Élisabeth de Rothschild

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Élisabeth de Rothschild (née Pelletier de Chambure; a.k.a. Lili; March 9, 1902 - March 23, 1945) was a member by marriage of the wine-making branch of the Rothschild family.

Birth and childhood[edit]

Born in Paris as Elisabeth Pelletier de Chambure, into a wealthy Catholic family whose roots were in the Burgundy region. Her ancestors included the famous Napoleonic general Laurent Augustin Pelletier de Chambure. Known as Lily, she was the daughter of Auguste Pelletier de Chambure, a mayor of Escrignelles, and his wife, née Camille Marie Courtois Desquibes.

First marriage[edit]

In 1923, Elisabeth Pelletier de Chambure married Jonkheer Marc Edouard Marie de Becker-Rémy, a Belgian aristocrat. They had a son, Edouard Jacques Marie Augustin (1924-1984),[1] and a daughter, Philippine Mathilde Camille (1933-2014), though the latter's biological father was French baron Philippe de Rothschild.

Second marriage[edit]

On 22 January 1934, immediately after her divorce from her first husband, Elisabeth married Rothschild, a member of the prominent banking family and the owner of one of France's most famous vineyards, Château Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac in the Médoc. He also was a cousin by marriage of Élisabeth's previous husband. The bride converted to Judaism from Catholicism, and the religious ceremony was conducted by Julien Weill, the grand rabbi of Paris.[2] In addition to their daughter, the Rothschilds had a son, Charles Henri (born and died in 1938).

Philippe's late-in-life memoirs (Milady Vine, written in collaboration with 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 son was born deformed and soon died. They eventually separated acrimoniously, and by 1939, the baroness reverted to using her maiden name of Pelletier de Chambure.

Imprisonment and death[edit]

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 Elisabeth 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. An alternative story exists surrounding the deportation of Elisabeth to Ravensbrück. Elisabeth, attending a 1941 showing of couturier Elsa Schiaparelli’s new seasonal designs, found herself seated next to the wife of German Ambassador to the Vichy government, the powerful, influential member of the Nazi regime, Heinrich Otto Abetz. Finding this proximity to Abetz’s wife objectionable, Elisabeth changed seats, a social slight which offended the woman. Shortly thereafter, Elisabeth was imprisoned in Ravensbrück. [3]

Elisabeth 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.


  1. ^ Edouard never married though he adopted his half-sister Simone's son, Baron Paul-Emmanuel Descamps (born 1954), who took the surname de Becker-Rémy
  2. ^ "Mariage", La Tribune Juive, 1 February 1935, page 88
  3. ^ "Schiaparelli," Secrest, Meryle, Alfred A. Knopf, 2014, p. 249-50


  • 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.