Philippe de Rothschild

Last updated

Philippe de Rothschild
Philippe de Rothschild.jpg
Bust of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Château Mouton Rothschild
Georges Philippe de Rothschild

(1902-04-13)13 April 1902
Paris, France
Died20 January 1988(1988-01-20) (aged 85)
Paris, France
Élisabeth Pelletier de Chambure
(m. 1934;died 1945)

Pauline Fairfax Potter
(m. 1954;died 1976)
Partner(s) Joan Littlewood
Parent(s)Baron Henri de Rothschild
Mathilde Sophie Henriette von Weissweiller
Family Rothschild

Philippe, Baron de Rothschild (13 April 1902 – 20 January 1988) was a member of the Rothschild banking dynasty who became a Grand Prix race-car driver, a screenwriter and playwright, a theatrical producer, a film producer, a poet, and one of the most successful wine growers in the world.


Early life

Born in Paris, Georges Philippe de Rothschild was the younger son of Baron Henri de Rothschild (1872–1947) (who was a noted playwright under the name André Pascal) and Mathilde Sophie Henriette von Weissweiller (1872–1926). At the outbreak of World War I, 12-year-old Philippe was sent to the safety of the family's vineyard in the village of Pauillac in the Médoc. There, he developed a love of the country and the wine business, an enterprise in his family since 1853, but one his father and grandfather had shown little interest in. As a young man, in sharp contrast to the Rothschild family's staid aristocratic traditions, Philippe de Rothschild became a larger-than-life figure.

Car racing

During the 1920s, Philippe lived the life of a wealthy playboy, often found in the company of a beautiful woman, usually an actress, at one of the popular night spots in Paris. Philippe's older brother had made friends with Robert Benoist when they served together in the Armée de l'Air during World War I and through this connection, for a short time Philippe took up Grand Prix motor racing. From his father, he inherited the love of fast cars, but wishing to maintain a low profile Philippe used the pseudonym "Georges Philippe" in order to race anonymously.

Rothschild raced his own Bugatti T35C with moderate success, including coming fourth in the 1929 Monaco Grand Prix. He also made a brief appearance for the elite Bugatti works team, but at the end of 1929 he abruptly withdrew from motorsport, to concentrate on the family wine-growing business.

Rothschild made his first competition appearance in the Paris–Nice auto race of 1928, competing in a borrowed Hispano-Suiza. After purchasing a supercharged Bugatti, the ex Targa Florio factory type 37A (37317) T37, he adopted the pseudonym to protect his family. 'Georges Philippe' made his first appearance at the 1928 Bugatti Grand Prix at Le Mans, a race solely for private Bugatti owners where he became second immediately after the winner Charles Dubonnet.

For 1929, Rothschild decided to upgrade to a full Grand Prix-specification Type 35C. In fact, he was so enamoured with the vehicles, he ordered three. Using one of the new cars, Georges Philippe was entered into the Grand Prix d'Antibes. In a field that included René Dreyfus and Philippe Étancelin, both race winners many times over, Rothschild led the race until he crashed out on the 36th lap. A mere two weeks later, with the car rebuilt, Georges Philippe finished a highly creditable fourth at the inaugural Grand Prix Automobile de Monaco, behind winner William Grover-Williams.

Continued improvement was finally rewarded when Georges Philippe won the Burgundy Grand Prix three weeks later, finishing ahead of Guy Bouriat  [ Wikidata ] in a second Rothschild T35C. However, he was unfortunate to retire from the following race while running sixth. The third of Rothschild's T35Cs was regularly campaigned by a rather curious acquaintance for a future Baron. A model and exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, Helene Delangle regularly took to the track under her professional pseudonym Hellé Nice .

Nevertheless, Georges Philippe had attracted sufficient attention to be offered a factory drive alongside Monegasque star Louis Chiron. In his two races for the crack squad, Rothschild ran at the front of the field, before dropping back later in the race due to vehicle troubles. At the 1929 German Grand Prix, around the notorious Nürburgring Nordschleife, Georges Philippe was comfortably ahead of Chiron before contact with a wall caused damage to his Bugatti's axle, slowing the car and allowing Chiron to pass and take the victory.

Unfortuately, increasing fame was wearing Georges Philippe's anonymity rather thin. His final appearance was in the 1930 24 Hours of Le Mans where, driving an American Stutz, he failed to finish. After this Rothschild quietly laid 'Georges Philippe' to rest, and returned to running Château Mouton Rothschild.

