This Week in History: 1909 The Red Widow is acquitted of murder in Paris


Marguerite Steinheil was one of the most famous women in France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much to her chagrin.

Steinheil was implicated in two great scandals, the death of French president Felix Faure in 1899 and the murder of her husband and mother in 1908. The press gave her a nickname, the Red Widow.

Steinheil was supposedly having sex with Fauve when he had a cerebral hemorrhage and died on Feb. 16, 1899. But any connection between the two was kept out of the press until her husband and grandmother were murdered on May 30, 1908.

Then the rumours ran wild.

“All the amateur detectives of Paris are advancing fantastic theories to account for the strangling to death of Adolph Steinheil and Madame Japy, his mother-in-law, in Steinheil’s studio last Sunday morning,” reported the Vancouver World on June 2, 1908.

Marguerite Steinheil was in the house with her husband and mother when they were murdered. But the assailant or assailants bound and gagged Marguerite instead of killing her, which led police to suspect she was in on the crime.

She also changed her story. At first she said she had been attacked by one man, a day later she said there had been four attackers, and that one of them was a woman.

The cops charged her with murder, and it became front-page news around the globe after news emerged of her liaison with the dead president.

“It was rumoured today that evidence had come to light that Mme. Steinheil’s hair was caught in the death grip of President Faure,” the World reported on Dec. 4, “and that the doctors who were summoned at the time of his death worked for hours in an effort to loosen his fingers rather than cut the woman’s hair.”

Some people thought Faure had been poisoned. France was in …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

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