Charlotte Henrietta de Rothschild, November 1996

I had once read about the Duke of Windsor telling the Countess of Romanones that the “English accent” was just a fashion that started at Eton and Harrow at the turn of the [ 20th ] century.  The Duke himself — who was actually a former King of England — spoke with an accent that was… almost American.

What I could not forget about Charlotte de Rothschild, apart from her beautiful singing voice, was that she absolutely did not speak the “hot-potato-in-the-mouth” type of English.  But then, as the Duke of Windsor said, an unaffected English was indeed a mark of the true aristocrats.  If I had not known who she was, I would have thought that she was an oil baroness from Texas.

“Oh yes, Ferrieres [ Fair-yer ] [ the chateau of Baron James de Rothschild near Paris ].  Ah, Marie-Helene.  I once saw her with these big emeralds which she said had belonged to a Romanov Grand Duchess…”

So I finally learned how to correctly pronounce Ferrieres… Fair-yer.  And from a real Rothschild at that!!!

I asked about the famous [ Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres ] portrait of Baroness Betty de Rothschild, which I knew hung at the far end of the ground floor enfilade of Baron Guy de Rothschild’s Hotel Lambert in Paris… “La Belle Betty” was the great grandmother of Baron Guy.

“Oh, the Ingres [ Ahng-guh-ruh ]…  Yes, it’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

So I finally learned how to correctly pronounce Ingres… Ahng-guh-ruh.  And from a real Rothschild at that!!!  I used to pronounce it as Ang-grr.

Years after, I would encounter supposedly cosmopolitan Filipino friends with their own hideously invented ways of pronouncing that artist’s name:  In-gress, Eeng-ger, Ing-gray, In-gress-say…!!!  Oh dear!  I stood pat on my pronunciation:  Ahng-gur-ruh.  After all, could they even begin to argue with a Rothschild???!!!

“My goodness!!!  I traveled thousands of miles and meet a ‘Rothschildphile’!!!”  she exclaimed, surprised by my rather wide knowledge of Rothschildiana.

Ah, I had been fascinated by the Rothschilds for the longest time.  Be they French or English.  For their great wealth and great style.  I knew I shared that fascination with legions of people the world over…

In honor of Charlotte de Rothschild, a large and historically-important, late 19th century dinner service of Paris porcelain, with the cipher “M S” [ Maria Sioco, my Arnedo great great grandmother ] and “Sullipan” [ Sulipan { misspelled }, their estate ], was used.  It was the regal gift of the Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich Romanov of Russia after he had stayed a delightful weekend at my Arnedo great great grandparents’ Pampanga estate in 1891.  The Grand Duke Alexis Alexandrovich was the Supreme Commander of the Russian Imperial Navy;  he was the uncle of the Czar Nicholas II, the brother of the Czar Alexander III, and the son of the Czar Alexander II.  Accompanying the important dinner service were the fin-de-siecle etched Baccarat crystal glasses, the late Victorian sterling silver, and the fin-de-siecle Christofle trays.

“Sergio, you are smoking in front of our national treasure!”  British Ambassador Adrian Thorpe reminded Chilean Ambassador Sergio Silva, who was smoking at the table, three places away from Charlotte de Rothschild.

“I’m sorry.”  Ambassador Silva apologized as hurriedly put out his cigarette.

But she could hardly eat anything from the several courses we had for dinner.  I had made the great diplomatic faux pas of not having prepared a kosher meal for this famous member of “the world’s most vehemently Jewish dynasty” [ Frederic Morton, “The Rothschilds:  Portrait of a Dynasty” ].  I had dutifully inquired with the British embassy and was advised that she had “no specific dietary preferences.”  But I should have known… a Rothschild!!!  While she did not mention anything and simply, elegantly brushed the matter aside, I was concerned.   Oh dear.

After the meat course, she abruptly said:  “I want to sing now.”

In all honesty, I did not expect her to deign to sing.  It would have been very improper of me.  But if she wanted to, then that would be a great privilege!!!

“Oh no, no.  I mean, thank you!  That would be such an honor!  But let’s have dessert first and finish the meal…”

“No, no, you don’t understand.  I want to sing now!  I want to have my dessert… in peace!!!  I have a sweet tooth, you know.”  she smiled.

