Life and political career
Although Ferdinand de Rothschild was born in Paris in 1839, he was from Vienna and a member of the Rothschild banking family of Austria. He was the second son of the Viennese Baron Anselm von Rothschild (1803–1874) and his English wife Charlotte von Rothschild née Rothschild (1807–1859). Ferdinand's great-grandfather was the Mayer Amschel Rothschild.
Although possessing the hereditary title Freiherr (Baron) from the Austrian nobility, he was familiarly referred to as 'Ferdy' by his sister, Miss Alice and friends. When Ferdinand became a British subject and moved from Vienna to London, "[he] epitomised the expanding lifestyle of the fourth generation". This statement is more evident when, on 7 June 1865 he married his second cousin Evelina de Rothschild (1839–1866), the daughter of Lionel de Rothschild (1808–1879). On 4 December 1866 their son was stillborn, and Evelina died later the same day. In her memory, Ferdinand built, equipped and endowed the Evelina Hospital for Sick Children in Southwark, south London.
From 1868 to 1875, he became Treasurer of the Jewish Board of Guardians and Warden of the Central Synagogue in 1870. During these roles, Ferdinand instigated an offer of £2,000 which ultimately led to the foundation of the Army Reservists' Home. In 1883, Ferdinand de Rothschild was High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire. He was adopted as Liberal candidate for the London constituency of St George's in the East but on being invited, he contested in 1885 another seat, at Aylesbury which he won and held until his death. In 1886, over the issue of Irish Home Rule, he joined the Liberal Unionists, and hosted meetings at Waddesdon Manor (where Joseph Chamberlain, Arthur Balfour and Lord Randolph Churchill were often guests) that led to the formation of the Unionist-Conservative alliance.
From 1896 he was a Trustee of the British Museum, a role suggested by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks  and leads to his Renaissance collection becoming bequested to the British Museum after his death. This is now exhibited as the Waddesdon Bequest. Ferdinand de Rothschild died at Waddesdon Manor on his 59th birthday, and thought to be the result of a cold caught when last visiting his wife's tomb. Ferdinand de Rothschild was buried next to his wife in the Rothschild Mausoleum in the Jewish Cemetery at West Ham.