The impressive French Renaissance-style château of Waddesdon Manor is set in Buckinghamshire, the heart of the English countryside, with sweeping landscapes and manicured gardens. Four Rothschilds have been responsible for the creation, care and development of Waddesdon.
Originally laid out in the 1870s and 1880s for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to house his collections of decorative arts, Old Master paintings and 18th-century portraits, Waddesdon welcomed the fashionable world to Saturday to Monday house parties. Ferdinand’s social circle spanned royalty, including the Prince of Wales, historians, explorers and writers. Politicians were often guests as well, as he became MP for Aylesbury in 1885 and was a trustee of the British Museum.
Waddesdon’s gardens were created by French landscape designer Elie Lainé and involved levelling the crown of the hill on which the Manor sits. Focal points in the garden include an iconic Victorian-style Parterre – famed for its colourful seasonal bedding, an ornate Rococo-style Aviary – still housing rare birds, Pulham rockwork and 3D bird bedding sculptures that are examples of the Rothschild’s pioneering gardening.
Ferdinand left his estate to his sister Alice (1847-1922), who in turn left Waddesdon to her great-nephew James de Rothschild (1878-1957) of Paris. James married an Englishwoman, Dorothy Pinto, and became a naturalized British citizen.
To secure its future James left Waddesdon to the National Trust in 1957. For nearly 30 years Dorothy oversaw the opening of the house to the public on behalf of the Trust, and at her death in 1988 she left the responsibility for Waddesdon to Jacob, Lord Rothschild (b 1936), a leading figure in the world of art and culture as well as finance.
The Rothschild Foundation now manages Waddesdon on behalf of the National Trust and has continued to add to the collections.