Even the Rothschild family, always deeply uncomfortable with the story, has tried to domesticate it.
Their preferred version glosses over any alleged profits and stresses that Nathan's first action on hearing of the victory had been that of any good citizen of the time: he informed the government.
It stated simply: "Rothschild has made great purchases of stock."On the face of it, this supported the legend, but there is a problem: those words do not appear in surviving copies of that day's Courier.The pamphlet claimed to recount the history of the richest and most famous banking family of the time – the Rothschilds – and its most enduring passage told how their vast fortune was built upon the bloodshed of the battle of Waterloo, whose bicentenary falls this year. Nathan Rothschild, the founder of the London branch of the bank, was a spectator on the battlefield that day in June 1815 and, as night fell, he observed the total defeat of the French army. A relay of fast horses rushed him to the Belgian coast, but there he found to his fury that a storm had confined all ships to port. senior date Faxe Undaunted – "Does greed admit anything is impossible?Nathan Rothschild may have "done well" from his purchases when stocks rose sharply following the confirmation of the victory, but his gains were dwarfed by those of numerous rival investors who, without any advantage of early information, had bought key government securities earlier, more cheaply and in quantity.Two hundred years on from Waterloo, then, not much is left of Satan's tale.
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Was there any truth to this revised version, or to any of the other variants that have surfaced over the years? The legend has had innocent uses – for example, the former CIA chief Allen Dulles repeated it in a 1963 book on espionage as he wanted to illustrate the value of early information.Other writers have adopted the tale simply as a good yarn, without any anti-Semitic intent.Thirty years after the dust had settled on the fields of Waterloo, a poisonous anti-Semitic pamphlet circulated in Europe, claiming the Rothschild family had accrued its vast wealth on the back of Wellington's triumph. The 'facts' were entirely made up In the summer of 1846, a political pamphlet bearing the ominous signature "Satan" swept across Europe, telling a story which, though lurid and improbable, left a mark that can be seen to this day.Every aspect of Dairnvaell's tale – the ruthlessness, the guile, the greed – represents a derogatory racial stereotype, and he was writing at a moment when such attitudes were having one of their periodic surges of popularity in Europe. Yet the Satan pamphlet, translated into many languages and reprinted many times, gave this legend such a grip on history that, albeit often in modified or diluted forms, references to it can still be found today both in popular culture and in scholarly works.
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The story was also false: Nathan Rothschild was not at Waterloo or even in Belgium at the time. Versions appear in a Hollywood film of 1934 and the 2009 Sebastian Faulks novel A Week in December; in past editions of the Dictionary of National Biography and Encyclopaedia Britannica; in Elizabeth Longford's acclaimed 1970s biography of the Duke of Wellington; and (with a very different analysis) in Niall Ferguson's authorised history of the Rothschilds.So, while it is confirmed that Rothschild had early news, he was not the only one. Apparently, but in the thin market of the period, it could not have been enough to accumulate holdings sufficient to earn him the millions that Dairnvaell wrote of.Nor did he manipulate the market to double his gains, for, contrary to legend, there was no slump in prices that Wednesday.On the day of Waterloo, he writes of great public anxiety over events in Belgium, adding: "They say Monsieur Rothschild has mounted couriers from Brussels to Ostend and a fast clipper ready to sail the moment something is decisive [on the battlefield] one way or the other."Once again, this is not what it seems.The Gallatin diary was exposed in 1957 as a fake cooked up late in the 19th century – long after the Satan story had gained currency.