Was he a homosexual (homosexuality being a crime in those days)? We shall probably never know for sure. But when he died he left the bulk of his estate of £1.5m outside the family, including £75,000 to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. The Earl later financed Howard Carter, the discoverer of the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings. The press speculated about "the curse of the Pharaohs". Mr Wilson believes they should have referred instead to "the curse of the Rothschilds", as "history has shown that few men separate the Rothschilds from their money and survive to enjoy their wealth." Mario Puzo said more or less the same about the Mafia.
For the last two hundred years, then, the Rothschilds have done what any family with a modicum of intellligence and a licence to print money could have done - establilsh a formidable financial and political power base and indulge in a luxurious lifestyle in which no expense is too great. As an example of the depravity this sometimes led to, we have a description, apparantly from family records, of a bash given in the 1960's (the "Surrealist Ball") for eight hundred guests, each of whom had spent hundreds or thousands of pounds on costumes that would match the bizarre setting that Baron Guy de Rothschild and his (new and eighteen years his junior) wife had arranged at their Ferrieres home:
"On each table, covered by a tablecloth representing the sky, there was a centre-piece inspired by some surrealist painter or poet, designed at the same time to be crazy, incongruous and poetic. For example on the table entitled 'Eggs a la Florentine', it was a mound of cooked spinach transpierced by the carcass of a giant bird, garnished with women's breasts . . .
The warmly applauded climax was a huge platter carried by eight men, with a nude woman reclining on a bed of roses, all made of edible spun sugar to be hacked to pieces. 'Dessert of the Barbarians?"
Are they the barbarians referred to in the "sea of barbarism" mentioned in the first chapter, I wonder? All this shows just how little the Baron had learnt from all the art collections of his family. Obviously collecting works of art and furthering the civilization which those works of art reflect are two different things. This part of the book really has to be read to be believed and ought to be compulsory reading for everyone interested in seeking the cause of the decline of western civilisation.
Any review of this book is doomed to inadequacy in terms of giving the reader any idea of just how much one determined and closely-knit group of people acting with a common purpose can achieve in just a short time. But what is that common purpose? When all the official records of the Rothschild family are shrowded in secrecy and deception, or regularly burnt, who can say for sure? But the family of Rothschilds (males only, of course - no sex equality nonsense for them!) certainly knew how to play the part. For example, "Natty had regarded his duty to government and nation as including applying pressure and giving advice to the policy makers. Alphonse had had frequent confidential meetings with ministers and deputies. Both had held and expressed strong political views. Both had ignored the complaints and innuendoes of opponents and journalists who regarded their influence as sinister and motivated by narrow, sectional interest." For "pressure" read blackmail and coercion. For "advice" read strict instructions.
More recently, of Victor Rothschild, who was suspected of being the "fifth man" of the notorious Burgess-McClean-Philby-Blunt spy ring, we are told, "For thirty-five years, during most of which time he was neither an elected representative nor a paid servant of the people, he moved imperiously through British society, dabbling in national secrets, manipulating the manipulators, influencing the policy makers. He never saw the need to explain or justify his actions to anyone. In his view, his decisions were correct because they were logical and he sought to carry them into effect because he had the power and wealth to do so." This sums up the political philosophy, if you can call it that, of a family whose only contribution towards human progress has been to burden nations with massive debts, buy up huge art collections and interfere in national politics.
This book brings us right up to the early 1990's and covers the family's involvement in the 'Spycatcher' scandal and the extortionate profits made in the Thatcher privatisations (Rothschilds handled the £6bn sell-off of British Gas). What can Mr Wilson say after all this? Only that "The modern Rothschild phenomenon remains a paradox".
In spite of all the whitewash, reading this book will give any reader an alarming insight into modern history. To anyone with knowledge of how the banking system really works and what it is up to it (unintentionally) underlines the power and evil of the forces that we are up against.
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