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President Félix Faure (Third Republic, France)

Last modified: 2018-06-27 by ivan sache
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Félix Faure's standard - Image by Željko Heimer, 27 September 2004

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Biography of Félix Faure

On 17 January 1895, the Congress (Deputees and Senators) gathered in Versailles to elect the new President. Félix Faure was elected in the second round among several candidates, including Brisson, Dupuy and Waldeck-Rousseau, and was rapidly nicknamed Président-soleil ("President-sun") or Félix le Bel ("Felix the Handsome") because he enjoyed splendor and garish festivities.
Faure warmly encouraged colonialism. On 30 September 1895, Antananarivo was seized by the French troops and Madagascar was annexed on 6 August 1896. In September 1898, almamy Samory, who had constituted a powerful empire in upper Côte-d'Ivoire, was captured and France annexed all the lands bordering the Niger river. In order to fight against British expansion in Africa, the French government approved the proposal of Commandant Marchand to link Dakar (Senegal) to Djibouti. The Marchand mission reached Fachoda, in the upper valley of Nile, on 10 July 1898 and hoisted the French Tricolore on the ruined fort of the village. In early September sirdar Kitchener reached Fachoda with 20,000 men and hoisted the Egyptian flag on the fort. On 3 November, Marchand was ordered to evacuate Fachoda. In March 1899, France signed a convention by which all its claims on Sudan were withdrawn.
Faure established strong links with Russia. Tsar Nicolas II officially visited Paris in October 1896, being the first important foreign sovereign to visit France since the 1870 disaster. In August 1897, Faure officially visited St. Petersburg and called Russia and France deux nations amies et alliées ("two friend and allied nations").
The infamous Dreyfus case tainted Faure's presidency. Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer, was allegedly accusated of spying for Germany. After a forged trial, he was sentenced to demotion and deportation to Devil's Island, off the coast of French Guyana. The Dreyfus case motivated a major clash in France between the Dreyfusards and the Anti-Dreyfusards. Evidence of the forgery accumulated and more and more people asked for the revision of the trial and the rehabilitation of Dreyfus. Félix Faure, who was opposed to the trial revision, died on 16 February 1899.

Faure is today more famous for his death than for his political career. He died in the palace of Elysée during a tryst with his friend Madame Steinheil. A famous story tells that a chambermaid screamed: Le Président n'a plus sa connaissance and was answered by another one Elle est partie par l'escalier de service. The pun is based on the double sense of connaissance, meaning both "acquaintance" and "consciousness". Therefore, the first maid meant to say "The President has no longer his consciousness". The second maid understood "The President's acquaintance is no longer here", and answered "She left by the backstairs".
Faure's funerals were also tragi-comic. During the ceremony, the ultra-nationalist Déroulède attempted a coup and tried to march on the Palace of Elysée with his fellows of the Patriotic League. The coup aborted and Déroulède was arrested.

Ivan Sache, 9 July 2001

Flag of Félix Faure

The flag used by Président Félix Faure is kept in the private archive HCC (Habillement, Couchage, Casernement - Outfit, Bedding, Barracks) of the Direction du Commissariat de la Marine (Direction of the Admiralty Board) in Toulon.
The golden cypher in the middle of the white stripe is a nice combination of two mirrorred "F" letters placed in saltire. The resulting "X" pattern is not coincidental and probably refers to the "X" of Félix.
Félix Faure had more than one monogram. On 6 October 1896, he offered a dinner to the Emperor and the Empress of Russia during their official visit to France. On the cover of the menu of the dinner, Faure's monogram is much more complicated in its ornementations than the very geometrical, rectilinear monogram applied in the middle of the President's flag.

Ivan Sache & Armand du Payrat, 9 July 2001