Élisabeth de Rothschild
Life & Marriage
Born in Paris as Elisabeth Pelletier de Chambure, into a wealthy Catholic aristocratic family whose roots were in the Burgundy region. Her ancestors included the famous Napoleonic General, Laurent Augustin Pelletier de Chambure. She was the daughter of Auguste Pelletier de Chambure, mayor of Escrignelles. She was called "Lili" as a child.
In 1934, immediately after her divorce from her first husband, Jonkheer Marc Edouard Marie de Becker-Rémy, a Belgian aristocrat, she married her lover, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, a member of the prominent Rothschild family and the owner of one of France's most famous vineyards, Château Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac in the Médoc. Philippe was also a cousin by marriage of Élisabeth's previous husband.
The Rothschilds had two children Philippine Mathilde Camille de Rothschild (daughter of Philippe de Rothschild, born in 1933 while she was still married to her first husband Becker-Rémy), and Charles Henri de Rothschild (born and died in 1938).
Philippe's late-in-life memoirs (Milady Vine, written in collaboration with his friend and companion, the British director Joan Littlewood) described his marriage to Élisabeth as one of great passion but also enormous tempestuousness and despair. The couple's difficulties increased when their only son was born deformed and died soon after birth. They eventually separated acrimoniously, and by 1939, the baroness had reverted to using her maiden name of Pelletier de Chambure.
Imprisonment & Death
Following the German occupation of France in World War II, she and her then-estranged husband were arrested by the Vichy government and the vineyard property seized. They were then released whereupon Philippe left France, moving to England, to join the Free French Forces and supported General Charles de Gaulle. In 1941, the Gestapo arrested Rothschild on charges of attempting to cross the line of demarcation with a forged permit and sent her to Ravensbrück concentration camp, located about 50 miles north of Berlin.
Rothschild reportedly died of epidemic typhus on March 23, 1945 at Ravensbrück. Her second husband's memoir, however, states that she was thrown into a concentration-camp oven, alive. She was the only Rothschild to die in the Holocaust or during World War II.
- Élisabeth de Rothschild, l'ex-femme de Philippe n'avait jamais pensé qu'elle puisse être inquiétée, étant issue d'une vieille famille française. À son retour en France après la Libération, Philippe de Rothschild apprend que si sa fille est bien saine et sauve, la Gestapo a déporté son ex-épouse en 1941 à Ravensbrück où elle avait été assassinée le 23 mars 1945.
- Joseph Valynseele & Henri-Claude Mars, Le Sang des Rothschild, L’Intermédiaire des Chercheurs et Curieux, Paris, 2004.
- Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Milady Vine, Jonathan Cape, London, 1984.