The Women Of Rothschild

Natalie Livingstone                                                                          John Murray £25


Many times have been written about the Rothschild family, which is a wealthy and renowned family. However, the focus has always been on the men. 

Nathans, Lionels, Carls and Lionels ran hugely successful banks bearing their names. But they also played a key role behind the scenes, as generous philanthropists who donated millions to charity and wise counsellors to prime ministers and presidents regarding the merits of international peace.

What about the women? Natalie Livingstone tells us in her riveting family story that the Rothschild wives were even more exceptional than their fathers, brother and husbands. 

The women of the later Rothschild generations were equally feisty. Miriam (above) went on to become a code-breaker at Bletchley and a leading entomologist

Women of the Rothschild generation were just as feisty. Miriam (above), was a Bletchley codebreaker and leading entomologist.

While the banking clan may be enlightened in certain aspects, it is deeply patriarchal. The firm did not allow any female relatives to join the ranks. They were forced to follow their dreams and be creative to achieve fulfillment.

Blanche Fitzroy accepted the proposal of Sir Coutts Lindsay, a bohemian Scottish soldier and artist. 

Together they set up the avant-garde Grosvenor Gallery in 1870 as an alternative to the stuffier Royal Academy and championed the ‘modern’ art of painters such as Whistler.

Blanche also knew what she thought about marriage. Blanche fled with her two daughters and refused to leave Coutts’ mistresses. 

Her Rothschild relatives were made up of several prominent barristers, who helped to preserve her dowry. They also left the greedy Coutts in worse shape than when they first saw her.

The single life she lived was her making. Edward Burne Jones invited her to open her first studio at his home. He was a leading artist of that time. She was also an author of poetry.

Equally feisty were the women from later Rothschild families. Miriam was born in the early 20th century and went on to be a Bletchley code-breaker and an entomologist.

Miriam, a bisexual, was not afraid to testify to moral matters to the Wolfenden Committee. This committee eventually made homosexuality illegal in the 1960s. 

Then there was Miriam’s sister Nica, who ditched her aristocratic husband to go to live in America, where she became a patroness, and possibly lover, of leading jazz musicians including Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker. 

Nica’s Rothschild relatives disinherited ‘Baroness Be-bop’, as she was known, but it bothered her not a jot.  

Her New York residence was transformed into a space where musicians could gather and do drugs. She then drove the band to gigs in her old Bentley.

However, no amount of larky stories can change the prejudices that the Rothschilds had to face. 

The rise of antisemitism led to many murders. Several of the women in this book played a key part in helping families escape from Hitler’s Holocaust. Some of the women in this book helped establish Israel later. 

Livingstone weaves these threads seamlessly with consummate skill. It is both exciting and moving. 


Deep Fakes: You Can’t Trust Anyone

Michael Grothaus                                                     Hodder & Stoughton £18.99


Many people were fond of face-swapping in the early days, when smartphones weren’t as common.

The rapid advancement of technology and the viral frenzy of the internet have made an apparently harmless activity more dangerous. They are now capable of spreading maligning misinformation through the vast reach of social media. 

Is it possible to trust the things you see? It’s a troubling thought.

Emma Watson is the most deepfaked celebrity in the world, closely followed by Scarlett Johansson (above)

Emma Watson is closely followed by Scarlett Johansson (above).

Deepfakes are fake videos, created using the power of artificial intelligence, in which a person in an existing image or video is replaced with someone else’s likeness, fooling people into believing that what they are seeing is authentic. 

It is easy to access and use the technology, making it difficult for a plaintiff to sue a deepfaker.

Like many Internet trends, it started with pornography. 

The internet has made fake celebrity porn a whole subculture. Emma Watson (334 videos available) is the most sexy celebrity, closely followed Scarlett Johansson. 

There are many opportunities for criminal and political exploitation if anyone can say or do whatever you want. 

Already, deepfake AI has been successful in enabling audio impersonation and voice synthesis. This is a tool that can be used to financial extortion.

Michael Grothaus has written a readable, thought-provoking, if slightly repetitive warning from the internet’s underbelly. 

The celebrity-porn aspect of deepfaking is what he overfocuses. He doesn’t mention the many positive applications of the technology, such as allowing individuals with eating disorders the ability to view photos of their bodies in healthier settings. However, he interview several shady people and poses interesting questions.

The results are not pleasant for him, so he even orders a fake of himself as a criminal and one in which his dad is brought back.

Take care and don’t be alarmed

Simon Humphreys