Lords of the Crowns


Nathan Rothschild, who helped the British to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte, had undoubtedly the best financial brain out of all Mayer Amschel's sons. He admitted once at the dinner table: “I do not read books, I do not play cards, I do not go to the theater, my only pleasure is my business.”113 Nathan Rothschild was primarily occupied in the business of floating state loans. In 1818, he issued a first loan of £5 million for the Prussian government which proved a great success. Between 1818 and 1835 he issued 26 British and foreign government loans.114 In concerted action with his brothers on the European Continent he was the prime banker to the Holy Alliance of Prussia, Russia and Austria but he also floated loans to other major European powers including France, Portugal and Spain, balancing powers in Europe. The British Chancellor of Exchequer looked with worry seeing huge capital going abroad when the British public debt had grown to immense proportions as a result of the wars with Napoleonic France. The Commercial Chronicle declared in January 1817, that “It exposes in its true light the base and wretched avidity of the Monied Interest, which, at the prospect of gain, is ready to forget all the claims of patriotism.”115 Even with sharp cuts in expenditure the British government could not balance the budget. By April 1825, the market began to slide and Nathan Rothschild gave the Bank of England their gold to prevent the suspension of cash payments. When the crisis came to a head on December 17, 1825, Nathan firstly advised the government to intervene in the money market by purchasing exchequer bills to inject liquidity into the market and secondly, he had delivered gold to the Bank, a total of £10 million by September.116 Thus, the monetary crisis had been averted and ever since the Rothschilds worked closely with the British Chancellor of Exchequer shaping the British state's monetary policy. Similar relationship had developed between Nathan's brother James and the Banque de France, and Salomon and the Austrian Nationalbank.

The Rothschilds had financed various government projects which were connected with the rapid industralisation. Britain has been since the seventeen and eighteen century a place of prolific intellectual and scientific exchange usually cultivated by the masonic lodges and secret societies. These societies had access to copies and translations of ancient manuscripts, some of which came from the destroyed library of Alexandria. These rare manuscripts have been collected by the cabalists and alchemists such Dr John Dee. London bookseller, William Cooper, provided that by 1660, 198 volumes containing 320 alchemical titles had been printed in English.117 In places like the Royal Society or Lunar Society in Birmingham philosophers and inventors conspired with the merchants and industrialists to form joint ventures. It was in the Lunar Society where Scottish inventor James Watt met the English manufacturer Matthew Boulton and discussed the idea of improving the device that managed to harness steam to produce mechanical work. The devise was made in 1712 by an ironmonger, Thomas Newcomen, although a prototype had been invented hundreds of years ago by Hero of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician born in year 10 C.E., who gave instructions for manufacturing them in his book Pneumatica. In 1781, James Watt, in partnership with Matthew Boulton produced a new steam engine that was first used in Boulton's Soho Manufactory in Birmingham. Soon, Watt's steam engine saw its widespread use as a driving machinery in factories, mills and mines and soon propelled transport appliances such as railway locomotives, ships, steamboats and road vehicles. The opening of the Stockton & Darlington Railway in 1825 heralded the beginning of the age of the steam railways. The French House of Rothschild engaged in the construction of railroads and the mining business that helped make France an industrial power, whilst S M von Rothschild in Vienna financed the Nordbahn rail transport network, Austria's first steam railway.

