Félix François Faure was born in Paris. He started his professional career as a tanner, processing and treating animal skins, usually processing them in order to result in the leather used on the market. Later on, he became a merchant, having his business in at Le Havre, an urban French commune located in the Seine-Maritime department from the Normandy region, northwestern France. Le Havre means “the port”, considering that it was the second largest harbor in France, after the Marseille one.
In that context, Félix Faure had the occasion to become considerably wealthy, an argument that has helped him to be elected in the National Assembly on 21 August 1881. His position was the one of a Left member, being concerned in matters related to navy, economics or railways.
During the following years, Félix Faure had an incredible career. In 1882 he became under-secretary for the colonies (during both Ferry and Tirard’s ministry 1885 – 1888), in 1893 he became vice-president of the chamber. During Charles Dupuy administration, in 1894, Félix Faure took the chair of the Minister of Marine, and in the following year he was elected President of The Republic, after the resignation signed by President Casimir-Perier.
Finding himself in a controlling and privileged position, Faure began to apply some of his ideas or preferences, related to politics and not only. In 1895 he strengthened the convictions for his Left party membership, with the amnesty of the anarchist movements, thus ending the exile of some well known anarchists (Emile Pouget, for example), permitting them the return from England to France.
Another famous Félix Faure’s engagement, was related to the infamous Dreyfus affair, which Faure wanted to list as chose jugée (or adjudicated with no further appeal), this causing a wave of criticism against him, also coming from well regarded pro-Dreyfus personalities, such as Emile Zola or Georges Clemenceau. As is customary, also Félix François Faure was introduced to Freemasonry, being initiated while in Le Havre harbor, more exactly at “L’aménité”, which was a lodge of the Grand Orient de France. This happened on the 25th of October 1865.
Besides all his political and social successes, Félix Faure had few more customs and manners not so suitable for a public person. Félix Faure was very careful with himself, traveling in big style and being very mindful about clothing. He changed his clothes even three times a day, and demanded the invention of a presidential costume, with plenty of details and embroidery. This plan was eventually aborted, considering that most of his entourage was making fun of him.
During 1897, he met Marguerite Steinheil, a French woman well known for her love affairs with famous and important men. She was a famous presence in the Parisian society, having a salon (an organized meeting of people, having as target the exchange of ideas and gossips) frequented by important names like Gounod, Emile Zola, Rene Lalique or Jules Massenet, among many others. Shortly after their meeting, Marguerite Steinheil became Faure’s mistress, even if she was officially presented like some sort of “psychological advisor” for the President. In her memoirs, Marguerite recalls the moments of her secret meetings, which took place almost always in the “blue or silver drawing room”:
“A private detective dispatched by the president would accompany me to the Elysée Palace. I always entered through a little door overlooking the gardens. I crossed the ground floor, and reached the blue drawing room where the president was waiting for our work session.” (Marguerite Steinheil memoirs, quote from RFI – Visiting-france.com)
On February 16th, 1899, Faure’s luck changed suddenly. What appeared to be just another, usual love meeting between Faure and Marguerite Steinheil, turned into a tragedy. On that day, Faure and Marguerite were alone in the drawing room from the Élysée Palace, when a powerful scream was heard. Once arrived into the room, the servants witnessed a macabre scene.
Steinheil was shaking, while President Félix Faure was suffocating on the sofa.
During their sexual encounter, Faure suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, which caused his death in the same evening. Many have argued that Faure’s last seizure happened while Steinheil was fellating him, but there is no clear evidence about that, or regarding the exact nature of their sexual intercourse.
“The president was found with his hand clenched in her hair and the president’s aides hacked her hair with such clumsiness that her skull was cut.” From the valet’s testimony (quote from from RFI – Visiting-france.com)
After Faure’s death, many “jeux de mots” were made after the subject. The jeux de mots, or puns, are a sort of wordplay that exploits multiple meanings of a term or of similar-sounding words for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect.
One of them, was directly related to Marguerite Steinheil, portraying her as “la pompe funèbre”, the wordplay being in French, and can be explained considering that “pompes funèbres” means “death care business” and “pompe funèbre” could be translated, literally, as “funeral pumps”, so a direct hint to the fellatio gossip related to Faure’s death. Also George Clemenceau wrote a special epitaph for Faure: “Il voulait être César, il ne fut que Pompée”, which can be translated as “He wished to be Caesar, but ended being blown”. Another interpretation of the same pun, states “He wished to be Caesar, but ended up as Pompey”. No need to mention that in French language, the verb “pomper” stands for the act of performing oral sex on a man.
After the incident, Marguerite became a “Femme du Monde”, or a frivolous woman. She had numerous love affairs with important and public figures. In February 1908, she became the lover of Borderel, a rich industrialist from the Ardennes. In 1912 she wrote “My Memoirs” and in June 26 1912, she married Robert Brooke Campbell Scarlett, who was the 6th Baron Abinger. She died in a nursing home from Hove, England on 17 July, 1954.
(Article written with references from: Wikipedia, RFI- visiting-france.com)