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The Trial of Madame Caillaux

The Trial of Madame Caillaux

Edward Berenson
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    The Trial of Madame Caillaux
    Book Description:

    Edward Berenson recounts the trial of Henriette Caillaux, the wife of a powerful French cabinet minister, who murdered her husband's enemyLe Figaroeditor Gaston Calmette, in March 1914, on the eve of World War I. In analyzing this momentous event, Berenson draws a fascinating portrait of Belle Epoque politics and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91443-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-12)

    On 16 March 1914 at six o’clock in the evening Henriette Caillaux was ushered into the office of Gaston Calmette, editor ofLe Figaro.Calmette’s last visitor, the novelist Paul Bourget, had advised him not to receive her; the impromptu call was strange, to say the least. During the preceding three months Calmette’s conservative newspaper had subjected Henriette’s husband, Joseph Caillaux, a former prime minister and head of the left-leaning Radical party, to a campaign of libel and character assassination that was ignoble even by the decidedly lax standards of the Third Republic. This campaign had reached its low point...

  6. 1 Henriette Caillaux and the Crime of Passion
    (pp. 13-42)

    Madame Caillaux was by her own description a “bourgeoise.” Her parents lived comfortably not far from Paris in the town of Rueil. And she grew up with the expectation of a proper and early marriage. This Henriette Rainouard accomplished at age nineteen when she moved directly from her parents’ home to that of her new husband, Léo Claretie. Twelve years her senior, Claretie wrote forLe Tempsand possessed a modest reputation as a man of letters. The couple had two children, without whom, Henriette claimed, the marriage would not have lasted as long as it did. In 1908, after...

  7. 2 Joseph Caillaux: The Politics of Personality
    (pp. 43-88)

    With the end of Henriette Caillaux’s testimony on the first day her trial took on a new aspect. No longer would it be entirely her affair, no longer would she be in charge of her own defense. Attention now shifted to her husband, Joseph, the former premier and leader of the Radical party who was one of France’s most powerful and controversial political figures. Presenting his testimony on the afternoon of the trial’s second day, Joseph Caillaux seized control of the case, moving it beyond the murder of which his wife was accused. Though Henriette Caillaux’s act remained the object...

  8. 3 Henriette Caillaux: Femininity, Feminism, and the Real Woman
    (pp. 89-132)

    “On 16 March about three in the afternoon a lady walked into Gastinne-Renette . . . ’I am Madame Caillaux and I want to see a revolver.’ ”¹

    So testified Georges Fromentin, whose statement highlighted the trial’s third day in session. Fromentin worked as a salesclerk for Gastinne-Renette, the elite gun shop on the Right Bank where Joseph Caillaux possessed an account. Henriette Caillaux had approached his counter on the afternoon of 16 March explaining that she needed a small weapon for an upcoming automobile trip through the rural region her husband represented in the Chamber. Fromentin gave her a...

  9. 4 Berthe Gueydan: The Politics of Divorce
    (pp. 133-168)

    The fourth session was the one for which everybody had been waiting. Madame Berthe Gueydan would at long last lay her side of the story before a public increasingly avid for the details of Caillaux’s private life. Would the now famouslettres intimesbe revealed? Would Joseph’s two wives relive their rivalry in open court? And who would be the more sympathetic, the more genuinely feminine of the two? Journalists of all stripes intended to comment on these questions, but those on the right would do much more. They would use Gueydan’s tale of abandonment and divorce to castigate Joseph...

  10. 5 Judge Albanel: Masculinity, Honor, and the Duel
    (pp. 169-207)

    By the fifth day of the trial, 24 July 1914, the case of Madame Caillaux had monopolized the news for nearly a week. And though the French public paid little heed, it was a week during which Europe had lurched ominously toward war. As Chenu and Labori made their last-minute preparations for the testimony of the fifth session, Austria and Serbia were already preparing to fight.

    The fixation of press and public on a courtroom drama that focused readers’ attention inward and away from the impending European confrontation did not mean, however, that French men and women had managed to...

  11. 6 Gaston Calmette: The Power and Venality of the Press
    (pp. 208-239)

    It was not until the sixth day of the trial that the famouslettres intimes,at long last, were read to the court. Rumors concerning their contents had been circulating since the assassination of Calmette, and Gueydan, Chenu, and Labori had been arguing over them since the fourth day. Meanwhile, Judge Albanel had made them the centerpiece of an affair of honor that seemed destined to result in a duel. Finally, just before the opening of the sixth session, Chenu and Labori had come to an agreement over which documents to present in open court. Labori would read two of...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 240-248)

    On the eighth day—28 July 1914—the lawyers’ summations began. Charles Chenu rehearsed virtually the whole of the trial, retouching the portrait of Henriette and Joseph Caillaux he had painted throughout. Henriette, he maintained once again, had committed her act calmly, deliberately, and with premeditation, impelled to murder Calmette by a vengeful husband whose political ambitions knew no bounds. “In this marriage,” he declared, “there was an emulation of pride and of anger. Because they both agreed . . . that Calmette had to die, and because Madame shoots as well as Monsieur—and runs less risk for doing...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 249-292)
  14. Index
    (pp. 293-296)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 297-297)