The jailbirds of Saint-Lazare – France Today | EUROtoday

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Who have been the infamous girls prisoners of Cell 12 on the well-known Paris jail?

There was a time when a lot of Paris's deadly Woman would finally share the identical deal with: Cell 12 on the Saint-Lazare – Prison for ladies. One was Marguerite Steinheil, notorious for her affair with the French Prime Minister Félix Faure, who in 1899 died in workplace – actually, collapsing from apoplexy mid-tryst with Steinheil atop the presidential desk. Her infamy rose once more in 1908 when she was charged with murdering her mom and husband.

In 1914, socialite Henriette Caillaux murdered the editor of Le Figaro. Her crime was doubly stunning since she was the second spouse of former French Prime Minister Joseph Caillaux. With a gun hidden beneath her furs, she shot the journalist level clean for publishing early love letters the couple had despatched one another whereas nonetheless married to different individuals.

© Henri Manuel/Wikimedia Commons

The unique dancer Mata Hari was tasked by the French within the First World War to seduce Germany's Crown Prince Wilhelm for army secrets and techniques. But earlier than lengthy, she was in Saint-Lazare, accused of passing on confidences from French army officers to the German administration.

These scandals piqued the morbid curiosity that Parisians had for the jail, positioned within the metropolis's tenth borough the place Boulevard Magenta and Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis meet (you may nonetheless see the stays of the jail chapel in Square Alban-Satragne). The jail was certainly horrible. Cold, damp, filthy and fetid, the black partitions have been festooned with spiders and vermin.

Adding to the tragic groans of the helpless prisoners have been the hysterical screams of newcomers as scores of rats emerged at nightfall.

Reserved for elite prisoners, Cell 12 housed first-time offenders awaiting trial, whose incarceration was marginally much less merciless than that of the opposite inmates. In a room lit by two brief candles, all correspondence was pollised by hovering nuns who spied on sleeping prisoners through overhead hatches. Small meals rations introduced from the skin served to taunt the opposite inmates who relentlessly pebble-dashed their home windows, intimating to the wealthy women of Cell 12 that small items of sugar and chocolate wouldn’t go pals.

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60 years in jail

Marguerite Steinheil was acquitted of homicide, though the choose at her sensational trial thought her tales have been a “tissue of lies”. Meanwhile, “uncontrollable female emotions” have been cited as the explanation behind Henriette Caillaux's surprising acquittal. Mata Hari was not as fortunate. Her final days have been spent in a dirty jail frock, writing letters of attraction. At her execution by firing squad in 1917, she turned to the nun escorting her and mentioned: “May I ask you to say a short prayer for me each day?” Sister Léonide, who repeatedly options within the memoirs of those high-profile prisoners, vowed: “I have never failed to do so.”

Thousands of ladies handed via Saint-Lazare; widespread criminals, political prisoners, anarchists. But the girl who spent longest behind these infamous jail partitions was the harmless Sister Léonide, spending greater than 60 years there.

From France Today Magazine

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Lead photograph credit score: © Guilhem Vellut/Wikimedia Commons

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Who Were the Jailbirds of Saint-Lazare?