Albert Lemaître, (aka Georges Lemaître[Note 1]), was a French sporting motorist and early racing driver. He was the first petrol powered finisher in what is described as 'the world's first competitive motoring event' when he drove his Peugeot Type 7 from Paris to Rouen at 19 km/h (12 mph) in 1894. The Comte de Dion had finished first but his steam powered vehicle was ineligible for the main prize which was shared between the manufacturers Peugeot and Panhard.
Throughout the 1890s he competed in a range of events and races driving Peugeots, but after their withdrawal from competition in the early 1900s he was contracted to drive Mercedes.
In 1906 in Paris he murdered his wife in a domestic argument after she had filed for divorce. He then fired the third gunshot into his own head. In September 1906 he was acquitted of a crime of passion.
Albert Lemaître was born (circa 1864) in Ay, Marne, a village outside Épernay, where he worked in partnership with his brother as an exporter in the champagne industry. Circa 1901 (1900) he married Miss Lucie Dumény after her first engagement had been broken off for family reasons. After 4 years of happy marriage Lucie had rekindled feelings for her ex-fiancée and in February 1906 she both filed for divorce and moved out of the marital apartment. On 7 May 1906 at the apartment on rue de Miromesnil in Paris he murdered her with two gunshots and then shot himself in the head, she was 28 years old and had no children. Albert Lemaître was taken to the 'Hopital Beaujon' and on hearing the news of her death Lucie's lover also shot himself. In September 1906 Lemaître was acquitted of a crime of passion.[Note 2][Note 3][Note 4]
1894 – Paris to Rouen
On 22 July 1894, Pierre Giffard organised what is considered to be the world's first competitive motoring event from Paris to Rouen to publicise his newspaper, Le Petit Journal.[Note 5] The paper promoted it as a Competition for Horseless Carriages (Concours des Voitures sans Chevaux) that were not dangerous, easy to drive, and cheap during the journey. The 'easy to drive' clause precluded the use of a travelling mechanic or technical assistant, thereby making steam powered vehicles ineligible for the main prize.
Lemaître completed the 50 km (31 mi) qualification event on Friday 20 July, driving from Paris to Mantes-la-Jolie via Bezons, Houilles and Maisons-Laffitte. The 126 km (78 mi) main race from Paris to Rouen started from Porte Maillot and went through the Bois de Boulogne, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Courbevoie, Nanterre, Chatou, Le Pecq, Poissy, Triel-sur-Seine, Vaux-sur-Seine, and Meulan, to Mantes where he held first place with the best time 2 hours 36 minutes when they stopped for lunch from 12:00 until 13:30. Lemaître completed the final 80 kilometre section via Vernon, Eure, Gaillon, Pont-de-l'Arche, to the 'Champ de Mars' at Rouen in 4 hours 15 minutes. Lemaître and his 3 passengers took 6 hours 51 minutes 30 seconds to reach Rouen in his 3 hp Peugeot Type 7, the first petrol powered car to finish, 13 minutes ahead of Auguste Doriot (Peugeot). The fastest vehicle, and the first home, was the steam powered De Dion-Bouton driven by the Comte Jules-Albert de Dion, but was ineligible for the main prize because it needed a stoker, a technical assistant.
On 29–31 January 1897 Lemaître finished second in the 'Marseilles-Nice-La Turbie' race driving a Peugeot. He completed the 240 km (150 mi) event in 8 hours 7 minutes 27 seconds, an average speed of 25.59 km/h (15.90 mph).
On 24 July 1897 he finished 20th in the Paris-Dieppe Trail driving a Peugeot. He completed the 170 km (110 mi) event in 5 hours 27 minutes 46 seconds, an average speed of 31.19 km/h (19.38 mph).
On 14 August 1897 he finished 3rd in the Paris-Trouville Trail, driving a Peugeot. He completed the 173 km (107 mi) event in 4 hours 17 minutes 40 seconds, an average speed of 40.42 km/h (25.12 mph).
1898 – 1899
On 21 August 1898 he finished 3rd in the Bordeaux-Biarritz Trail, driving a Peugeot. He completed the 292 km (181 mi) event in 8 hours 4 minutes at an average speed of 36.19 km/h (22.49 mph).
