February 16, 2008

February 16 | Félix Faure

January 30, 1841 - February 16, 1899: Age 58

Félix Faure was President of the French Republic at the time of the Dreyfus affair, but is today probably best known for the manner of his death. He was receiving oral sex at the time from his lover, Mme. Marguerite Steinheil. One day Faure telephoned her to ask her to the palace at the end of the afternoon. Shortly after her arrival the servants found the president lying, unconscious, on the couch, while Marguerite was adjusting her clothing. The president died several hours later; the cause of death was stroke.

The rumour was that "his stiff hands were entangled in her hair", and the jokes started immediately: he died of "trop sacrifié à Vénus". Steinheil acquired the nickname "Pompe Funèbre", and a famous journalist quipped that "Il voulait être César, il ne fut que Pompée". The puns work in French, trust me.

Her career as a woman of the world blossomed, and she became the mistress of many famous men. In 1908 she was the subject of a mysterious scandal when her stepmother and husband were found murdered in their apartment, Steinheil herself being gagged and tied to the bed. She claimed that they had been attacked by black-robed strangers, but the police were made very suspicious by many inconsistencies in the evidence and in her story. When she attempted to frame one of her servants, she herself was arrested and had a sensational trial. Many prominent admirers spoke in her favour, including even the King of Cambodia. In the end, she was acquitted, although the judge called her stories "tissues of lies".

She remarried, moved to England, and wrote her memoirs. She died in 1954, an old lady of 85.

Source: Wikipedia (English), Wikipedia (French)

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