BORN 28 Feb 1820, Münf, Switzerland - DIED 3 Jan 1858, Cannet, Alpes-Maritimes (near Cannes)
BIRTH NAME Félix, Élisabeth Rachel
CAUSE OF DEATH tuberculosis
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 07, ligne 02 à droite en entrant, numéro 53)

Élisabeth Rachel Félix was the illegitimate daughter of the Jewish merchant Jacob Félix (1796-1872) and Esther Thérèse Hayer (1798-1843). She debuted as an actress at the Gymnase in Paris on 24 April 1837. Her combination of talent and beauty enabled her to become an international celebrity. In 1843 her appearance as Phedre was a huge success. The tragedy "Judith" (1843) was written especially for her.

She mostly played honourable women, but in her private life she was the mistress of Alfred de Musset and Alexandre Walewski. In 1846 she became the mistress of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the future emperor Napoleon III. This lasted until he fell asleep during a railway voyage to Birmingham. When he woke he fond her making love with his nephew Napoléon (known as Plon-Plon). He pretended to be still asleep and the next day he returned to London. In 1847 she was Cleopatra in the tragedy of the same name by Delphine Day. In 1858 she died in Cannes of tuberculosis, aged only 37.

Related persons
• was painted by Amaury-Duval, Eugène-Emmanuel
• was the lover of Arago, Emmanuel
• was the lover of Bischoffsheim, Raphaël
• was rival of Chéri, Rose
• was sculpted by Clésinger, Auguste
• was painted by Etty, William
• is brother/sister of Félix, Dinah
• has a connection with Gay, Delphine
• was the lover of Morny, Charles Auguste Louis Joseph, Duc de
• was the lover of Musset, Alfred de
• was the lover of Napoleon III Bonaparte
• was pupil of Samson, Joseph Isidore

24/4/1837Rachel debuts at the Gymnase in Paris. She performed under the name Rachel in the play "La Vendéenne" by Paul Duport. In October 1836 she had started her acting education at the Conservatory in Paris. After the Gymnase offered her a yearly salary of 3,000 francs she aborted her education. 
1/5/1838Rachel ends her contract with the Gymnase. She was contracted the year before, but she wanted to finish her theatrical education first. 
12/8/1838Debut of Rachel at the Théatre Français. She played the part of Camille in the play "Horaces". The critics paid no attention to her debut. She had left the Gymnase theatre because she wanted to continue her acting education, but soon afterwards she had accepted an attractive offer from the Théatre Français. 
10/9/1838Jules Janin praises Mlle Rachel in the Journal des Debats. He was the first well known theatre critic who praised her publically and this immeditely made her name well known. 
21/1/1843Rachel debuts as Phèdre. It was one of the most difficult parts at the French stage at the time. Her performance was a huge succes and her annual income increased from 4,000 francs to 80,000 francs afterwards. 
24/4/1843Premiere of "Judith" with Rachel playing the title part. The tragedy was written especially for her by Delphine Gay. [Gay, Delphine]
13/11/1847Rachel debuts as Cleopatra. She played the title part in the tragedy that was written by Delphine Gay. [Gay, Delphine]
11/1/1858Rachel is buried at Père Lachaise in Paris. She had died on 3 January 1858 in Cannes of tuberculosis. Her funeral was pompous and it was attended by many people. 


Painting of Mlle Rachel by William Etty at the York Art Gallery, York.
Picture by Androom (19 Aug 2015)


The mausoleum of Rachel at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (02 Nov 2018)


• Bierman, John, Napoleon III and his Carnival Empire, Sphere Books, London, 1990
• Hoefer [Dr], Nouvelle Biographie Universelle, Firmin Didot Frères, Paris, 1866


Published: 13 Nov 2018
Last update: 06 Nov 2022