In 1935, Rothschild and his friend, Jean Rheims, who were sponsoring a bobsled team, refused to participate in the 1936 Winter Olympics at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, protesting what they called the "persecution of Germans of Jewish religion."

Wine grower

Despite the time spent racing automobiles and producing the 1932 film Lac aux dames , the first French "talkie" to gain international recognition (adapted from a novel by Vicki Baum and directed by Marc Allégret, it had a script by Colette and starred Jean-Pierre Aumont and Simone Simon), the energetic Philippe de Rothschild still devoted his energies and innovation to Château Mouton Rothschild in Pauillac.

He was only twenty years old when he took over the operations of the Château Mouton Rothschild vineyards and two years later, in 1924, came up with the unheard of idea of bottling the entire vintage at the Château, an idea that other producers of Premier Cru wines soon copied. Previously, vineyards sold their wines in bulk, leaving the maturing, bottling, labeling and marketing to be handled by the wine merchants. Philippe de Rothschild's idea was to maintain control over the quality of his product and allow marketing of the brand name. Two years later, he developed a de facto price-fixing arrangement among other top Bordeaux producers.

Upon harvesting a crop he considered not up to the high standards of his vineyard, he chose not to sell that year's vintage under the Château label. In 1932 Philippe de Rothschild began to sell this second-string vintage as a good low-cost Bordeaux under the name "Mouton Cadet". The product became so successful that he eventually had to purchase grapes from vineyards throughout the Bordeaux region just to meet the demand. Today, Mouton Cadet is the number-one-selling red wine in the world.

In 1933 Philippe expanded the Mouton-Rothschild estates with the acquisition of the neighboring Château d'Armailhac. By the late 1930s, the wines of Mouton Rothschild were recognized as among the world's best. Nonetheless, the Mouton vineyard was still rated as a "Second Growth" as a result of the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 (reputedly due to the vintner's Anglo-Jewish heritage) and Philippe de Rothschild began a lifelong mission to change this judgment.

Personal life

In 1934, Philippe de Rothschild married Élisabeth Pelletier de Chambure (1902–1945), the former wife of Jonkheer Marc de Becker-Rémy  [ Wikidata ], a Belgian nobleman. They had two children: Philippine Mathilde Camille de Rothschild (born 22 November 1933, died 23 August 2014) and Charles Henri de Rothschild (born and died 1938).

Rothschild's late-in-life memoirs (Milady Vine, written in collaboration with his companion, the British theatre director Joan Littlewood) describe a marriage of great passion but also enormous tempestuousness and despair. The couple's difficulties increased when their only son was born tragically deformed and died soon after birth. They eventually separated, and the baron's wife reverted to her maiden name.

World War II

The outbreak of World War II had serious consequences for the entire Rothschild family, who were Jewish. Following the German occupation of France, Philippe de Rothschild's parents fled to the safety of Lausanne, Switzerland, and the Paris mansion where they had lived became the headquarters for the German Naval Command.

Although he was called up to serve in the French Air Force, the quick fall of France resulted in de Rothschild being arrested in Algeria by the Vichy government and the vineyard property seized. His French citizenship was revoked on 6 September 1940 for what The New York Times described as "having left France without official permission or a valid reason." [1] Released from Vichy custody on 20 April 1941, Philippe de Rothschild made his way to England, where he joined the Free French Forces of General Charles de Gaulle, earning a Croix de Guerre medal. [2] On his return to France following the Allies' liberation, Philippe de Rothschild learned that, although his daughter was safe, the Gestapo had, on charges of attempting to cross a line of demarcation with a forged permit, deported his estranged wife in 1941 to Ravensbrück concentration camp where she died—the cause of her death remains unresolved—on 23 March 1945. Élisabeth Pelletier de Chambure was the only member of the Rothschilds to die in the Holocaust.

After war

Devastated, Rothschild had to deal with problems at his vineyard as well. The departing German army had done considerable damage to Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Together with dedicated employees, he put his energy into restoring the vineyard and by the early 1950s was once again producing wine.

At the same time, the multi-talented Rothschild returned to participation in the theatrical world, teaming up with Gaston Bonheur to write in both English and French the play Lady Chatterley's Lover . Based on the D. H. Lawrence novel, their play was later made into a motion picture starring Danielle Darrieux. In 1952 Rothschild and Bonheur wrote the script for the film La Demoiselle et son revenant . Philippe de Rothschild was an accomplished poet and in 1952 his poem Vendange inspired Darius Milhaud to write a three-act ballet for the Paris Opera. He also translated Elizabethan poetry and the plays of Christopher Fry.

