Lesseps, Ferdinand, vicomte de

BORN 19 Nov 1805, Versailles, Yvelines - DIED 7 Dec 1894, Guilly, Indre: Château de La Chesnaye
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Père Lachaise, Rue du Repos 16 (division 06, ligne 01, W, 30)

Ferdinand de Lesseps was the son of the diplomat Mathieu de Lesseps (1774-1832), who was enobled by Napoleon I. His mother Catherine de Grévigné (1774-1853) was half Spanish and an aunt of the mother of empress Eugénie. He grew up in Italy and France. Fom 1825 to 1827 he was assistant vice-consul in Lisbon and in 1828 he obtained the same position in tunis under his father. In 1832 he became vice-consul at Alexandria. At that time he read a book about a failed attempt to create a Suez Canal during the reign of Napoleon I.

He 1833 he became consul in Cairo and soon afterwards he was transferred to Alexandria where he managet the consulate until 1837. In 1837 he returned to Francem where he married Agathe Delamalle (1819-1853). They had five sons. In 1839 he was appointed consul in Rotterdam and in 1840 in Málaga/ In 1842 he went to Barcelona where he became consul general. From 1848 to 1849 he served in Madrid. In 1849 he was sent to Rome for negotiations to enable Pope Pius IX to return to the Vatican, but he was recalled by the new foreign minister Alexis de Tocqueville who disagreed with his line of action.

He retired from the public service and after Abbas I of Egypt was called he contacted his successor Said Pasha. He went to Egypt and Said Pasha signed a concession that allowed him to build the Suez Channel. It was constructed between 1859 and 1869 and officialy opened on 17 November 1869. On 25 November 1869 he married his second wife, the young Louise-Hélène Autard de Bragard (1848-1909). They had twelve children between 1870 and 1885.

In 1879 he was appointed president of the Panama Canal Company. After raising funding, work started in 1882 but the difficulties of the wet tropical climated were too much and in 1888 the company went bankrupt and the work was stopped. On 28 October 1886 he spoke at the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty in the presence of president Cleveland. He died in 1894.

Related persons
• was a friend of Sarter, Stephan von

25/4/1859The construction of the Suez Canal is started 
1/2/1881The construction of the Panama Canal is started. It was managed by Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had also designed the Suez Canal. But this attempt failed after the Panama Canal Company went bankrupt in 1888. Only in 1914 the Canal would be completed. 
28/10/1886Dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty in New York. Ferdinand de Lesseps was the first to make a speech, followed by Senator William M. Evarts. President Cleveland spoke as well. Bartholdi, who had constructed the statue, declined to speak and the last speech was a long one by Chauncey M. Depew. [Bartholdi, Auguste]


The grave of Ferdinand de Lesseps at Père Lachaise, Paris.
Picture by Androom (02 Nov 2018)


Winkler Prins Encyclopedie (editie 1909), 1909
Ferdinand de Lesseps - Wikipedia

Lessing, Gotthold Ephraïm

Published: 11 Apr 2021
Last update: 10 Apr 2023