The Rothschilds and the Holy Alliance


The fall of two great Catholic kingdoms in Europe, France and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was concurrent with the rise of the House of Rothschild. The Rothschild family lived in the Frankfurt ghetto – the Frankfurter Judengasse - since the middle of the sixteenth century, at the house which bore a small red shield. The family had first been mentioned in the city records in 1585 in the name “Isaak Elchanan at the Red Shield.”100 101 His descendants took this name as the family name and kept it when they relocated in 1664 to another house in the Judengasse, which became the family's home and centre of business until the early nineteen century. Since the Jews were prohibited from holding various posts and occupations in Europe, the Rothschilds engaged in goods trading and currency exchange, a quite profitable activity in time when Germany was divided into numerous small principalities. The Rothschilds were reasonably well-off but the business was about to expand under Mayer Amschel Rothschild. Born around 1744, Mayer Rothschild was employed in young age by his father in changing coins. After leaving a rabbinical school, he secured an apprenticeship under Jacob Wolf Oppenheim, at the banking firm of Simon Wolf Oppenheimer in Hanover.102 The Oppnheims were a prominent family of bankers who succeeded in the previous one hundred years branching out from the Frankfurt Judengasse to Vienna, Stuttgart, Bonn, Hildesheim and Hanover.103 At their office in Hanover, Mayer Rothschild acquired useful knowledge in foreign trade and currency exchange. Since Jacob Oppenheim's grandfather Samuel had been a court agent to the Austrian Emperor, Rothschild had come into direct contact with the privileged world of the court agents. His fate was about to change when through the Oppenheim firm, he made the acquaintance of the Hanoverian General von Estorff, an ardent coin collector and associate of Prince William of Hesse.

The House of Hesse was one of the wealthiest royal families in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and the principality of Hesse, with its capital at Kassel, was an early centre of occult and protestant movement. In 1531, Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse, established there, in collaboration with other protestant principalities, a group with its own military force, to harass the Roman Catholic Church. The House of Hesse was close to the House of Hanover that ruled in Britain. When the merchants of the City of London installed the House of Hanover on the English throne in 1714, they arranged for the Hanoverians to be tied to the House of Hesse through marriage. On May 8, 1740, by proxy in London, and on June 28, 1740 in person in Kassel, Frederick II of Hesse married Princess Mary, daughter of George III, king of England and Elector of Hanover. In the following decades, the House of Hesse was the prime supplier of mercenaries to the House of Hanover which made them one of the wealthiest royal houses in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. In 1746, the Hessian mercenaries helped the Hanoverians to defeat the rightful Catholic heir to an English throne, Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as "Bonnie Prince Charlie", and later assisted the British in fighting the rebellious colonists in the American War of Independence.104 The Principality of Hesse had also continued its tradition as a vibrant centre of occult practices. The son of Frederick II of Hesse, Prince Charles, was a Grand Master of the Strict Observance, one of the most influential masonic organisations in Europe. Top masonic and Illuminati agents such as Count St Germain or Adam Weishaput, were associates of the House of Hesse.105 There were also other German principalities that engaged in occult practices and the supply of mercenaries. In a Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, an alchemist and friend and confidant to the Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar, engaged in human trafficking, negotiating the forced sale of vagabonds, criminals, and political dissidents into both the Prussian and British military during the American War of Independence. Surrounded by Freemasons and alchemists, and inspired by the medieval German alchemist Johann Georg Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was to become an author of the bestselling work, "Faust / A tragedy", which tells a story of an alchemist and Master of the Black Arts, who, wishing to acquire secret knowledge and attain the feeling of ultimate pleasure and satisfaction, makes a pact with the devil, Mephisto.106