In 1954, Rothschild married a longtime mistress, Pauline Fairfax Potter (1908–1976), a Paris-born American who had been the head fashion designer at Hattie Carnegie. After their marriage, she used her aesthetic talents to help restore an old storage building on the estate, converting it into an opulent home, and became known as a tastemaker in the worlds of fashion and interior design.

In 1973, Château Mouton Rothschild became the only French vineyard to ever achieve reclassification to First Growth, thanks to decades of relentless lobbying. Subsequently, the owner of Château d'Yquem sued unsuccessfully to have the reclassification reversed as illegitimate. After his Mouton Rothschild lost to a California wine in the Judgment of Paris, he "phoned one of the judges and asked haughtily, 'What are you doing to my wines? It took me forty years to become classified as First Growth!'"

Rothschild purchased Château Clerc Milon, a fifth-growth classified vineyard strategically located next to his own property. After achieving his lifelong goal with the 1973 upgrading of Chateau Mouton Rothschild to Premier Cru status, and after the historic results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, he began looking beyond France for wine-growing opportunities and in 1980 announced a joint venture with the respected American wine grower, Robert Mondavi, to form the Opus One Winery in Oakville, California.

In 1997, under the direction of Rothschild's daughter Philippine, Château Mouton-Rothschild teamed up with Concha y Toro of Chile to produce a Cabernet Sauvignon based, Bordeaux-style red wine in a new winery built in Chile's Maipo Valley, the Almaviva.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild remained active in the wine business until he died in 1988 at the age of 85, whereupon his daughter assumed control of the company. She has also had a successful career as a theatre actress under the stage name "Philippine Pascal".


As an offshoot of self-bottling, Philippe also came up with the idea of having his labels designed by famous artists. In 1946, this became a prominent and traditional part of the vineyard's image, with labels created by great painters and sculptors such as Jean Cocteau, Leonor Fini, Henry Moore, Marie Laurencin, Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Jacques Villon, Pierre Alechinsky, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, César, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Andy Warhol, and other notables.

In 1962 at Mouton the Rothschilds created the Museum of Wine in Art; here a collection of art works covering three millennia of wine is on display, including original art by Pablo Picasso and rare glassware.

See also

Related Research Articles

Château Mouton Rothschild winery

Château Mouton Rothschild is a wine estate located in the village of Pauillac in the Médoc region, 50 km (30 mi) north-west of the city of Bordeaux, France. Originally known as Château Brane-Mouton, its red wine was renamed by Nathaniel de Rothschild in 1853 to Château Mouton Rothschild. In the 1920s it began the practice of bottling the harvest at the estate itself, rather than shipping the wine to merchants for bottling elsewhere.

Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 classification of wine

The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855 resulted from the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris, when Emperor Napoleon III requested a classification system for France's best Bordeaux wines that were to be on display for visitors from around the world. Brokers from the wine industry ranked the wines according to a château's reputation and trading price, which at that time was directly related to quality.

Nathaniel de Rothschild French banker

Nathaniel de Rothschild (1812–1870), was a businessman, banker and winemaker. He established the Château Mouton Rothschild.

Élisabeth, Baroness de Rothschild was a member by marriage of the wine-making branch of the Rothschild family.

Alphonse James de Rothschild French banker and art collector (purchased the Van Loon collection)

Mayer Alphonse James Rothschild, was a French financier, vineyard owner, art collector, philanthropist, racehorse owner/breeder and a member of the Rothschild banking family of France.

First Growth status is a classification of wines primarily from the Bordeaux region of France.

Pauillac Commune in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

Pauillac is a municipality in the Gironde department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France. The city is mid-way between Bordeaux and the Pointe de Grave, along the Gironde, the largest estuary in western Europe.

Château Lafite Rothschild Vineyard and chateau of Bordeaux

Château Lafite Rothschild is a wine estate in France, owned by members of the Rothschild family since the 19th century. The name Lafite comes from the surname of the La Fite family.

Château Latour winery

Château Latour is a French wine estate, rated as a First Growth under the 1855 Bordeaux Classification, owned by Groupe Artemis. Latour lies at the very southeastern tip of the commune of Pauillac in the Médoc region to the north-west of Bordeaux, at its border with Saint-Julien, and only a few hundred metres from the banks of the Gironde estuary.

