The dispersed brothers helped to bankroll the war against Napoleon and were given the title of Baron by Francis I of Austria in 1822. They invested in railroads and mines internationally. A French branch of the family also heavily invested in wine production. The family became fabulously wealthy.
In 1871, after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian war, Gustave and Alphonse James de Rothschild raised the money the Republican government needed to pay off the huge indemnity demanded by the occupying German army. (Thus they enacted a modern version of the “court Jew.)
The Rothschilds were connoisseurs of art, philanthropists, and leaders of their national Jewish communities. Anti-Semites accused them of exploiting the “little man” and labeled them “cosmopolitans” and international intriguers who owed no country their allegiance. While the Neapolitan branch of the family was dislodged after Italian unification (1860), the Austrian, French and English Rothschilds continued to demonstrate great devotion to their adopted homelands.
Not until the spring of 2010 did the leadership of a Rothschild bank pass to a non-family member. In March, the English Baron David de Rothschild announced his appointment of Nigel Higgins as co-head of the banking dynasty’s investment unit.