At the same time, the Rothschilds played a fundamental role in shaping the political and social order in Europe, which was constantly challenged by the revolutionary risings against the autocratic rule of the Holy Alliance. The revolutionary spirit was boosted by the emergence of the free-market economy in period of industrial revolution which provided fertile ground for socialist and nationalist ideology. Socialist movement was particularly strong in France and took roots in the masonic, egalitarian slogans of the French Revolution. In 1808, Charles Fourier, a clerk from Lyon, published a book Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées générales (Theory of the Four Movements; or The Social Destiny of Man) where he criticized the existing order of society and propagated its division into the cooperative agriculture communities. Another Frenchman, Henri de Saint-Simon, an aristocrat and businessman, proposed a slightly different vision where society was controlled by central planning of a small elite of businessmen and industrial leaders with state in control of means of production. In his book, Le Nouveau Christianisme (The New Christianity), published in 1825, Saint-Simon argued that Christian brotherly love should replace traditional religion. These revolutionary and republican ideas were circulating in the secret masonic societies that were scattered across Europe. In the 1820s, the secret societies in Italy and Greece stirred up armed revolts against the occupant powers. In Greece, the largest masonic society, the Philiki Etaireia (“Friendly Society”), widely assumed to have been an offshoot of the Phoenix Lodge of Moscow, had been organising revolts against the Ottoman rule. The society was founded in 1814 in Odessa by three Greek merchants led by Nicolaos Skuphas, who hoped for the Russian intervention. Philiki Etaireia had associations with other masonic secret society of Carbonari, which planned revolts against the French and Austrian rule in Italy.118 British Foreign Minister Lord Castlereagh and Austrian Chancellor Klemens von Metternich were lobbying Russian Tsar not to lend support to the Greek rebels. The British elites wanted to preserve the British control over the Ionian Islands and keep the Ottoman Empire as a counterbalance to Russia's aspirations. At the same time, Salomon Rothschild worked closely with Prince Metternich and his privy councillor, Fredrich Gentz, advancing loans to the Austrian government to suppress liberal movement in Italy. After a number of failed Italian insurrections, Giuseppe Mazzini, a lawyer from Genoa, went underground and founded a new secret society, Young Italy, headquartered in the City of London, with an international branch of his campaign, Young Europe, to inspire armed revolts all over the European Continent. Mazzini and Saint-Simon inspired in turn Giuseppe Garibaldi, a merchant navy captain from Niece (then part of Piedmont-Sardinia), who took an oath dedicating himself to the struggle to liberate and unify Italy.

Concurrently, Nathan Rothschild financed a number of states in South America which were fighting for their independence from Spain, in order to weaken the Spanish Crown and open new markets for the British merchants. Nathan Rothschild worked closely on this policy with George Canning, former Treasurer of Navy who replaced Lord Castlereagh as Foreign Secretary in 1822. In the 1820s, the Rothschilds floated loans to Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Guatemala. In 1823 James de Rothschild granted a loan to the French government to finance French invasion of Spain in order to restore a member of the House of Bourbon, King Ferdinand VII, but at the same time secretly funded the Spanish revolutionaries to prevent Spain from becoming two powerful. In 1825 Mexico, Argentina and Colombia were recognized by means of the ratification of commercial treaties with Britain, and Portugal recognized Brazil thanks to Canning's efforts, less than three years after Brazil's declaration of independence. The Rothschild continued to float loans to Brazil and financed the construction of railways that opened up Brazil's interior for coffee planting.119 Meanwhile, the slaughtering of the Greeks by the Ottoman Turks was causing international outrage. A number of prominent writers in Europe, most notably British writer Lord Byron, were pressurizing the European rulers to intervene. Fearing Russia's unilateral intervention, George Canning and Nathan Rothschild decided to bring about an independent Greece that would lean towards Britain. Thus, the Greek rebels were assisted with British loans and in 1827, an allied force of British, French and Russian forces blocked the Ottoman armada west coast of the Peloponnese peninsula.120 In February 1830, the independence of Greece was approved by the three powers in London. Count Kapodistrias, Greek diplomat who previously served the Russian Tsar, was appointed first head of the Greek state whilst Bavarian Prince Otto became first king of independent Greece.121

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113 Ferguson, The House of Rothschild, p. 107 »

114 Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836)', The Rothschild Archive's website https://family.rothschildarchive.org/people/25-nathan-mayer-rothschild-1777-1836 »

115 Kynaston, City of London, p. 26 »

116 Ferguson, The House of the Rothschild, p. 137 »

117 Lauren Kassell, “Secrets Revealed: Alchemical Books in Early-Modern England”, His. Sci. xlix (University of Cambridge, 2011), p. 2 https://www.people.hps.cam.ac.uk/index/teaching-officers/kassell/secrets-revealed »

118 Ioannis Michaletos, Freemasonry in Greece: Secret History Revealed, Balkanalysis.com, 28 September 2006 http://www.balkanalysis.com/blog/2006/09/28/freemasonry-in-greece-secret-history-revealed/ »

119 119Rothschilds and Brazil, The Rothschild's Archive website https://www.rothschildarchive.org/exhibitions/brazil/the_rothschilds_in_brazil »

120 See Sp. Markezinis. A Political History of Modern Greece. Athens: 1966 (in Greek). [Volume 1]. »

121 121Further reading: J. Kordatos. British Interference in Greece. Athens: reprinted 1977 (in Greek); H. Temperley. The Foreign Policy of Canning, 1822-1827 (London: 1966); George Finley, History of the Greek Revolution (W. Blackwood & Sons, 1861) »