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Cathleen (Kitty) von Rothschild (nee Wolff) (1885-1946)

Cathleen 'Kitty', Baroness Eugène von Rothschild was born in Philadelphia in 1885, the daughter of Dr. Lawrence Wolff and Mary Olivia Wolff. On 28 April 1925 she married Baron Eugène von Rothschild (1884-1976). Eugène was Kitty's third husband; she was the ex-wife of Dandridge Spotswood and Graf Erwin Ferdinand Karl Rochus von Schönborn-Buchheim. Kitty had one son by her first husband. The marriage to Eugène was happy, but childless. Between the wars the Viennese Rothschild family entertained on a grand scale at Enzesfeldt, although Eugène and Kitty spent most of their time in Paris. 

The Rothschilds and the Duke & Duchess of Windsor

Kitty was acquainted with Wallis Simpson and the American interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe (Lady Mendl), and it was on the latter's recommendation that Baron and Baroness von Rothschild had the ex-King, HRH the Duke of Windsor to stay at Schloss Enzesfeld when he left England, having signed the Instrument of Abdication on 10 December 1936. It was to prove a difficult three-month visit: the Duke was a demanding guest, and he had to remain apart from Wallis Simpson until there was no danger of compromising the granting of a decree absolute in her divorce proceedings. The Windsors were reunited at the Château de Candé, Monts, France, in May 1937, where they were married a month later.

Life in the United States after the Second World War

During the Second World War, properties of the Viennese Rothschilds, including Enzesfeldt were confiscated by the Nazis. The Viennese business of the Rothschilds was seized, and Eugène and other members of the family had to pay a substantial ransom for the release of his brother Louis von Rothschild (1882-1955) from imprisonment by the Gestapo in Vienna. Eugène and Kitty sought refuge in the United States. Through Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul-general in Bordeaux, they secured safe passage, Eugène arriving on the Yankee Clipper on 3 August 1940. Kitty followed him, arriving by the same method on 4 October 1940. Settling on Long Island, the couple took up a quiet residence at 'Still House' in Locust Valley, Nassau County, New York. The house had been designed by Bradley Delehanty c.1928 for the prominent Manhattan lawyer Paul D Cravath. During the 1920s and 1930s, Long Island became the summertime playground of the rich, famous and politically powerful, During and after the War, the glamour of the area faded as it became difficult to staff the enormous mansions. However for the Austrian born Eugène it provided a safe refuge from the turmoil of war-torn Europe, and also provided a haven for Kitty’s guests, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the Duke had been coming to the North Shore area since the early 1920s for the polo matches).

Kitty created an elegant home in the Georgian Colonial style, which was described ‘Old World Charm Meets Modern Living’. The property originally occupied an estate of 37 acres, and the house was shaded by towering oaks, elms, beeches and pines, with lawns, fruit trees and rhododendrons. The house was elegantly proportioned with a whitewashed brick facade, with ivy and wisteria. Oriented around a large central hall with a graceful spiral stairway, there were six reception rooms on the first floor. Almost all opened to terraces, commanding delightful views. In the large living room, three immense Palladian windows overlooked a terrace and the distant countryside. A wrought-iron stairway led to a balcony in the huge, magnificently panelled double height library, with panelling rumoured to have been salvaged from the Cunard liner, the first Mauretania. On the second floor were five large bedrooms, and a sun-deck. The property included servants’ bedrooms, together with many outbuildings including a laundry and garages.

Kitty died at 'Still House' from a cerebral haemorrhage in October 1946; bereft, Eugène was said to visit her grave at the end of the garden daily. in 1952, he marride the former fashion model and actress Jeanne Stuart (1908-2003).

See also Eugène von Rothschild »