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Mathilde Sophie Henriette de Rothschild (née de Weisweiller) (1874-1926)

Mathilde de Weisweiller daughter of the financier Georges de Weisweiller was a friend of Jeanne de Rothschild, Baroness Leonino (1874-1929), the younger sister of Henri de Rothschild (1872-1947). To his mother's astonishment, Henri married Mathilde in May 1895. They became a glamorous feature of Parisian life, a world in which Mathilde was particularly at her ease. Known as the 'queen of good taste' she divided her time between high society and her charitable interests. A woman of her time, she practised hunting with hounds and pioneered the new sport of motor racing, founding the Women's Automobile Club in Paris with her friend, the Duchesss of Uzès. The couple had three children, James, Nadine and Philippe, although in later years they lived quite separate lives.

Support for medicine

Mathilde's husband Henri played a minor role in the fortunes of the Paris bank, but his real interest lay in medicine; he became a medical practitioner specialising in infant medicine and nutrition. Mathilde took a keen interest in her husband's philanthropic medical institutions and translated studies by Polish neurosurgeons into German. In 1894, Henri built a hospital in the rue Marcadet in Paris, with 100 beds, the first stage of the creation of what was to become a large philanthropic Foundation.

During the First World War Mathilde worked as a nurse at the hospital treating war wounded, alongside her mother-in-law, Thérèse , for which she received the Legion d'Honneur. She later wrote about her experience in a memoir published as Les Ailes Blanches sur la Croix-Rouge. The Foundation was renamed in 1929, after a thorough reconstruction, as the Mathilde-Henri de Rothschild Foundation in memory of Mathilde.

Mathilde died at Bagnères-de-Luchon in 1926. Her obituary surpisingly revealed her collection of Vanitas art, now in the Museum of Decorative Arts, Paris.