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|President of France|
17 January 1895 - 16 February 1899
Félix François Faure
30 January 1841
|Died||16 February 1899 (aged 58)|
|Political party||Moderate Republicans|
Félix François Faure (30 January 1841 - 16 February 1899) was President of France from 1895 until his death in 1899. Faure was Parisian-born and after working as a tanner in his younger years he became a member of the National Assembly. He became more prominent in French politics up until unexpectedly becoming president, during which time France's relations with Russia improved.
Félix François Faure was born in Paris, the son of the small furniture maker Jean-Marie Faure (1809-1889) and his first wife Rose Cuissard (1819-1852). Having started as a tanner and merchant at Le Havre, he 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 the post till 1885. He held the same post in Tirard's ministry in 1888, and in 1893 was made vice-president of the chamber.
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 unity could only be secured by the nomination of someone who offended no one. Faure answered perfectly to this description.
In 1897 he met Marguerite Steinheil, who subsequently became his mistress. This scandalous high-profile liaison has been the subject of works of fiction such as The President's Mistress, aired on Eurochannel, with Cristiana Reali in Steinheil's role.
His fine presence and his tact on ceremonial occasions rendered the state some service when in 1896 he received the Tsar at Paris, 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"). This drew against him the criticism of pro-Dreyfus intellectuals and politicians, such as Émile Zola and Georges Clemenceau.
It has been widely reported that Felix Faure had his fatal seizure while Steinheil was fellating him, but the exact nature of their sexual intercourse is unknown and such reports may have stemmed from various jeux de mots (puns) made up afterward by his political opponents. One such pun was to nickname Mme Steinheil "la pompe funèbre" (wordplay in French: "pompes funèbres" means "death care business" and "pompe funèbre" could be translated, literally, as "funeral pump"). George Clemenceau's epitaph of Faure, in the same trend, was "Il voulait être César, il ne fut que Pompée" (another wordplay in French; could mean both "he wished to be Caesar, but ended up as Pompey", or "he wished to be Caesar and ended up being blown": the verb "pomper" in French is also slang for performing oral sex); Clemenceau, who was also editor of the newspaper L'Aurore, wrote that "upon entering the void, he [Faure] must have felt at home". After his death, some alleged extracts from his private journals, dealing with French policy, were published in the Paris press.
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!")
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.