Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Rothschild
The Lord Rothschild in 1965.jpg
Born Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild
(1910-10-31)31 October 1910
Died 20 March 1990(1990-03-20) (aged 79)
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Occupation Biologist
Spouse(s) Barbara Judith Hutchinson
Teresa Georgina Mayor

with Hutchinson:

with Mayor:

Parent(s) Charles Rothschild
Rozsika Rothschild (née Edle von Wertheimstein)
Relatives Amartya Sen (Son-in-law)
Serena Dunn Rothschild (Daughter-in-law)

Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild, Bt, GBE, GM, FRS[1] (31 October 1910 – 20 March 1990), was a biologist by training, a cricketer, a wartime officer for the UK Security Service (MI5), a senior executive with Royal Dutch Shell and N M Rothschild & Sons, an advisor to British Governments and a member of the prominent Rothschild family.

Early life[edit]

Rothschild was the only son of Charles Rothschild and Rozsika Rothschild (née Edle von Wertheimstein). He had three sisters. Rothschild suffered the suicide of his father when he was 13 years old. He was educated at Harrow School.

At Trinity College, Cambridge, he read Physiology, French and English. He played first-class cricket for the University and Northamptonshire. At Cambridge he was known[citation needed] for his playboy lifestyle, driving a Bugatti and collecting art and rare books.

Rothschild joined the Cambridge Apostles, a secret society, which at that time was predominantly Marxist, though he stated himself that he "was mildly left-wing but never a Marxist".[2] He became friends with Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and Kim Philby; members of the Cambridge Spy Ring.

in 1933 Rothschild gave Blunt £100 to purchase "Eliezer and Rebecca" by Nicolas Poussin.[3] The painting was sold by Blunt's executors in 1985 for £100,000 [4] and is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum.[5]

His flat in London was shared with Burgess and Blunt. This later aroused suspicion that he was the so-called Fifth Man in the Cambridge Spy Ring.

Rothschild inherited his title at the age of 26 following the death of his uncle Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild on 27 August 1937, and sat as a Labour Party peer in the House of Lords.

World War II[edit]

Rothschild was recruited to work for MI5 during World War II in roles including bomb disposal, disinformation and espionage, winning the George Medal for "dangerous work in hazardous circumstances".[6] He was the head of B1C, the "explosives and sabotage section", and worked on identifying where Britain's war effort was vulnerable to sabotage and counter German sabotage attempts. This included personally dismantling examples of German booby traps and disguised explosives.[7]

Because of his association with Burgess and Blunt, he was questioned by Special Branch at the time of Blunt's unmasking in 1964 (though Blunt was not publicly identified as a Soviet agent until 1979 in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) and was apparently cleared, subsequently working on projects for the British government. Rumours continued to circulate, and Rothschild himself took the step of publishing a letter in British newspapers on 3 December 1986 to state "... I am not, and never have been, a Soviet agent." Roland Perry's 1994 book The Fifth Man (London: Pan Books, 1994) repeated the charges without firm authority, and there remains no hard proof to say that Rothschild in fact spied for the Soviet Union.[8]

However, in 1993, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, six retired KGB colonels in Moscow including Yuri Modin, the spy ring's handler, alleged that Rothschild was indeed the "Fifth Man". Perry writes: "According to ... Modin, Rothschild was the key to most of the Cambridge ring's penetration of British intelligence. 'He had the contacts,' Modin noted. 'He was able to introduce Burgess, Blunt and others to important figures in Intelligence such as Stewart Menzies, Dick White and Robert Vansittart in the Foreign Office...who controlled Mi-6."[9] By contrast, Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin's book The Mitrokhin Archives makes no mention made of Rothschild as a Soviet agent and instead identifies John Cairncross as the Fifth Man.

Post-war work[edit]

After the war, he joined the zoology department at Cambridge University from 1950 to 1970. He served as chairman of the Agricultural Research Council from 1948 to 1958 and as worldwide head of research at Royal Dutch/Shell from 1963 to 1970. He was also head of the Central Policy Review Staff from 1971 to 1974 (known popularly as "The Think Tank")[10] a staff which researched policy specifically for the Government until Margaret Thatcher abolished it.

In the 1980s, he joined the family bank as chairman in an effort to quell the feuding between factions led by Evelyn Rothschild and his son, Jacob Rothschild. In this he was unsuccessful as Jacob resigned from the bank to found J. Rothschild Assurance Group, a separate entity.

In 1982 he published An Enquiry into the Social Science Research Council at the behest of Sir Keith Joseph, a Conservative minister and mentor of Margaret Thatcher.

He continued to work in security as an adviser to Margaret Thatcher[citation needed].

He appears several times in the book Spycatcher written by Peter Wright, who he hoped would clear the air over suspicions about his wartime role. He was still able to enter the premises of MI5 as a former employee. He was aware of suspicions that there was a "Mole" in MI5 but he felt himself to be above suspicion. While Edward Heath was Prime Minister he was a frequent visitor to Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence. Throughout his life he was a valued adviser on intelligence and science to both Conservative and Labour Governments.

Despite being an opposition Labour party peer, in 1987, during the Thatcher Government, Victor played a role in the sacking of BBC Director General Alasdair Milne, who had backed the programmes 'Secret Society', 'Real Lives',[11] and 'Panorama: Maggie's Militant Tendency' which had angered the Thatcher government. Marmaduke Hussey, who was Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors at the time, implied Rothchild initiated the Milne sacking in his autobiography Chance Governs All.[12]

In early 1987 Tam Dalyell used parliamentary privilege to suggest Rothschild should be prosecuted for a chain of events he had "set in train, with Peter Wright and Harry Chapman Pincher" which had led to a "breach of confidence in relation to information on matters of state security given to authors".[13]

He was an advisor to William Waldegrave during the design of the Community Charge,[14] which led to the Poll Tax Riots.


In 1933, he married Barbara Judith Hutchinson (born 1911). They had three children.[15]

In 1946, he married Teresa Georgina Mayor (1915–1996). Mayor's maternal grandfather was Robert John Grote Mayor, the brother of English novelist F. M. Mayor and a greatnephew of philosopher and clergyman John Grote. Her maternal grandmother, Katherine Beatrice Meinertzhagen, was the sister of soldier Richard Meinertzhagen and the niece of author Beatrice Webb.[16][17] They had four children:[15]

Born into a nominally Jewish family, in adult life Rothschild declared himself to be an atheist.[21]

His sister Miriam Louisa Rothschild was a distinguished entomologist.

His sister Nica de Koenigswarter was a bebop jazz enthusiast and patron of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.

Honours and awards[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reeve, Suzanne (1994). "Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, G.B.E., G.M., Third Baron Rothschild. 31 October 1910-20 March 1990". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 39: 364–326. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1994.0021. 
  2. ^ Rose, Kenneth (2004). "Rothschild, (Nathaniel Mayer) Victor, third Baron Rothschild (1910–1990)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (revised ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 9 March 2007. 
  3. ^ Rose (2003), pp. 47-48.
  4. ^ "Eliezer and Rebecca by Nicolas Poussin". Art Fund. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Eliezer and Rebecca". Fitzwilliam Museum Collections. 2015. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36452. p. 1548. 4 April 1944.
  7. ^ Macintyre, Ben (2007). Agent Zigzag : the true wartime story of Eddie Chapman. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 172–173. ISBN 9780747587941. 
  8. ^ The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography concludes: "The carefree friendships of Rothschild's early Cambridge years that had continued throughout the war cast a shadow over the last decade of his life. The defection of Burgess to Russia and the uncovering of Blunt as a Soviet agent exposed Rothschild to innuendo and vilification in press and parliament. Rather than let his name record of public service speak for themselves, he sought unwisely to clear himself through the testimony of Peter Wright, an investigator employed by MI5 had every reason to know of his innocence. Clandestine association with so volatile a character aroused further suspicions that Rothschild had broken the Official Secrets Act. Only after voluntarily submitting himself to a long interrogation by Scotland Yard did he emerge with honour and patriotism intact."
  9. ^ Perry, Roland (1994). The Fifth Man. London: Sedgwick & Jackson. p. 89. ISBN 9780283062162. 
  10. ^ Wright, Peter (1987). Spycatcher. Toronto: Stoddart. p. 347. ISBN 0-7737-2168-1. 
  11. ^ "History of the BBC: Real Lives 1985". BBC. 
  12. ^ Hussey, Marmaduke (2001). Chance Governs All. Macmillan Publishing Company. ISBN 9780333902561. 
  13. ^ "Official Secrets Act (Prosecution Policy) (Hansard, 6 February 1987)". Retrieved 2016-01-04. 
  14. ^ "All the gifts but contentment". Retrieved 2016-01-04. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The descendants of Charles Rothschild" (PDF). The Rothschild Foster Trust. Retrieved 27 September 2012. 
  16. ^ "Teresa Georgina Mayor". The Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  17. ^ Annan, Noel; Ferguson, James (18 September 2011). "Obituary: Teresa, Lady Rothschild". The Independent (London: INM). Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  18. ^ Ibrahim, Youssef M. (12 July 1996). "Rothschild Bank Confirms Death of Heir, 41, as Suicide". The New York Times (New York, NY: NYTC). Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Nicholl, Katie (2 June 2012). "Rothschild heiress's marriage to Goldsmith scion is over... after she falls for a rapper called Jay Electronica". Daily Mail Online. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  20. ^ Lee, Esther; Brown, Brody (12 August 2014). "Nicky Hilton Engaged to James Rothschild: Hotel Heiress to Marry Heir". Us Weekly. Retrieved 28 October 2015. 
  21. ^ Wilson (1994), p. 466.
  22. ^ Jonkers, Philip A. E. "Movers and Shakers of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta". Retrieved 28 October 2015. 


  • Wilson, Derek (1994). Rothschild: A story of wealth and power. London: Andre Deutsch. ISBN 0 233 98870 X. 
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Walter Rothschild
Baron Rothschild
Succeeded by
Jacob Rothschild
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Walter Rothschild
(of Tring Park)
Succeeded by
Jacob Rothschild