Born in Vienna, he was the fifth child and first son of Anselm von Rothschild (1803-1874) and Charlotte von Rothschild (1807-1859). As the eldest male, he was expected to take over the running of the family's Viennese bank, S M von Rothschild. Nathaniel studied at Brünn but fell out of favor with his father who considered him extravagant and financially irresponsible.
Rather than going into business, Nathaniel spent his life as a socialite who built mansions and collected works of art. He built one of the Palais Rothschild at 14-16 Theresianumgasse in Vienna where his large collection of art was on display. In 1880, he purchased Enzesfeld Castle with its vast property from Graf Schönburg-Hartenstein. He also had Hinterleiten Palace in Reichenau an der Rax erected in 1887.
On his fathers death in 1874, he and brother Ferdinand inherited most of the family's real estate and art collection while the family business went to brother Albert who successfully carried on the financial empire.
Nathaniel Rothschild became known for his substantial philanthropic and charitable activities and was highly popular with members of Vienna's aristocratic society, something that aided the family image and therefore its business. Beyond Vienna, he was as a benefactor to the Enzesfeld community where in 1900 he donated the elementary school and funded other municipal works.
Nathaniel Anselm von Rothschild died a bachelor in 1905. He is buried in the Zentralfriedhof, Vienna.