Who is the Rothschild family

SZ: You converted to Judaism for your husband. Was that the condition for him to marry you?

de Rothschild: That sounds so negative. I became a Jew voluntarily, not because he asked for it. But to better understand its roots and to be accepted in the Jewish community. I also did it for our son Benjamin to avoid one day asking me: You are Catholic, Papa is Jewish and what am I? After all, his name is Rothschild, which is a symbol of Judaism.

SZ: What was it like to live with a Rothschild?

de Rothschild: Chic and turbulent, we were always traveling. Today New York, tomorrow Paris, Israel, Australia or Malibu. Suddenly I was the mistress of 14 houses and had staff. Everything had to be flawless. Believe me, I worked harder than ever. Everything had to be perfect for my demanding husband. Edmond called in the morning and said: We're expecting 20 guests in the evening. I can't say: I don't have time. Hostess, this has become my new job.

SZ: It sounds more like a corset. Did you get sculpted easily?

de Rothschild: It was by no means easy. He had all these flaws, but for me they were qualities: Because he was my husband. You have to be able to lie. I always said to my husband: the two of us are not the same. You are the master. Still, I secretly did what I wanted. However, not by carrying it like a sign in front of me or knocking on the table: I want equality! But meek and friendly. Honestly, would you like to spend your life with a poor monsieur?

SZ: You don't choose where love falls!

de Rothschild: If, in a good situation, your fiancé suddenly becomes unemployed, then of course you will stay with him. I would do that too. But I wouldn't look systematically for someone like that who didn't get anywhere. Perhaps it was no coincidence that I always came across rich heirs. I stand by that. And our marriage lasts almost 40 years.

SZ: Have you never missed your old existence, your job?

de Rothschild: When you live with someone, you have to make concessions. Just like at work with your boss. You can't ask for everything. Life with a man is a compromise. Maria Callas, Romy Schneider, Jane Fonda ... These women had great loves, but they were unhappy.

SZ: Did you know each other?

de Rothschild: I met Romy Schneider often, we took cures together in Brittany. She had a wonderful job and was famous. But the men left. Romy had very high demands on love and demanded everything from a man. She was uncompromising. Who wants to be Monsieur Schneider? Her lovers wanted the woman, not the whole profession. What good is her fame to a woman if she has no man by her side?

SZ: Very few get everything.

de Rothschild: I've been a rich man's wife and I've never made the same mistakes again. This is called experience. I was fortunate to meet some of the most powerful men in the world. Ben Gurion, Shimon Peres, the French Presidents de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou. What great moments. I chatted with them over tea about love, their doubts and sensitivities. Politics is not my area.

SZ: Are you a personality today?

de Rothschild: It's about succeeding in life. I learned Hebrew and was even president of the Zionist Women's Congress for a while. I took care of foundations with my husband and worked on the reconciliation of Palestinians and Israelis, especially in the health sector. That's a couple of tons of water on the huge stone. But I'm not as powerful as Hillary Clinton. This woman is an event. Fantastic how she behaved towards her husband during the affair. I would have done the same.

SZ: You have been teaching at a behavior school in Geneva for a year: Are you breeding a future elite?

de Rothschild: I was never elite. Everyone can learn good manners, how to behave at the table, which roses to give to their fiancée and how they can make up according to their type. It's not very expensive either. What I want to train here is an elite in their heads, not those with a diploma. Elite has nothing to do with money, but with intelligence. Something like that doesn't come about in a day, it's the experience of years.

SZ: What did your son inherit from you?

de Rothschild: Benjamin is now 44 years old and the father of four girls. He took over his father's banks and businesses and even multiplied his fortune. He generously supports universities, hospitals, foundations - and lives in seclusion at our Pregny Castle, near Geneva. He eschews the public, dislikes advertising and the media, and certainly not mundane life. He definitely didn't get that from me! For that, my humor.

SZ: Do you know the younger generation of the Rothschilds?

de Rothschild: This family only meets on sad occasions, in good times we avoid each other. I know someone like David de Rothschild from England wants to change the world. He is enormously committed to climate protection because the money allows him to do something for the globe. He and the others are deeply rooted in the tradition of all Rothschilds, it is not for nothing that they are considered philanthropists.

SZ: Some of the family's grandees, like the glamorous banker Guy de Rothschild, have recently died. Do you fear death?

de Rothschild: The old guy enjoyed life, he organized legendary costume balls à la Proust and left for New York in the early 1980s when Mitterrand nationalized his banks. I think everything is wonderful on this earth. So it has to be a lot nicer up there. You know how to live, but you don't know how to die. I don't think about death and enjoy the now. I'm just a pathological optimist.

SZ: And where in the world are you at home?

de Rothschild: I live on the plane. And I'm still looking for myself ... Sometimes I feel lonely and want someone who follows me everywhere, into the most subtle spheres of my life. Just like I accompanied my husband.

SZ: Bon courage.

de Rothschild: Merci. . . I would like to take you under my wing!

SZ: What would you change?

de Rothschild: You'd really have to want it. I sense that you are resisting becoming a different guy because you think it's old fashioned. But it's pointless.

Nadine Lhopitalier's life is a modern Cinderella story. Born in a poor suburb of Paris, she got by with odd jobs at an early age, became the model of a glamorous painter and managed to become a starlet. Between 1952 and 1962 she played various theater and film roles under the pseudonym Nadine Tallier. In 1963 she married one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Europe: Baron Edmond de Rothschild.As a baroness, she plays the role of her life. Nadine de Rothschild converted to Judaism, campaigned for the preservation of Israel and temporarily headed the Wizo, the international Zionist organization for women. She throws lavish parties, sets up castles, operates a huge network of contacts - which she still maintains. After the death of their husband, their son Benjamin took over the business; he now lives with his family at Pregny Castle, near Geneva. A year ago the baroness founded the Nadine de Rothschild Academy. This year her new book was published in France: "The men of my life" (Albin Michel publishing house).

© SZ from December 29/30, 2007/aho