Château Pédesclaux

Château Pédesclaux is a winery in the Pauillac appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here was classified as one of eighteen Cinquièmes Crus in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

Pauline, Baroness de Rothschild was a writer, a fashion designer, and, with her second husband, a translator of both Elizabethan poetry and the plays of Christopher Fry. She was the only woman named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1969, alongside Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Dean Acheson, Angier Biddle Duke, Cary Grant, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Rothschild banking family of France French family of bankers

The Rothschild banking family of France is a French banking dynasty founded in 1812 in Paris by James Mayer de Rothschild (1792–1868). James was sent there from his home in Frankfurt, Germany, by his father, Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744–1812). Wanting his sons to succeed on their own and to expand the family business across Europe, Mayer Amschel Rothschild had his eldest son remain in Frankfurt, while his four other sons were sent to different European cities to establish a financial institution to invest in business and provide banking services. Endogamy within the family was an essential part of the Rothschild strategy in order to ensure control of their wealth remained in family hands.

Philippine Mathilde Camille, Baroness de Rothschild was the owner of the French winery Château Mouton Rothschild. She acted under the stage name Philippine Pascale. She was the only daughter of the vintner Baron Philippe de Rothschild, a member of the Rothschild banking dynasty.

Château Cantemerle winery

Château Cantemerle is a winery in the Haut-Médoc appellation of the Bordeaux wine region of France, in the commune of Macau. The wine produced here was the final estate to be classified as one of eighteen Cinquièmes Crus in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Its absence from the classification map featured at the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris created some controversy, even though it has been listed on all maps published after 1855. Some sources will include an asterisk next to Château Cantemerle listing in reference to this controversy. The estate has a long history in the Haut-Médoc with records detailing its existence since at least the 12th century and wine production since at least the 14th century. In the 19th century, the estate was hard hit by the phylloxera epidemic as well as grapevine attacks of downy mildew, after which production dropped nearly 50%. Towards the end of the 20th century, the estate was sold to French insurance group Les Mutuelles d'Assurance du Bâtiment et des Travaux Public who have contributed significant investment in the estate's vineyards and winemaking facilities.

Château d'Armailhac, previously named Château Mouton-d'Armailhacq, Château Mouton-Baron Philippe, Mouton Baronne and Château Mouton-Baronne-Philippe (1979–1988), is a winery in the Pauillac appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here was classified as one of eighteen Cinquièmes Crus in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. In 1989, Baroness Philippine decided to restore its original identity to Mouton d’Armailhacq, giving it the name Château d’Armailhac.

Château Clerc Milon winery

Château Clerc Milon is a winery in the Pauillac appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here was classified as one of eighteen Cinquièmes Crus in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855.

Mouton Cadet is the brand name of a popular range of modestly priced, generic Bordeaux wines, considered Bordeaux's most successful brand. Created by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Mouton Cadet wine is produced through the assembly of a variety of grapes, from several Bordeaux region appellations.

Second wine Wine produced from a specific part of vineyard and not used in making top wine. They have fewer oak barrels for ageing.

Second wine or second label is a term commonly associated with Bordeaux wine to refer to a second label wine made from cuvee not selected for use in the Grand vin or first label. In some cases a third wine or even fourth wine is also produced. Depending on the house winemaking style, individual plots of a vineyard may be selected, often those of the youngest vines, and fermented separately, with the best performing barrels being chosen for the house's top wine and the other barrels being bottled under a separate label and sold for a lower price than the Grand vin.

Pauillac AOC

Pauillac is a wine growing commune (municipality) and appellation d'origine contrôlée within Haut-Médoc in Bordeaux, centred on the small town of Pauillac. Hugh Johnson has said, "If one had to single out one commune of Bordeaux to head the list, there would be no argument. It would be Pauillac.". Pauillac includes three of the five premier cru châteaux of Bordeaux: Latour, Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild. The wines of Pauillac are often considered the quintessence of Bordeaux wines.

Domaine de Baronarques is a vineyard and winery located in Saint-Polycarpe, in the Aude department of the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It is part of the AOC Limoux. It was purchased by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and her two sons, Philippe Sereys de Rothschild and Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild in December 1998 and has been extensively renovated on a five-year project. Producing their first vintage in 2003.


  1. "France Deprives 15 of Their Citizenship", The New York Times , 7 September 1940, p.5.
  2. "Vichy Frees a Rothschild", The New York Times, 21 April 1941, p.8.

Further reading