Historical records matching Dame Esther Louise Rantzen, DBE
About Dame Esther Louise Rantzen, DBE
Esther Louise Rantzen, CBE (born 22 June 1940) is an English journalist and television presenter, who is best known for presenting the BBC television series That's Life!, and for her work in various charitable causes. She is founder of the child protection charity ChildLine and is currently in the process of creating a helpline for older people, to be called The Silver Line, designed to combat loneliness.
Rantzen was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England, to Katherine Flora (née Leverson, 1911–2005) and Henry Barnato Rantzen (1902–1992). Rantzen has one younger sister, Priscilla N. Taylor (née Rantzen). She was educated at the North London Collegiate School and Somerville College, Oxford, where she read English, performed with the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS), became Secretary of The Experimental Theatre Club (ETC) and joined the Oxford Theatre Group, performing in Oxford and Edinburgh.
Rantzen was the subject of an episode of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? broadcast on 3 September 2008. Her paternal line was traced back, as far as the 1760s, to an established Jewish neighbourhood in Warsaw. Tracing Rantzen's forebears was greatly helped by the rarity of the surname "Rantzen" (even in Warsaw) and the survival of records in Warsaw. In the late 1850s, her great-great-grandfather emigrated to England and settled, as a cap-maker, in Spitalfields, a slum district of London's East End. Rantzen's great-grandfather moved to a more comfortable neighbourhood with the help of his brother-in-law, Barney Barnato (born Barnett Isaacs), who had become extremely wealthy as a diamond merchant in South Africa. Her father's middle name was Barnato.
Barnato died relatively young in unusual circumstances, being lost at sea, but left a generous legacy to his sister Sarah (née Isaacs) Rantzen. In the BBC programme Rantzen professed her gratitude for the comfortable upbringing she had enjoyed in Hampstead but also, having visited the site of the family home in the Jewish quarter of Warsaw later destroyed by the Nazis after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, she was moved by "survivor guilt".
On her wealthy maternal side Rantzen's great-grandfather, Montague Richard Leverson, at the age of 18 accidentally fatally shot the parlour maid Priscilla Fitzpatrick at the family home in fashionable Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London. Later, in his 30s and working as a solicitor, Montague disappeared after a warrant was issued for his arrest for fraud, fleeing to Paris and abandoning Rantzen's great-grandmother. They divorced in 1876 but he then moved to the USA. After his wife died, he later returned to England, in his 80s, took back his nationality, and married again at the age of 82. Montague Leverson was the maternal grandfather of British composer Gerald Finzi. Rantzen is also related to Ada Leverson, the novelist who wrote "The Sphinx" and who contributed to the Yellow Book (a quarterly literary periodical). Leverson was a friend of Oscar Wilde and Ada Leverson is portrayed in the film by Zoe Wanamaker.