On 21 March 1899 Lemaître won the Nice-Castellane-Nice race driving a Peugeot. He completed the 120 km (75 mi) in 2 hours 52 minutes 50 seconds, an average speed of 41.87 km/h (26.02 mph). He was driving the latest version of rear engined, two cylinder, (140 mm bore x 190 mm stroke) Peugeot, in which he also achieved a standing start mile in 1 minute 35 seconds.
On 1 September 1899 he finished 3rd in the Paris-Ostende race driving a Peugeot. He completed the 323 km (201 mi) event in 6 hours 32 minutes, an average speed of 49.44 km/h (30.72 mph).
1901 – 1902
On 25 March 1901 he drove a Mercedes in the 392 km (244 mi) Nice-Salon-Nice event, but failed to finish.
On 27–29 June 1901 he finished 28th in the Paris-Berlin Trail (Subsequently named VI Grand Prix de l'A.C.F.) driving a Mercedes. He completed the 1,105 km (687 mi) event in 23 hours 9 minutes 53 seconds, an average speed of 47.73 km/h (29.66 mph).
On 7 April 1902, during Nice week, Lemaître finished second in the 'Nice – La Turbie mountain race driving a 40 hp Mercedes Simplex during its first competitive event. He was competing in the category for racing cars weighing more than 1000 kg.
- Some modern anglophone secondary sources (and myriad derivative internet sites) use the name Georges Lemaître, but the leading contemporary French sources of the 1890s-1900s, motoring magazines and publications La France Automobile and La Vie Automobile consistently refer to him as Albert Lemaître, as do The Great Road Races 1894-1914 by Henry Serrano Villard and Mercedes And Auto Racing In The Belle Epoque, 1895-1915 by Robert Dick.
Albert Lemaître had a brother with whom he worked in the Champagne industry - his name is not currently known.
A Georges Lemaître married into the Mercier champagne family and was also involved in motoring during the 1900s.
- The 'rue Albert Lemaître' in Courcelles, Belgium is associated with the artist Albert Lemaître (1886-1975) who was born in Liège and died in Milhars)
- Le Figaro Paris, 8 May 1906 states:
Le Figaro Paris, 8 May 1906.
General News, Paris.
The Drama of the Rue de Miromesnil
Offline newspaper cutting
Nouvelles Diverses A Paris.
Le Drame de la rue de Miromesnil
An emotional marital drama happened around seven o'clock last night at rue de Miromesnil, in the neighborhood of La Madeleine.
Mr. Albert Lemaître, aged forty-two, has lived for eighteen months with his wife and a domestic servant at the second floor apartment with an annual rent of 2,000 francs. Previously he lived at rue de Pelouze.
Mr Albert Lemaître, whose family is very well known in Reims, was a champagne exporter, but the business was failing, resulting in serious domestic difficulties: for some time Madame Lemaître had been going through a divorce, refusing to continue with the marriage.
During a violent scene last night, [Albert] Lemaître seized a revolver from a desk drawer and fired two shots at his wife who was mortally wounded in the heart.
On hearing shooting the domestique ran in, but Lemaître had already taken the law into his own hands and fired a bullet into his head.
He was transported in 'serious condition' to the Beaujon hospital. The victim's body was attended by her father and mother. Madame Lemaître, who had no children, was twenty-eight years old.
Un drame conjugal, qui a causé une vive émotion dans le quartier de la Madeleine, s'est déroulé hier soir, á sept heures, 61 rue de Miromesnil.
Depuis dix-huit mois, M. Albert Lemaître, âgé de quarante-deux ans, précédemment installé 10 rue Pelouze, était venu habiter avec sa femme et une domestique, un appartement d'un loyer annual de 2,000 francs, situé au deuxième étage de cet immeuble.
M. Albert Lemaître, dont la famille est très connue à Reims, s'occupait de l'exportation des vins de champagne à l'étranger, mais ses affaires n'étaient pas aussi brilliantes qu'il l'eût désiré, et il en était résulté de graves difficultés dans le ménage : depuis quelque temps Mme Lemaître était en instance de divorce et se refusait a continuer la vie commune.
