The Rothschild family is the reason you’ve heard stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers. The family is a banking dynasty that dates to the 18th Century and pioneered the modern banking industry.
It excelled at wealth generation and helped the British government fund its part in the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and other major conflicts through loans.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in answering the question: how did the Rothschilds make their money?
The story begins with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who amassed a fortune and left strict instructions in his will that titles and property only pass through male heirs. The empire spread across Europe and grew, with one of his son’s banks, Rothschild & Co, is still in business today.
As the family grows, so does its wealth. Today’s Rothschild holdings spread a wide range of industries and employ most family members. It has investments in gold, real estate, wine, and energy. The family also has a history of philanthropy and involvement in global affairs.
It’s the type of generational wealth most people only hear about and typically hides behind closed doors.
By peering around the door, we can see how one of the world’s richest and most powerful families operates.
How the Rothschilds Got Started
Mayer founded the Rothschild banking dynasty and is known in history as the founding father of international finance. He was born in a Jewish ghetto in the free imperial city of Frankfurt under the Holy Roman Empire and learned business at a young age.
His first job was sorting coins for the city’s trade fairs, and he apprenticed at Simon Wolf Oppenheimer, a prominent banking house, by the age of 12. There, he learned about international finance through coins from global empires, including ancient Rome and Persia.
Wealthy European noblemen collected these coins, and the bankers who did business with them were known as “court Jews.” At 19, Mayer returned home to Frankfurt. There, he became a rare coin dealer with his brother in his father’s trading business.
In his first decade in business, Mayer built a relationship with Crown Prince Wilhelm that led to an honorary title. It allowed him to deal with royalty, and he rapidly grew the Rothschild empire by helping Britain finance the hire of Hessian mercenaries during the French Revolution.
He sent his sons across Europe to establish regional banking branches that were linked across borders. This was the world’s first international bank, and these Rothschild banks profited off giving governments loans to go to war for centuries.
Did the Rothschilds Inherit Their Money?
Mayer Rothschild left a will that gave detailed instructions for how the family fortune should be handled. His strict succession line only allowed male relatives to hold any titles or property.
Females were then encouraged to marry within the family to maintain wealth, encouraging inbreeding through the line. Only six descendants from 1824 through 1877 married outside the family.
Of Mayer’s four sons, Nathan was the most successful. He set up a textile business in England in 1798 before establishing N M Rothschild, which reported 76 billion euros in assets under management in 2019 as Rothschild & Sons.
Nathan grew the already vast Rothschild wealth, and he started the family’s foray into philanthropy, opening public libraries, hospitals, orphanages, senior living homes, and other charitable foundations.
Over the next century, family rivalries and wars diminished the family fortune, although it still very much exists today. In 2008, the existing holdings were reorganized and reunified for the first time in over 200 years.
The collective wealth passes down through the generations, mostly per Mayer’s original orders. Benjamin de Rothschild is the only known billionaire in the family, with a net worth of $1.9 billion in 2020.
How Did the Rothschilds Make Their Money?
While international banking is the kind way of putting it, another way of describing how the Rothschilds made money was war profiteering.
Like his father, Nathan Rothschild financed the Napoleonic Wars almost single-handedly paying for the British war effort.
It was all done through credit and loans to the government, as the family was raised to the rank of nobility in both the Holy Roman Empire and the United Kingdom.
Their investments in infrastructure helped the western world modernize, but it also put these royal families and governments into debt with the company.
This came with power.
How Did the Rothschilds Become So Powerful?
The key to the Rothschild family’s success was Mayer’s foresight to acquire the title of court factor that allowed him to trade coins with royalty.
From there, he set a strict will that bequeathed his fortune to his sons and the males within his family line.
In doing so, he set his family up for centuries of success as one of the richest and most powerful families in the world.
How Rich Are the Rothschilds?
It’s unknown exactly how rich the Rothschilds ever were, although the Internet is filled with wildly exaggerated claims.
There are still several existing companies in its ownership, including The Rothschild Group, Edmond de Rothschild Group, RIT Capital Partners, and several other companies, including a dozen wine brands.
While impossible to pin down the total wealth through all its descendants, several notable people throughout history were related to the family. This includes members of the Guggenheim, Oppenheim, Guinness, Du Pont, and Hilton families.
They’re members of all the exclusive social clubs and more. This helped lead to the many conspiracy theories and stereotypes that trailed the Rothschild family to the modern day.
Do The Rothschilds Own the Fed?
Because the Rothschild name is associated with international banking, many mistakenly associate it with the Federal Reserve. The Fed was neither created by nor ever owned by the Rothschilds. It was created by the Federal Reserve Act signed into law in 1913 by President Woodrow Wilson.
Rumors that this family own the fed likely traveled from Europe where such conspiracy theories run rampant due to the family’s long-standing habit of funding centuries of warfare.
These rumors are overblown, and the family’s assets are nowhere near those of prominent families like the Waltons. While it may not have the global influence it once had, the Rothschild name still makes people feel some type of way.
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