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Liliane Elisabeth Victoire de Rothschild (née Fould-Springer) (1916-2003)

Liliane, Baroness Elie de Rothschild (née Fould-Springer) (1916-2003) was born on 11 May 1916, the youngest of the four children of Baron Eugène Fould-Springer, descendant of Napoleon III's Finance Minister Achille Fould and a member of the European banking house Fould Oppenheim. Her mother Mitzi was only daughter and heiress of Baron Gustav Springer, the Austro-Hungarian industrial magnate. She grew up in the abbey-palace of Royaumont, Asnière-sur-Oise.

Marriage to Elie de Rothschild

Liliane married her childhood friend Elie de Rothschild (1917-2007) by proxy in 1942. With the outbreak of  war, Elie and his brother Alain had gone to serve with their cavalry regiment, the Anciens 11èmes Cuirassiers. After German forces invaded France in May 1940 the brothers were captured near the Belgian frontier. Elie was sent to a German PoW camp near Nienburg from which, after an unsuccessful escape attempt, he was sent to Colditz. Subsequently he was moved again, to a camp at Lübeck, where he was reunited with Alain. During his internment, Elie wrote to his childhood sweetheart, Liliane Fould-Springer, proposing that they be married by proxy; she accepted. The groom took his vows at Colditz in October 1941; the bride took hers in the town hall at Cannes, in Vichy France, in April 1942 - sitting beside an empty chair with a photograph of Elie in front of her. Elie and Liliane went on to have a son and wo daughters, Nathaniel, Nelly and Elisabeth.

The style of Liliane de Rothschild

Liliane was fascinated by the Palace of Versailles and amassed collections dedicated to famous women of France; in 1955 she acted as general secretariat for an exhibition at Versailles dedicated to Marie Antoinette. Liliane had a good eye for pictures and a flair for design. When, in 1967, the old premises of the family bank in Paris, de Rothschild Frères, at 19 rue Laffitte, were demolished to make way for a modern building, it was she, in collaboration with Michel Boyer, who supervised the interior decoration.

She was also a guiding light in the decoration of the hotels and restaurants established by the French Rothschilds' enterprise PLM (an acronym deriving from two Rothschild railway companies which were merged in 1857, the Paris-Lyons and the Lyons-Méditerranée), of which Baron Elie was president. An example was the 812-room Hôtel Saint-Jacques, which opened in Paris in 1972.

When, in the late 1950s, she and her husband moved into 11 rue Masseran, a Paris hotel built for Prince Masserano by Brongniart in 1785, Liliane de Rothschild decorated its interiors with a most effective mixture of Rothschild portraits and objets d'art, French furniture by the greatest 18th-century cabinetmakers, Old Master paintings and the 20th-century works of art that she and Baron Elie collected.

Possessed of dry wit, Liliane is said to have had a favourite line with dinner guests at Château Lafite-Rothschild, (the family wine business which her husband Elie owned jointly with his brother Alain, his cousin Guy and their Anglophile cousin Jimmy de Rothschild): "I do hope you like the wine. It's home-made"

See also Elie Robert de Rothschild »