Au cours d'une scène violente, M. Lemaître saissait hier soir un revolver dans le tiroir d'un secrétaire, et en tirait successivement deux coups sur sa femme, qui tombait mortellement atteinte d'une baille dans la région du coeur.
La domestique accourut au bruit des détonations, mais le mari meurtrier avait déjà tenté de se faire justice en sa tirant une balle dans la tête.
Il a été transporté dans un état alarmant à l'hopital Beaujon. Le corps de la victime est veillé par son père et sa mère. Mme Lemaître, qui n'avait pas d'enfant, était âgée de vingt-huit ans.
- Le Figaro Paris, 7 September 1906 states:
Le Figaro Paris, 7 September 1906.
Court Gazette. Court of Assizes of the Seine:
Murderer of his wife.
Offline newspaper cutting
Gazette des Tribunaux. Cour d'assises de la Seine:
Meurtrier de sa femme.
Yesterday the Court of Assizes of the Seine had to judge a homicide case which was, in some respects, the simplest and most dramatic expression of the 'crime of passion'.
The scenario summarised in a few lines: Miss Lucie Dumény had been engaged to her childhood friend Mr Bruyant, but for family reasons had to abandon her plans and marry Albert Lemaître. After four years of very happy marriage, Mrs Lemaître experienced a reawakening of her affections of yesteryear. Thus, despite the pleas from her husband, she sued for divorce to regain her freedom. Mr Lemaître confessed, perhaps exaggerated, that his wife was guilty of having relations with M. Bruyant, and that he killed her with revolver shots. Then he tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide. On hearing of the death of Madame Lemaître her lover killed himself with a revolver.
Yesterday this drama brought Mr Albert Lemaitre to the Court of Assizes of the Seine, on charges of voluntary manslaughter.
Before the Parisian jury Lemaître showed an attitude full of painful adjustment. The lawyer, Mr Dussyanne pleaded eloquently and read a letter that Lemaitre wrote to his wife a few days before the tragedy:
- My dear Lucie
- It has been ten long days since you left me, during which I have suffered martyrdom.
- I come on bended knees to beg you not to forsake me, give a little mercy to one who adores you and thinks constantly of you, night and day.
- I know that you are capable of doing the right thing, I hope that your generosity will not make me endure the suffering in which I am immersed for too long.
- As I said yesterday, I accept in advance all the conditions that you put on me, but what I ask of you is pity for one who dies of grief at being separated from that which is his life.
- I hope that you will not let me execute the fatal project that I have in mind, and if I do then you will grant me, before dying, one last kiss.
- I will carry the memory of being with you, the only purpose of my life.
- Think ahead to the pain that our families feel at this sad end.
- My best kisses .....
- Signed: Albert
When the jury returned a verdict of innocent the audience applauded.
La cour d'assises de la seine a eu à juger, hier, une affaire d'homicide constituant en quelque sorte le crime passionel type dans sa plus simple et plus dramatique expression.
Le scénario, totalement dénué de complications, tient en quelques lignes : fiancée à M. Bruyant, un ami d'enfance, Mlle Lucie Dumény dut, pour des raisons de famille, abandonner ses projets matrimoniaux et épouser M. Albert Lemaître. Après quatre années de mariage fort heureuses, Mme Lemaitre se retrouvait en présence de son ancien fiancé pour lequel elle sentait se réveiller son affection d'antan. Dès lors, la jeune femme songea à intenter un procès en divorce, pour reconquérir sa liberté. Malgré les supplications de son mari, elle mit ce projet à exécution. M. Lemaître, sur l'aveu, peut-être exagéré, que lui fit sa femme de relations coupable avec M. Bruyant, tua cette dernière à coups de revolver. Puis il tenta vainement de se suicider. Quant à l'amant, au récit de la mort de Mme Lemaître, il se tua d'un coup de revolver.
Tel est le drame qui amenait, hier, M. Albert Lemaître devant la Cour d'Assises de la Seine, sous l'accusation d'homicide volontaire.
Devant les jurés parisiens, M. Albert Lemaître a eu une attitude pleine de correction douloureuse.
Son avocat, Me Dussyanne, a, au cours de son éloquente plaidoire, donné lecture de cette lettre éplorée que, quelques jours avant le drame, M. Lemaître avait adressée à sa femme :
- