Lionel de Rothschild
Lionel Nathan de Rothschild (22 November 1808 – 3 June 1879) was a British banker and politician. The son of Nathan Mayer Rothschild and Hanna Barent Cohen, he was a member of the prominent Rothschild family.
In 1847 Lionel de Rothschild was first elected to the British House of Commons as one of four MPs for the City of London constituency. Jews were at that point still barred from sitting in the chamber due to the Christian oath required to be sworn in so Prime Minister Lord John Russell introduced a Jewish Disabilities Bill to remove the problem with the oath. In 1848, the bill was approved by the House of Commons but was twice rejected by the House of Lords. After being rejected again by the Upper House in 1849, Rothschild resigned his seat and stood again winning in a by-election in order to strengthen his claim.
In 1850, he entered the House of Commons to take his seat but refused to swear on a Christian Bible asking to use only the Old Testament. This was permitted but when omitting the words "upon the true faith of a Christian" from the oath he was required to leave.
In 1851 a new Jewish Disabilities Bill was defeated in the House of Lords. In the 1852 general election Rothschild was again elected but the next year the bill was again defeated in the upper house.
Finally, in 1858, the House of Lords agreed to a proposal to allow each house to decide its own oath. On 26 July 1858 de Rothschild took the oath with covered head, substituting "so help me, [using a Hebrew word for] God" for the ordinary form of oath, and thereupon took his seat as the first Jewish member of Parliament. He was re-elected in general elections in 1859 and 1865, but defeated in 1868; he was returned unopposed in a by-election in 1869 but defeated a second time in the general election in 1874.
Rothschild was proposed as a member of the House of Lords in 1868, but Queen Victoria refused to elevate him to this status. She denied that this was because Rothschild was a Jew. Instead the monarch claimed it was because of Rothschild's business activities, but few believed her. In 1885 the Queen did raise Rothschild's son Nathan to the peerage. Nathan Mayer de Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the House of Lords.
In 1836, Lionel de Rothschild married Baroness Charlotte von Rothschild (1819-1884), the daughter of Baron Carl Mayer Rothschild of the Rothschild banking family of Naples. They had the following children:
- Leonora (1837-1911)
- Evelina (1839-1866)
- Nathan Mayer (1840-1915)
- Alfred Charles (1842-1918)
- Leopold (1845-1917)
Lionel de Rothschild died in 1879 and his body was interred in the Willesden Jewish Cemetery in the North London suburb of Willesden.
- History of the Jews in England
- Electoral firsts in the United Kingdom
- Charlotte and Lionel: A Rothschild Love Story by Stanley Weintraub. (2003) Free Press, London ISBN 0-7432-2686-0
- See also the list of references at: Rothschild banking family of England[[Category:UK MPs 1847