“Very well, you shall.”  I suddenly remembered that a sweet tooth was a dynastic characteristic of the Rothschilds…

And so she sang most beautifully, accompanied by the uberelegant grande dame Ingrid Sala Santamaria on our old piano…

The elegant guests I had assembled for the evening were completely enthralled by the golden voice of Charlotte de Rothschild … There were the Cojuangco-Murphy heiresses, Isabel Cojuangco-Suntay and Aurora “Rory” Cojuangco-Lagdameo, with her husband “Tito” Lagdameo.  Maria Ana “Jamby” Madrigal, way before she became senator of the Republic and Mme. la Comtesse Dudoignon de Valade.  Makati real estate magnate Antonio “Tony” Rufino and his equally wealthy wife Armita “Mita” Bantug Rufino.  The grand social lion and plantation owner Conrado “Ado” Escudero.  Pampango patrician and antique collector Jose Maria Ricardo “Joey” Panlilio, before his magnum opus of the “Museo De La Salle.”  My sister Rosario, before she became Mrs. Lizares-Padilla.

Of course, also there were the thoroughly cosmopolitan and absolutely wonderful British Ambassador, Adrian Thorpe, and his tres chic and tres soignee Japanese wife, Miyoko.  The Italian Ambassador, Alessandro Serafini, his wife Ingold, and alluring daughter Claudia.  Also the Chilean Ambassador, Sergio Silva, with his wife Alejandra.  Longtime British residents of the Philippines Moya Jackson and her husband.  British businessman Andrew Bell and his beautiful wife Stephanie.   The Thorpes had brought their affluent Japanese lady friend, Kikumi Nakamura, the owner of a hotel chain, who came with her enchanting niece, Sachiko Ebara.

“Tony, you’ve had dessert already!”  I was surprised that Tony Rufino had had dessert already.

“Kanta na kayo ng kanta, eh di kumain na ako!”  [ “You people kept on singing, so I ate already!” ]  Tony quipped.

Hahahah!!!

*unfinished*

8 Comments

  1. Louie Amadine said,

    July 16, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Can I just say, I love your blog. It’s material that I wouldnt find or would be rare to come across in the heritage or historical Filipiniana section of the libraries here. I hope you can come up with a published compilation of these recollections. I especially enjoyed the anecdote on the Romanovs and the China set. I hope you could share more Spanish colonial era tidbits, trivia and whatnot in that sense.

  2. S. Ruehli said,

    October 29, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    His Name was Alessandro Serafini

  3. September 15, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Larry:

    There were several receptions given for Charlotte de Rothschild at that time.

    If I remember right, you attended the Filipino dinner and the lunch by the waterfall the following day given by Tito Ado at the Villa Escudero.

    Cheers!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  4. September 14, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Wasn’t Larry Leviste at that dinner party?

  5. January 17, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Ipe:

    Yes, the Count and Countess of Romanones are famous in international circles. They were good friends of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and of the Baron Guy and Baroness Marie-Helene de Rothschild.

    Toto Gonzalez

  6. Ipe Nazareno said,

    January 17, 2008 at 7:33 am

    Aline, the Countess of Romanones. Beautiful woman who was an American spy during World War II. She was, as I remember, a friend of Madame Imelda Romualdez-Marcos. I had the pleasure of meeting her in Honolulu during one of her visits to Madame IRM post-EDSA.

    Ipe 🙂

  7. December 28, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    myles:

    Yes, my Arnedo great great grandparents, uberrich and sophisticated provincials that they were, entertained [ and were forced to entertain ] all sorts of Spanish colonial, Spanish peninsular, and other European as well as Asian bigwigs. According to historian friends, the Spanish colonial government used to assign the entertainment of VIPs to rich families [ to save on money??? ] both in Manila and in the provinces.

    You’re right, myles. The Russian materials mentioned him as Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich. Alexis was probably the Anglicized form. The Spanish materials mentioned him as “El Gran Duque Alejo de Rusia.” *lolsz!*

    Toto Gonzalez

  8. myles garcia said,

    December 28, 2006 at 6:41 pm

    Toto,

    How exciting!! Your forebears actually entertained an honest-to-goodness Romanov! Not meaning to be picky — OK, it’s a stickler, but I think you meant Grand Duke AlexEI (not Alexis) — making him the namesake of his grand-nephew, the ill-fated Tsarevitch Alexei.

    Myles


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