Sunday, March 6, 2011

March 20, 1878 --- A Rothschild Wedding

In what was proclaimed to be the wedding of the decade, the rising Liberal politician, the Earl of Rosebery, marries the wealthy orphaned heiress, Hannah de Rothschild, only child of the legendary City banker, Baron Meyer Rothschild.

The bride's fortune is estimated at £2,000,000. Rosebery's mother, the Duchess of Cleveland, is not among the congregation at Christ Church, Mayfair. Objecting to her son's bride, she wrote: "You can easily suppose how unhappy I must feel in finding that you have chosen as your wife & as the mother of your children one who has not the faith & hope of Christ."  Nor was the marriage popular in the Jewish community; The Jewish Chronicle voiced "the most poignant grief" over the inter-marriage, wondering, "If the leviathan is brought up with a hook, how will the minnows escape?"

At the church, Prime Minister Disraeli gives away the bride, who wore a bridal veil costing some £700. The Prince of Wales toasts the newlyweds at a midday luncheon before the couple leaves for a honeymoon at Petworth. Although by no means a poor man himself, Rosebery's choice of mate gave rise to more than a few eyebrows and whispers of fortune-hunting. Hannah was not an attractive woman, Henry James described her as "large, fat, ugly, good-natured, sensible and kind." Rosebery chose to concentrate on the latter qualities; "very simple, very unspoilt, very clever, very warm-hearted and very shy ... I never knew such a beautiful character."

In 1890, Hannah died of typhoid. She was 39 and left four children. According to legend, Rosebery had once vowed to do three things in life. become Prime Minister (1892), win the Derby (1895) and marry an heiress. However apocryphal the story, he accomplished all three. Yet, it brought him little happiness. He never re-married, although he was briefly mentioned as a suitor for Princess Victoria, the Prince of Wales' spinster daughter. A friend of his, Lord Esher, wrote: "He has - while in the prime of life - everything that men toil for, wealth, power, position, everything. Yet, he is a lonely sleepless man."

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