© Waddesdon Manor, The Rothschild Collection
(The National Trust)
Baron Ferdinand Rothschild (1839-98) -a member
of the famous Rothschild banking dynasty -was responsible for creating
Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury,
which is now home to the most important group of Hamilton Palace
items still in Great Britain.
Following his father’s death in 1874, Ferdinand
was able to buy Lodge Hill, with its panoramic views over the Vale
of Aylesbury and the Chilterns, and erect a huge French Renaissance-style
château, designed by the French architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur
(1822-93). The 1882 Hamilton Palace sale came at just the right
time for Ferdinand and his sister Alice, who inherited Waddesdon.
Using the dealer Samuel Wertheimer, they were able to purchase three
outstanding pieces of marquetry furniture by the great French royal
ébéniste Jean-Henri Riesener. Ferdinand
acquired the exquisite writing table
made for Queen Marie-Antoinette, for the then very high sum of £6,000,
and the secretaire from the private study of Louis XVI in the Petit
Trianon, for £1,575; while Alice secured the commode
or chest of drawers from the bedroom at Versailles of the Comtesse
de Provence (the wife of the future Louis XVIII) for £2,310.