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Lionel Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild (8 February 1868 – 27 August 1937), a scion of the Rothschild family, was a Britishmarker banker, politician, and zoologist.


Walter Rothschild was the eldest son and heir of Lord [Nathan] Rothschild, an immensely wealthy financier, and the first Jewish peer in England. At the age of seven, he declared that he would run a zoological museum. As a child, he collected insects, butterflies, and animals. Among his pets at the family home in Tring Parkmarker were kangaroos and exotic birds. At 21, he reluctantly went to work at the family bank, N M Rothschild & Sons in Londonmarker. He worked there from 1889 to 1908.

His parents established a zoological museum as compensation, and footed the bill for expeditions all over the world to seek out animals.

Rothschild was 6' 3" tall and very shy, but he had his photograph taken riding on a giant tortoise, and drove a carriage harnessed to six zebras to Buckingham Palacemarker to prove that zebras could be tamed.

Though he never married, Rothschild had two mistresses, one of whom bore him a daughter.

Zoological career

Rothschild studied zoology at Magdalene College, Cambridgemarker. Meeting Albert C. L. G. Günther sparked his interest in the taxonomy of birds and butterflies.

He was the first to describe the Rothschild giraffe (Giraffa camelopardis rothschildi], a subspecies with five horns instead of two, which was named after him. It also known as the Ugandan or Baringo Giraffe, and is the most endangered of the nine subspecies. Another 153 insects, 58 birds, 17 mammals, three fish, three spiders, two reptiles, one millipede, and one worm also carry his name.

Rothschild opened his private museum in 1892. It housed one of the largest natural history collections in the world, and was open to the public. In 1932 he was forced to sell the vast majority of his bird collection to the American Museum of Natural Historymarker after being blackmailed by a woman. In 1936 he donated the rest of the collection to the Trustees of the British Museummarker. The Walter Rothschild Zoological Museummarker at Tringmarker is now a division of the Natural History Museummarker.

Political career

Walter Rothschild was a Liberal and Liberal Unionist Member of Parliament for Aylesburymarker from 1899 until he retired from politics at the 1910 general election.

Zionism and the Balfour Declaration

As an active Zionist and close friend of Chaim Weizmann, he worked to formulate the draft declaration for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. On 2 November 1917 he received a letter from the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed to his London home at 148 Piccadillymarker. In this letter the British government declared its support for the establishment in Palestine of "a national home for the Jewish people". This letter became known as the Balfour Declaration.


Walter inherited the peerage from his father Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild in 1915. He died in 1937 in Hertfordshiremarker aged 69. He had no legitimate children, and his younger brother Charles Rothschild had predeceased him, so the title was inherited by his nephew (Nathaniel Mayer) Victor Rothschild.


  1. Pen Ultimate / Sticking my neck out - Haaretz - Israel News
  2. Hannah Rothschild, "The Butterfly Effect", Bonhams Magazine, Spring 2009, pages 18-21.
  3. Barrow, Mark V. (2000) A Passion for Birds. Princeton University Press. p. 192


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