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The name of Rothschild became synonymous with extravagance and great wealth, and the family was renowned for its art collecting, for its palaces, as well as for its philanthropy. By the end of the century, the family owned, or had built, at the lowest estimates, over 41 palaces, of a scale and luxury perhaps unparalleled even by the richest royal families. The soon to be British Prime Minister Lloyd George claimed, in 1909, that Lord Nathan Rothschild was the most powerful man in Britain.
The Rothschilds already possessed a very significant fortune before the start of Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), and the family had gained preeminence in the bullion trade by this time. From London in 1813 to 1815, Nathan Mayer Rothschild was instrumental in almost single-handedly financing the British war effort, and the French war effort, financing the shipment of bullion to the Duke of Wellington's armies across Europe, as well as arranging the payment of British financial subsidies to their Continental allies. In 1815 alone, the Rothschilds provided £9.8 million (£694m in today's money) in subsidy loans to Britain's continental allies.