Harrow School, 5 High St, Harrow HA1 3HP, UK
University Of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2, Regno Unito
Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild, 3rd Baron Rothschild, Bt, GBE, GM, FRS (31 October 1910 – 20 March 1990), was a senior executive with Royal Dutch Shell and N M Rothschild & Sons, an advisor to the Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher governments of the UK, as well as a member of the prominent Rothschild family.
Rothschild was the only son of Charles Rothschild and Rozsika Rothschild (née Edle von Wertheimstein). The family home was Tring Park Mansion. He had three sisters. Rothschild suffered from the suicide of his father when he was 13 years old. He was educated at Harrow School.
At Trinity College, Cambridge, he read Physiology, French, and English. He played first-class cricket for the University and Northamptonshire. At Cambridge he was known for his playboy lifestyle, driving a Bugatti and collecting art and rare books.
Rothschild joined the Cambridge Apostles, a secret society, which at that time was predominantly Marxist, though he stated himself that he "was mildly left-wing but never a Marxist". He became friends with Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and Kim Philby; members of the Cambridge Spy Ring.
In 1933, Rothschild gave Blunt £100 to purchase "Eliezer and Rebecca" by Nicolas Poussin. The painting was sold by Blunt's executors in 1985 for £100,000 and is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
His flat in London was shared with Burgess and Blunt. This later aroused suspicion that he was the so-called Fifth Man in the Cambridge Spy Ring.
Rothschild inherited his title at the age of 26 following the death of his uncle Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild on 27 August 1937. He sat as a Labour Party peer in the House of Lords, but spoke only twice there during his life (both speeches were in 1946, one about the pasteurization of milk, and another about the situation in Palestine).
Rothschild was recruited to work for MI5 during World War II in roles including bomb disposal, disinformation and espionage, winning the George Medal for "dangerous work in hazardous circumstances". He was the head of B1C, the "explosives and sabotage section", and worked on identifying where Britain's war effort was vulnerable to sabotage and counter German sabotage attempts. This included personally dismantling examples of German booby traps and disguised explosives.
In Who Paid the Piper? (1999), an account of CIA propaganda during the Cold War, author Frances Stonor Saunders alleges that Rothschild channelled funds to Encounter, an intellectual magazine founded in 1953 to support the "non-Stalinist left" in advance of US foreign policy goals.
After the war, he joined the zoology department at Cambridge University from 1950 to 1970. He served as chairman of the Agricultural Research Council from 1948 to 1958 and as worldwide head of research at Royal Dutch/Shell from 1963 to 1970.
Flora Solomon claims in her autobiography that in August 1962, during a reception at the Weizmann Institute, she told Rothschild that she thought that Tomás Harris and Kim Philby were Soviet spies.
When Anthony Blunt was unmasked as a member of the Cambridge Spy ring in 1964, Rothschild was questioned by Special Branch (though Blunt was not publicly identified as a Soviet agent until 1979 in the House of Commons by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher). Rothschild was cleared, and continued working on projects for the British government.
Rothschild was head of the Central Policy Review Staff from 1971 to 1974 (known popularly as "The Think Tank") a staff which researched policy specifically for the Government until Margaret Thatcher abolished it.
In 1971 Rothschild was awarded an honorary degree from Tel Aviv University for ''the advancement of science, education and the economy of Israel''. It was followed in 1975 by an honorary degree from Jerusalem's Hebrew University. The annual "Victor Rothschild Memorial Symposia" is named after Rothschild.
In the 1980s, he joined the family bank as chairman in an effort to quell the feuding between factions led by Evelyn Rothschild and Victor's son, Jacob Rothschild. In this he was unsuccessful as Jacob resigned from the bank to found J. Rothschild Assurance Group (a separate entity, now St. James's Place plc).
In 1982 he published An Enquiry into the Social Science Research Council at the behest of Sir Keith Joseph, a Conservative minister and mentor of Margaret Thatcher.
He continued to work in security as an adviser to Margaret Thatcher.
He appears several times in the book Spycatcher, which he hoped would clear the air over suspicions about his wartime role and the possibility he was involved in the Cambridge spy ring. He was still able to enter the premises of MI5 as a former employee and was aware of suspicions there was a "mole" in MI5, but felt himself above suspicion. While Edward Heath was Prime Minister, Rothschild was a frequent visitor to Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence. Throughout his life, he was a valued adviser on intelligence and science to both Conservative and Labour Governments. In 1993, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, six retired KGB colonels, including Yuri Modin, the spy ring's handler, alleged Rothschild was the "Fifth Man". Modin claimed, "Rothschild was the key to most of the Cambridge ring's penetration of British intelligence. 'He had the contacts,' Modin noted. 'He was able to introduce Burgess, Blunt and others to important figures in Intelligence such as Stewart Menzies, Dick White and Robert Vansittart in the Foreign Office...who controlled Mi-6." Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, in The Mitrokhin Archives, make no mention of Rothschild as a Soviet agent and instead identify John Cairncross as the Fifth Man.
Rothschild published an autobiography, Random Variables in 1984.
Despite being an opposition Labour party peer, in 1987, during the Thatcher Government, Victor played a role in the sacking of BBC Director General Alasdair Milne, who had backed the programmes Secret Society, Real Lives, and Panorama: 'Maggie's Militant Tendency' which had angered the Thatcher government. Marmaduke Hussey, who was Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors at the time, implied Rothschild initiated the Milne sacking in his autobiography Chance Governs All.
Rothschild took the step of publishing a letter in British newspapers on 3 December 1986 to state "... I am not, and never have been, a Soviet agent".
In early 1987 Tam Dalyell used parliamentary privilege to suggest Rothschild should be prosecuted for a chain of events he had "set in train, with Peter Wright and Harry Chapman Pincher" which had led to a "breach of confidence in relation to information on matters of state security given to authors".
He was an advisor to William Waldegrave during the design of the Community Charge, which led to the Poll Tax Riots.
In 1933, he married Barbara Judith Hutchinson (born 1911). They had three children.
In 1946, he married Teresa Georgina Mayor (1915–1996). Mayor's maternal grandfather was Robert John Grote Mayor, the brother of English novelist F. M. Mayor and a greatnephew of philosopher and clergyman John Grote. Her maternal grandmother, Katherine Beatrice Meinertzhagen, was the sister of soldier Richard Meinertzhagen and the niece of author Beatrice Webb. They had four children:
Born into a nominally Jewish family, in adult life Rothschild declared himself to be an atheist. His sister Miriam Louisa Rothschild was a distinguished entomologist, and his sister Nica de Koenigswarter was a bebop jazz enthusiast and patron of Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker.