The Princesse de Parme’s mother “not merely related to all the royal families of Europe but furthermore—in contrast to the ducal house of
Remember that if God has caused you to be born on the steps of a throne you ought not to make that as reason for looking down upon those whom Divine Providence has willed (wherefore his name be praised) that you should be superior by birth and fortune. On the contrary, you must be kind to the lowly. Your ancestors were Princes of Cleves and Juliers from the year 647; God in his bounty has decreed that you should hold practically all the shares in the Suez Canal and three times as many Royal Dutch as Edmond de Rothschild; your pedigree in a direct line has been established by genealogists from the year 63 of the Christian era; you have as two sisters-in-law two empresses. Therefore never seem in your speech to be recalling these great privileges, not that they are precarious (for nothing can alter the antiquity of blood, while the world will always need oil), but because it is unnecessary to point out that you are better born than other people or that your investments are all gilt-edged, since everyone knows these facts already. Be helpful to the needy. Give to all those whom the bounty of heaven has been graciously pleased to put beneath you as much as you can give them without forfeiting your rank, that is to say help in the form of money, even your personal service b y their sickbeds, but of course never any invitations to your soirées, which would do them no possible good and, by diminishing your prestige, would reduce the efficacy of your benevolent activities.
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past,
Vol. II 445 (Scott-Moncrief/Kilmartin trans. 1981)
“She’s a very kind woman,” said the Duc de Guermantes of the Princesse de Parme, “and she knows how to play the grande dame better than anyone.
Fn.: Edmond de Rotschild may have held some Royal Dutch (=the oil company?), but in Rothschild circles, he seems to have been a bit player. Niall Ferguson, their great biographer, says that there is evidence of general decay among the Rotschild clan at the end of the 19th Century. Of the Parisian branch, he says, "Alphonse remained a formidable force in French finance until his death in 1905, assisted by his younger brother Gustave, but ... Edmond played only a minor role in the business." See Ferguson, The House of Rothschild: The World's Banker, 1849-1999 220 (1998). Not that Marcel's friends would have cared: the Prince de Guermantes allowed a wing of his chateau to be burnt down rather than ask the Rothschilds for help. See Proust, id. II, 604.