Whilst Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, Frederick II, ruled at Kassel, his son Prince William was allocated a small county of Hanau, near Frankfurt. Following his father's footsteps, he amassed great wealth by supplying Britain with Hessian soldiers. The British did not always pay in cash but rather in bills of exchange that had to be discounted.107 To deal with such international transactions, the Crown officials employed agents, often Jews, who were professional money-changers. By the mid-eighteen century, Frankfurt Jews were acting as agents for the Palatinate, the Electorate of Mainz, the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, the Kingdom of Prussia, the imperial court in Vienna, as well as Hesse-Kassel and Saxe-Weimar.108 General von Estorff aroused Prince William's interest in coin collecting and recommended him Mayer Rothschild as expert in this field. Rothschild arrived at Hanau and offered Prince William some of his rarest coins. The Prince returned the favour and on September 21, 1769 appointed Meyer Amschel Rothschild “Crown agent of the principality of Hesse-Hanau”. A year later, in 1770, Mayer Rothschild married Gutle, the sixteen- year old daughter of Wolf Salomon Schnapper, the court agent to the Prince of Saxe-Meiningen. She gave him five sons, Amschel, Salomon, Nathan, Carl and Jacob called James.109 When Frederick II passed away in 1785, he left his son, William of Hanau enormous property. Landgrave William IX of Hesse-Kassel (and since 1803, the Elector of Hesse-Kassel), assigned Mayer Rothschild, on recommendation of the Treasury official, Carl Frederick Buderus, to care for his considerable fund. Mayer Rothschild subsequently made various investments with the Elector's fund, including lending some money to the Court of Denmark. The transaction proved profitable and Rothschild realised that it was much better lending money to governments and Kings as it always involved much bigger amounts, secured from public taxes. Mayer Rothschild had also realised the importance to having information of vital events in advance, especially in time of war, and thus he did some favours to the Frankfurt postal monopoly, the House of Thurn and Taxis, and in return got access to privileged correspondence. Rothschild's services proved both profitable and efficient and on January 29th, 1800 the Holy Roman Emperor of the German Nation and a Freemason Francis II, rewarded him with a title of imperial crown, the privilege that carried the right to bear arms and that liberated Mayer Rothschild from several taxes and obligations laid upon the Jews at that period.

Fortunately for Mayer Rothschild, Frankfurt trade had revived by the end of the eighteen century. In 1795, Landgrave of Hesse followed Prussia and withdrew from the coalition against revolutionary France. The French took over the Netherlands and that led to the decline of the Amsterdam Bourse and the shifting of the trade to Frankfurt. The transfer of bills of exchange, cash payments and merchandise from England made it necessary to the Rothschild to appoint an agent in England. Third son of Meyer Rothschild, Nathan, decide to take up the challenge. Around 1800, Nathan settled in Manchester, where he invested in textiles but also colonial goods, such as indigo, wine, sugar and coffee. By 1804, he moved to London, where he married a daughter of a wealthy Jewish merchant, Levy Barent Cohen. His wife's sister, Judith Cohen, married shortly thereafter a rich and well-known Jewish stockbroker, Moses Montefiore, who initiated Nathan into the tricks of the London trade and business.110 In due course, Moses Montefiore helped Nathan to set up the firm, N. M. ROTHSCHILD AND SONS, at New Court in St Swithin's Lane, in the City of London, a firm that would play a hugely important role in the European politics in the next two centuries. Apart from merchandise, Rothschild became interested in credit facilities. He established relations with various banks, including Lyon de Symons, Goldsmid & D'Eliason and Daniel Mocatta, as well as Continental bankers such as Parish & Co or the Schröder brothers, steadily turning from a merchant into a merchant banker.111 On behalf of the Elector, Nathan Rothschild lent the Prince of Wales, future King George IV, about £200,000 in two instalments and put out £640,000 at interest in London in various ways.112 In the next decade, Nathan Rothschild was about to become as influen-tial as the banking house of Baring Brothers, whose funder, Francis Baring, also came from German land, made fortune in textiles and merged with London established elite.

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100 Count Egon Caesar Corti, The Rise of the House of Rothschild (London, Reprint, 2013), p. 3 »

101 On Rothschild family tree see also: The Rothschild Archive's website, “ Rothschild Timeline” »

102 The Rothschild Archive's website, “Origins of the Rothschild Family Business”, »

103 The Rothschild Archive's website, “ Rothschild Timeline” »

104 See: Charles W. Ingrao, The Hessian Mercenary State: Ideas, Institutions and Reforms under Frederick II (1760-1785) (2003) »

105 Una Birch, Secret Societies, pp. 107-122 and p. 218 »

106 See Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust/A Tragedy (1833) »

107 Corti, The Rise of the House of Rothschild, p. 12 »

108 Niall Ferguson, The House of Rothschild. Money's Prophets 1798-1848 (New York: Penguin Books, 1998), p. 41 »

109 Ferguson, The House of Rothschild, p. 43 »

110 See The Montefiore Endowment website, 'Preserving and developing the legacy of Sir Moses Montefiore' »

111 Ferguson, The House of Rothschild, p. 54 »

112 Corti, The Rise of the House of Rothschild, p. 36 »