- Édouard Alphonse James de Rothschild
Édouard Alphonse James de Rothschild (
February 24, 1868– June 30, 1949) was a French financierand a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family of France.
Paris, Édouard de Rothschild was the only son of Baron Alphonse James de Rothschild(1827-1905). His mother was Leonora de Rothschild (1837-1911), the daughter of Lionel de Rothschildof the English branch of the family. He was raised in a Paris mansion at 2 rue Saint-Florentin that is now home to the United States Embassy as well as at Château de Ferrièresin the country.
March 1, 1905, Edouard de Rothschild married Germaine Alice Halphen (1884-1975). They had the following children, but according to his daughter Jacqueline, neither parent paid much attention to them:
# Édouard Alphonse Émile Lionel (1906-1911)
# Guy Édouard Alphonse Paul (1909-2007)
# Jacqueline Rebecca Louise (b. 1911)
# Bethsabée Louise Émilie Béatrice (1914-1999)
Career in business
Only a few months after Édouard's marriage, his father died and he formally took over the running of
de Rothschild Frèresbank. His grandfather and the French bank founder, James Mayer de Rothschild, had stipulated "that the three branches of the family descended from him always be represented." As such, Édouard would be joined by the sons of two different uncles: cousin Robert Philippe de Rothschild(1880-1946) and cousin Maurice de Rothschild(1881-1957). Édouard was cautious by nature and often old-fashioned in his ideas, an attitude which extended to his personal dress and office décor. Like his father, Édouard too was appointed a director of the Banque de France. In 1911, he negotiated a deal with Henri Deterdingfor his Royal Dutch Shellcompany to purchase the Rothschilds' Azerbaijanoil fields.
In 1937, the government of France nationalized the country's
railways including a major Rothschild railway asset owned in partnership with the English branch of the family. They had owned the Chemin de Fer du Nord rail transportcompany for almost 100 years and had an interest in the Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranéerailway which Robert represented for the family on its board of directors.
Because of cousin Maurice's perceived flamboyant playboy image and his conduct in political and business activities, Édouard considered him to be something of a
black sheep. They tolerated each other for the sake of the business but by the middle of the 1930s their differences reached a point where Édouard and cousin Robert decided to force Maurice out of de Rothschild Frères bank. After extensive and bitter negotiations, a buyout was reached through an arbitrator.
Édouard de Rothschild inherited a share of the
Château Lafite Rothschild vineyardin Bordeauxplus he also came into a valuable artcollection from his father which he expanded through a number of important purchases. His large collection included pieces by prominent sculptors such as Jean-Louis Lemoyneand paintings from Vigée-Lebrun and Rembrandt, amongst others.
Jewish, Édouard de Rothschild and his family before him had to deal with many societal obstacles that persisted throughout Europe. French journalist Édouard Drumontmade the Rothschilds and their banking empire a frequent target of his anti-Semitic writings but ended up in court after he falsely accused a National Assembly deputy of having taken a bribe from Édouard de Rothschild to pass a piece of legislation the banker wanted. During the heated rhetoric surrounding the Dreyfus Affair, Édouard ended up challenging someone for sullying his reputation and fought a duelwith swords in which neither party was seriously injured.
Thoroughbred horse racing
Like his father, Édouard de Rothschild invested in thoroughbred horse racing. A horse enthusiast who also liked to ride, he was a good
poloplayer and a member of a team that competed in Polo at the 1900 Summer Olympics. He inherited Haras de Meautry, a thoroughbred horse breeding farmin Touques, Calvadosabout 130 miles north of Paris. His sister Béatrice married Maurice Ephrussiwhose family owned an estate at the village of Reuxabout eight miles away. In 1868, Édouard acquired the property and the Château de Reuxremains in family hands to this day.
Édouard kept a stable of thoroughbreds at the
Chantilly Racecoursein Chantilly, Oiseand raced horses in major competitions throughout France. His stable scored many victories and was a four-time winner of the Grand Prix de Vichy-Auvergne. In 1907 and 1935 his horses won the Grand Prix de Parisand in 1934 and 1938 captured the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the country's most prestigious race.
Effects of the German occupation, 1940-1944
The rise to power of the
Adolf Hitlerparty in Germanyand the subsequent Anschlussof Austriato Germanysaw a wave of Jews, and others the Nazislabeled as "undesirables," seek refuge in France. Most of these people escaped with little more than a suitcase of clothes. In March of 1939, Édouard's wife Germaine converted an old house near the Château de Ferrièresinto a hostel for some 150 of these displaced persons. However, with the onset of World War IIand the subsequent German occupation of France in 1940, Édouard de Rothschild and his family themselves were forced to flee the country. In 1939, Édouard's son Guy joined the French Armyand daughter Jacqueline escaped with her husband Gregor Piatigorskyto the United States. Faced with losing virtually everything, before escaping, Édouard de Rothschild tried to hide as much of his valuable art collection as possible on the grounds of the Haras de Meautry farm and at his Château de Reux. With his wife and second daughter Bethsabée, he escaped France and they made their way to Lisbon, Portugalfrom where they were able to go by plane to New York City. Édouard's daughter Bethsabée returned to enlist in the Free French forcesand was part of the landing force for the Battle of Normandy. She moved with the army to liberate Paris, where she served as a liaison between the French and United States military forces.
German occupation of France in World War II, the Nazis seized some of the best racehorses in the country, shipping more than six hundred of them to Germanyfor racing and/or breeding. Among the horses stolen was Édouard de Rothschild's champion Brantôme who was sent to the German National Stud. The horse was repatriated at the end of the war in 1945 and became a leading sire.
With the Allied liberation of France in 1944, Édouard de Rothschild and his wife returned home where he died in Paris in 1949 at the age of eighty-one. His son Guy took over as head of the family bank.
* See list of references at
Rothschild banking family of France
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