Baroness Philippine Mathilde Camille de Rothschild, a onetime actress (she starred in the Paris stage production of Harold and Maude) and only daughter of Baron Philippe de Rothschild, proprietor of the famed Château Mouton-Rothschild, died of leukemia late Friday night in Paris at the age of 80. She had been hospitalized since the beginning of the summer.
Born in Paris, she lived through the German occupation of France, seeing her mother — who was Catholic — arrested by the Gestapo when she was 10 years old (she died in the Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany). When she was 25, she graduated from the Conservatoire National d'Art Dramatique, and went on to a successful acting career under the name Philippine Pascale.
In the late 1970s, she joined her father's wine business, and when he died in 1988, she took control of the celebrated Château Mouton and two other Bordeaux properties, Château Clerc-Milon and Château d'Armailhac. Becoming chairwoman of Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A., she proved to be a natural, almost doubling sales of the company's wines in ten years' time and overseeing Rothschild partnerships and enterprises around the world — including Opus One in the Napa Valley and Viña Almaviva in Chile, as well as other French wineries.
Rothschild was not the only prominent woman in the Bordeaux wine business — Château Margaux, another venerable estate, is under the direction of Corinne Mentzelopoulos, for instance, and until 2006, the highly rated Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande was under the direction of May Eliane de Lencquesaing — but Rothschild was considered in a class by herself. Known for her energy, wit, and style, she was frequently described with words like "radiant" and "luminous." She commanded any room she entered. "This astonishing woman," wrote Le Figaro in reporting her passing, "was simultaneously an artist and a captain of industry."