The fascination of motoring attracted the Rothschild family from its earliest days. In France, Arthur de Rothschild (1851-1903) was among the first to acquire a car. Albert von Rothschild (1844-1911) had one of the first automobiles in Vienna.
Henri de Rothschild (1872-1947) bought his first car in 1896, a 6 h.p. Peugeot with the French licence number 5. He wrecked it in an accident with a farm cart. Undeterred, Henri quickly took to racing. In 1902 alone he raced from Paris to Vienna and took part in the first international motor race in Britain, at Bexhill. One of the earliest of French racing prizes, the Coupe Rothschild was named after him. He was to go on to build his own car factory. "Motoring, if practised moderately, without excessive speeds, will produce the most beneficial effects" he told an audience at the Automobile Club.
In 1905, Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) beat his French cousin, Henri, in an 18-hour race from Paris to Monte Carlo. Both men drove 60 h.p. Mercedes cars. Lionel loved speed. He would drive his Rolls-Royce at breakneck speed between New Court and Exbury, where he later drove an Armstrong Siddeley around the paths of his garden. In 1906 he became a director of the Wolseley Tool and Motor Co. Lionel took after his father Leopold who, having bought one of the first cars in the country, went on to help found the Automobile Association and to have the speed limit raised to 20mph in 1902.
Henri passed on his passion to his son Philippe (1902-1988) who, for pleasure, drove first a Torpedo Unic from his father's factory, then a Hispano-Suiza. He also competed internationally in a Bugatti, once coming first in the Grand Prix de Boulogne.
Another keen Bugatti driver was Victor, 3rd Lord Rothschild (1910-1990). His son, the late Amschel Rothschild (1955-1996) inherited the fascination and raced regularly in Maseratis, BRMs and AC Daytona Cobras.
For further information, visit our online exhibition Motoring Rothchilds »