Helene van Zuylen
- Category : 1863-births
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 4/6 - Opportunistic / Role Model
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Contagion 3
French socialite, authoress, a sporting figure in Parisian life and a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family of France.
Her main creative writing period was from 1902 through 1907 when she collaborated on stories and poems with her lesbian partner Renée Vivien.
Baroness Hélène van Zuylen was one of a trio of French female motoring pioneers of the Belle Epoque. She entered the 1898 Paris–Amsterdam–Paris Trail using the pseudonym Snail, thus becoming the first woman to compete in an international motor race.
An only child, the daughter of Salomon James de Rothschild, she was disinherited by her Jewish father for marrying a Catholic, Baron Etienne van Zuylen of the old Dutch noble family Van Zuylen van Nievelt. Thus, her childhood home, the Hôtel Salomon de Rothschild, was bequeathed to the French government by her mother. Her extensive refurbishments to the van Zuylen ancestral home Kasteel de Haar near Utrecht turned it into one of the foremost Gothic Revival castles in the Netherlands.
On 16 August 1887 Hélène married the Roman Catholic Baron Etienne van Zuylen (1860–1934) of the House of Van Zuylen van Nievelt. They had two sons. Her son Baron Egmont van Zuylen van Nyevelt (1890–1960) was a diplomat and businessman and the father of Parisian socialite Marie-Hélène de Rothschild (born Baroness Marie-Hélène Naila Stephanie Josina van Zuylen van Nyevelt).
In 1902 Zuylen, a lesbian, met British poet Renée Vivien to whom she provided much-needed emotional support and stability. Zuylen's social position did not allow for a public relationship, but she and Vivien often traveled together and continued a discreet affair for a number of years. Vivien's letters to her confidant, the French journalist and Classical scholar Jean Charles-Brun, she considered herself married to the Baroness. She may have published poetry and prose in collaboration with Zuylen under the nom de plume Paule Riversdale. The true attribution of these works is uncertain, however; some scholars believe they were written solely by Vivien. Even certain books published under Zuylen's name may be, in fact, Vivien's work. Most of Vivien's work is dedicated to "H.L.C.B.," the initials of Zuylen's first names.
In 1907 Zuylen abruptly left Vivien for another woman, which quickly fueled gossip within the lesbian coterie of Paris. Neither had been faithful.
Baroness Hélène van Zuylen died in Lisbon, Portugal, on 17 October 1947.