Updated on 5:29pm Thursday 4th September 2014 in News
LADY Berlin, former golfer and wife of philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, has died aged 99.
She and her husband were two of Oxford’s great socialites, keeping a home together in Headington House, in Old High Street, for some four decades from 1956.
Lady Berlin was instrumental in the early development of Wolfson College, of which her husband was founding president.
The two had first become close through their work together on his essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox, which she had helped translate into French.
Aline Elisabeth Yvonne de Gunzbourg was born on January 4, 1915 in London, where her family had fled after leaving Paris during the First World War.
She was the youngest of Baron Pierre de Gunzbourg’s four children and grew up speaking English and French in the upper echelons of French Jewry.
At seven she took up golf at the Saint-Cloud Golf Club, at Garches, a sport that would become a major pursuit. She played during holidays in North Berwick, Scotland, and in 1932 came second in the English girls’ championship at Stoke Poges. By 1934 she had won the French Ladies’ Closed Championship and in 1937 she also reached the final at Saint-Cloud.
She married her first husband, Andre Strauss, in October 1934 and had her first son, Michel, in 1936. But as the Second World War approached, Mr Strauss was diagnosed with cancer and he died in 1939. Lady Berlin eventually managed to leave her Normandy home, escaping via Lisbon to New York in 1941.
In 1943 she met Hans Halban, a nuclear physicist and after a few years in Montreal they moved to Oxford in 1946, where he took a post with the university. The couple had two sons, Peter and Philippe. Lady Berlin purchased Headington House in 1953, where Isaiah Berlin was a regular guest. He married her in Hampstead Synagogue on February 7, 1956 after she had separated from her husband.
Sir Isaiah and Lady Berlin brought up her children in Headington House and Sir Isaiah lived with her there until his death. She remained until 2005.
They kept a wide circle of friends and were great lovers of the arts, spending much of the year watching concerts, operas and attending other music events.
Lady Berlin died in her apartment in Albany on August 25. She is survived by three sons, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her funeral was in Wolvercote last Thursday, where she was buried alongside her late husband.