On this day in history : 7th March 1895 – The birth of Dorothy de Rothschild – English philanthropist and activist for Jewish affairs, who’s husband bequeathed Waddesdon Manor to the National Trust….

Baroness Dorothy de Rothschild with Knesset speaker Kadish Luz – Image : Israeli National Photo Collection – Public domain

Dorothy Mathilde. Pinto, known as ‘Dolly’ to her friends, was born in London…. In 1913, at the age of 17, she married 35-year-old James Armand de Rothschild (Jimmy) – the son of Edmond James de Rothschild, a member of the French side of the Rothschild international banking dynasty…. In 1922 James inherited Waddesdon Manor, near to Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire….and it became their country home…. (They also had a London home in St James’s Square)….

Waddesdon Manor – Image : DeFacto – own work CC BY-SA 4.0

James served as Liberal MP for the Isle of Ely from 1929 to 1945; he also carried on supporting his late father’s Zionist causes, donating 6,000,000 Israeli Pounds towards the building of the Knesset in Jerusalem…. Dorothy actively supported and helped her husband…. After his death in 1957 she carried on his Zionist interests, giving her own gift of the Supreme Court of Israel building and she became Chairman of Yad Hanadiv – the Rothschild family charities in Israel….

James de Rothschild – Public domain

After James’s death Waddesdon Manor, its contents and 120 acres of grounds were bequeathed to the National Trust…. Dorothy retained the rest of the estate, including a mansion house at Eythrope…. She became very involved in the preservation and development of Waddesdon, chairing the Management Committee – and had a very strong influence….

The Morning Room – Image : National Trust, John Bigelow-Taylor, own work CC BY-SA 4.0

Waddesdon Manor was built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, who wanted a house suitable to house his collections and to entertain his fashionable guests…. He bought the Waddesdon Estate from the Duke of Marlborough in 1874…. His desire was to have a home in the style of a Renaissance chateau – and he chose architect Gabriel-Hippolytus Destailleur, who had overseen the restoration of many chateaux in the Loire Valley region, to design it…. The gardens were laid out by French landscape architect Elie Laine…. The foundation stone was laid in 1877 and after its completion many an important guest was entertained there, including Queen Victoria herself, in 1890….

Dining Room – Image : Glen Bowman via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Ferdinand died in 1898 and the manor passed to his sister, Alice de Rothschild…. She was to add many significant pieces to its collections, including furniture, textiles, artwork and Meissen porcelain…. It was after her death in 1922 that it was to pass to James and Dorothy….

East Gallery – Image : National Trust, John Bigelow, own work CC BY-SA 4.0

After its bequeathment to the National Trust Waddesdon has never since been used as a residential home…. It opened to the public in 1959 and around 27,000 visitors were received in the first year…. Dorothy died on the 10th of December 1988 at the age of 93; she left £94,117,964 – equating to over £254m in today’s terms – which was the largest probated estate in England and Wales at that time….

Grey Drawing Room – Image : National Trust, John Bigelow-Taylor, own work CC BY-SA 4.0

After her death Dorothy’s nephew, Jacob 4th Baron Rothschild, inherited her estate and took over her responsibilities to Waddesdon Manor…. A major restoration project took place between 1990 – 1997….

Nowadays the Rothschild Foundation, which was established in 2010, is a consolidation of three Rothschild charitable trusts – including The Alice Trust, to preserve, protect and improve the estate…. the foundation manages Waddesdon on behalf of the National Trust….

Tower Drawing Room – Image : Chris Hoare via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Many films have been made using the estate as a location – including Ladies in Lavender (2004), The Queen (2006), Sherlock Holmes; A Game of Shadows (2011) and The Infiltrator (2016)…. It has also been used extensively for TV productions, such as Howard’s Way, Downton Abbey and The Crown…. In 2018 over 466,000 visitors were received, it is one of the National Trust’s most visited properties…. In 2017 it was awarded the visit England’s Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category….

South Fountain – Image : National Trust, Mike Fear – own work CC BY-SA 4.0

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