Rothschild moved from Frankfurt to the UK in 1798. He arrived unable to speak a word of English but quickly picked up the language, making him already more successful than a lot of British people today.
He worked as a textiles trader for a decade but when the Napoleonic war impacted on his business he decided (correctly) that he would be more successful lending money to other merchants. He gradually moved into banking where he became extremely successful, gaining the attention of many monarchs and important people in government.
Rothschild financed the Duke of Wellington’s army before the Battle of Waterloo by having his agents buy up gold and silver around Europe and smuggle it to Wellington’s army. Records show that they raised £2m for the army – that’s just shy of £140m in today’s market. Rothschild had a communications network that was so effective he learnt of the victory at Waterloo a full 24 hours before the British government did.
This caused some people to speculate that he made a fortune from the early news by rapidly selling stocks, causing others to panic and follow suit, before buying them all back cheaply just before the information became public and boosted the prices back up.
There is still a debate surrounding this topic today but it is likely these naysayers were just jealous that they didn’t think of the idea for themselves.
By the time he died in 1836 his personal net worth accounted for 0.62% of the British national income. Unfortunately, as they say, you can’t take it with you. He’s got to be kicking himself right now.