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Obituary: Baroness Philippine de Rothschild

Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, who has died aged 80 in Paris, pursued a successful acting career before launching herself into the family wine business in a move that would make her one of the wine world's most renowned figures.

The funeral cortege of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild. Image credit: Luc Castel/ Mouton Rothschild

Philippine de Rothschild
spent her childhood in France during the Second World War and was fortunate to escape deportation and death at the hands of the Nazis.

Her mother died at Ravensbruck, a women-only concentration camp north of Berlin, in 1945. Her father had earlier joined General de Gaulle, leader of the Free French, in London.

After the war, Philippine pursued a career in theatre and graduated from the Paris Conservatoire National d’Art Dramatique in 1958. She joined the well-known Comedie-Francaise state theatre.

After a first marriage with the actor and director Jacques Sereys, she married the scholar and writer Jean-Pierre de Beaumarchais. Her three children, Camille, Philippe and Julien were born in 1961, 1963 and 1971 respectively.

It was not until the 1980s that Philippine became more seriously involved with the family wine business. In 1981, she created an international exhibition around Mouton-Rothschild’s tradition of commissioning celebrated artists to design labels for its wines.

After the death of her father, Baron Philippe, in 1988, Philippine and her children inherited the wine business and oversaw a strong period of investment in winemaking facilities and brands.

These included the creation of a premium white wine, Aile d’Argent, and of a Mouton second wine, Le Petit Mouton, as well as the construction of a new Mouton Cadet winery at Saint-Laurent-Médoc and the creation of the Mouton Cadet reserve brand.

Philippine also pioneered the group’s expansion beyond Bordeaux, creating premium Chilean red wine Almaviva and, closer to home, Domaine de Baron’Arques in Languedoc-Roussillon.

By the time of her death in Paris on 22 August, aged 80, Philippine de Rothschild had become an officer in France’s Légion d’Honneur and Arts and Letters honours systems. Officer is one level up from ‘Chevalier’.

Written by Chris Mercer

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