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President Raymond Poincaré (Third Republic, France)

Last modified: 2018-07-07 by ivan sache
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Raymond Poincaré's standard - Image by Željko Heimer, 27 September 2004

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Biography of Raymond Poincaré

Raymond Poincaré (1860-1934), cousin of the famous mathematician Henri Poincaré (1854-1912), was elected General Councillor and then Representative for the department of Meuse (Lorraine) in 1887. Due to his authority and his competence, he was appointed three times Minister (Finance, 1893 and 1894; State Education, 1895) before reaching the age of 40, which was fairly unusual at his time.
Ambitious but careful, Poincaré refused to take party on issues that violently divided France, such as the Dreyfus affair and anti)clericalism. Accordingly, he was estimated by all parties. He became a famous lawyer in Paris and the model of the patriot from Lorraine, which was then partially (Moselle) incorporated to Germany with Alsace.
Poincaré refused the Presidency of the Council in 1899 and was elected in the Senate in 1903, where he stayed until 1913. He was elected at the Académie Française in 1906.
In January 1912, Poincaré was appointed President of the Council by President Fallières. He succeded Caillaux, who acknowledged his admiration for Poincaré's culture, knowledge and work skills. While Caillaux was a pacifist, Poincaré promoted firmness against Germany, keeping for himself the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He strengthened the Entente Cordiale with Britain and the Franco-Russian alliance.

On 17 January 1913, Poincaré was elected President of the Republic by the Congress; he immediatly attempted to increase the power of the President. Poincaré was one of the partisans of the extension of the duration of the conscription from two to three years.
In 1914, the leftist parties won the general election and Poincaré appointed the socialist Viviani as the President of the Council. In July, during an official visit in Russia, Poincaré was informed of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia. He came back to France where he set up the Union Sacrée (Holy Union) of all parties to support the war against Germany, and was nicknamed Poincaré la Guerre. However, all the benefit of the 1918 victory was received by Poincaré's old enemy, Georges Clémenceau (1841-1929), nicknamed Père la Victoire.
In 1920, Poincaré refused to apply for a second President's mandate in order to come back to the active political life. He was elected Senator for the department of Meuse and was appointed President of the Commission for War Reparations, from which he rapidly resigned because he found the Commission too favourable to Germany. President of the Commission of the Foreign Affairs at the Senate, he caused in 1921 the defeat of Aristide Briand's government, found too weak with Germany during the conference on reparations hold in Cannes.
Poincaré was again President of the Council from January 1922 to June 1924, claiming to defend "the integral application of the treaty of Versailles". In January 1923, he ordered the military occupation of the Ruhr district, causing international reprobation. In 1924, Poincaré was defeated by the Cartel des Gauches but he came back to power in July 1926, leading a national union government, without the Socialists. He won triumphally the general election 1928 and devaluated the franc the same year. By the monetary law from 25 June 1928, the new franc, nicknamed franc Poincaré had 1/5th of its 1914 value. Poincaré resigned in July 1929 because of health problems and wrote his memoirs, entitled Au service de la France.

Ivan Sache, 1 October 2004

Flag of Raymond Poincaré

The emblem placed by Raymond Poincaré in the middle of the white stripe of his personal flag is made of his initials RP in gold, as shown by National Geographic (1917) [gmc17].

Željko Heimer, 30 September 2001