Félix Faure

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Félix Faure
President Félix Faure.jpg
Photograph by Nadar, c. 1895-99
President of France
In office
17 January 1895 – 16 February 1899
Prime MinisterCharles Dupuy
Alexandre Ribot
Léon Bourgeois
Jules Méline
Henri Brisson
Preceded byJean Casimir-Perier
Succeeded byÉmile Loubet
Personal details
Félix François Faure

30 January 1841
10th arrondissement of Paris, France
Died16 February 1899 (aged 58)
Élysée Palace, Paris, France
Cause of deathStroke
Resting placePère Lachaise Cemetery, Paris
Political partyModerate Republicans

Félix François Faure (French pronunciation: ​[feliks fʁɑ̃swa fɔʁ]; 30 January 1841 – 16 February 1899) was the President of France from 1895 until his death in 1899. A native of Paris, he worked as a tanner in his younger years. Faure became a member of the Chamber of Deputies for Seine-Inférieure in 1881. He rose to prominence in national politics up until unexpectedly assuming the presidency, during which time France's relations with Russia improved. Writer Émile Zola's famous J'Accuse…! open letter was written to Faure in L'Aurore in 1898 in the course of the Dreyfus affair. Faure's state funeral at Notre-Dame Cathedral on 23 February 1899 was the scene of an attempted coup d'état led by French nationalist poet Paul Déroulède, who was later exiled to Spain.


Félix François Faure was born in Paris, the son of a maker of small furniture pieces Jean-Marie Faure (1809–1889) and his first wife, Rose Cuissard (1819–1852).

Having started as a tanner and merchant at Le Havre, Faure acquired considerable wealth, was elected to the National Assembly on 21 August 1881, and took his seat as a member of the Left, interesting himself chiefly in matters concerning economics, railways and the navy. In November 1882, he became under-secretary for the colonies in Ferry's ministry, and retained that post till 1885. He held the same post in Tirard's ministry in 1888, and in 1893 was made vice-president of the chamber.[1]

In 1894, he obtained cabinet rank as minister of marine in the administration of Charles Dupuy. In the following January, he was unexpectedly elected President of the Republic upon the resignation of President Casimir-Perier. The principal cause of his elevation was the determination of the various sections of the moderate republican party to exclude Henri Brisson, who had had a plurality of votes on the first ballot, but had failed to obtain an absolute majority. To accomplish this end, it was necessary to unite the party, and such unity could be secured only by the nomination of someone who offended no one. Faure answered this description exactly.[1]

He granted amnesty to the anarchist movements in 1895, enabling the return from exile in England of several famous anarchists, such as Émile Pouget.

Félix Faure's grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery

In 1898 (and for the first few years of the following century), the French automobile industry was the largest in the world. President Faure was not impressed. Invited to address industry leaders at what, in retrospect, is recorded as the first Paris Motor Show, Faure told his audience, "Your cars are very ugly and they smell very bad" ("Vos voitures sont bien laides et sentent bien mauvais !").[2]

His fine presence and his tact on ceremonial occasions rendered the state some service when he received the Tsar at Paris in 1896, and in 1897 returned his visit, after which meeting the Franco-Russian Alliance was publicly announced again. The latter days of Faure's presidency were consumed by the Dreyfus affair, which he was determined to regard as chose jugée (Latin: res judicata, "adjudicated with no further appeal").[1] This drew against him the criticism of pro-Dreyfus intellectuals and politicians, such as Émile Zola and Georges Clemenceau.


Félix Faure was initiated in Le Havre, at "L'aménité", a lodge of Grand Orient de France, on 25 October 1865.[3][4]


Faure's death, as illustrated by Le Petit Journal.

In 1897, Faure met Marguerite Steinheil, who became his mistress.[citation needed] Faure died suddenly at the age of 58 from apoplexy in the Élysée Palace on 16 February 1899,[citation needed] while engaged in sexual activities in his office with the then 30-year-old Marguerite Steinheil.[citation needed] It has been reported[weasel words] that Felix Faure had his fatal seizure while Steinheil was performing oral sex on him,[citation needed] but the exact nature of their sexual activities is unknown and such reports may have stemmed from various jeux de mots (puns) made up afterward by his political opponents.[citation needed]

One such pun was to nickname Madame Steinheil la pompe funèbre.[5] Georges Clemenceau's epitaph of Faure, in the same trend, was "Il voulait être César, il ne fut que Pompée";[This quote needs a citation][6] Clemenceau, who was also editor of the newspaper L'Aurore, wrote that "upon entering the void, he [Faure] must have felt at home".[7] After his death, some alleged extracts from his private journals, dealing with French policy, were published in the Paris press.[1]

In popular culture[edit]

The French barque President Felix Faure, named for the President, was involved in a 1908 case of shipwreck at the Antipodes Islands, south of New Zealand, the survivors being stranded for sixty days before being rescued.[8]

Faure's liaison with Marguerite Steinheil was the subject of the film The President's Mistress (2009) broadcast on Eurochannel, with Cristiana Reali in Steinheil's role,[9] and was referenced in the opening episode of the television series, Paris Police 1900 (2021), with Évelyne Brochu as Steinheil.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Chisholm 1911.
  2. ^ Museum label at the French National Motor Museum for the 1901 Renault Phaeton Type D. (A year after making the pronouncement Faure was dead. "L'automobile" lives on.)
  3. ^ Dictionnaire de la Franc-Maçonnerie (Daniel Ligou, Presses Universitaires de France, 2006)
  4. ^ Encyclopédie de la Franc-Maçonnerie (ed. Livre de Poche, 2000)
  5. ^ This is wordplay in French: pompes funèbres means "funeral home" and pompe funèbre could be translated,[according to whom?][original research?] literally, as "deadly blow job".[citation needed]
  6. ^ This is wordplay in French;[according to whom?] the expression could mean either "he wished to be Caesar, but only ended up as Pompey", or "he wished to be Caesar and ended up being blown".[citation needed][original research?] The verb pomper in French is also slang for performing oral sex.[citation needed]
  7. ^ "Alfred DREYFUS, 1906 Dreyfus réhabilité : Félix Faure (1841–1899)". Dreyfus.culture.fr. 30 April 2007. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Castaways rescued". Evening Post. New Zealand. 16 May 1908. p. 6.
  9. ^ "Presentation of The President's Mistress on Eurochannel". Eurochannel.com. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  10. ^ Reeb, Lucie (8 February 2021). "Paris Police 1900: que vaut la nouvelle série historique de Canal+ se déroulant à la Belle Epoque ?". AlloCiné (in French). Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  11. ^ Harrison, Phil (9 October 2021). "TV tonight: a classy, raunchy new French thriller". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2021.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Minister of the Navy
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of France
Succeeded by
Regnal titles
Preceded by Co-Prince of Andorra
Served alongside:
Salvador Casañas i Pagés
Succeeded by