Baron Edmond de Rothschild's extraordinary personality and endeavours were shaped by his family's singular heritage. By the time he was born, the Rothschilds were world famous for their contributions to the economic, political, and social history of many nations.
The dynasty was founded by the Baron's grandfather, Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1743-1812), an antique coin collector in Frankfurt-am-Main who became the family's first banker. Their surname originated in a sign bearing a red shield (rot schild in German), fixed to the doorpost of the family home in the Frankfurt ghetto. The shield was later adopted as the family emblem. One of its four quadrants is emblazoned with a clenched fist holding five arrows, a symbol of Mayer Amschel's five sons and the power of their solidarity. The words 'Unity, Industry, Integrity' – the core values of the House of Rothschild – are inscribed beneath the shield.
Mayer Amschel's sons continued their father's banking and commercial enterprises in five major European countries: Amschel (1773-1855) the eldest, in Frankfurt, Salomon (1774-1855) in Vienna, Nathan in London (1777-1836), Carl (1788-1855) in Naples, and James (1792-1868), the youngest, in Paris. For each of these families, the red shield and its symbols served as inspiration and a reminder of the family patriarch's vision and values.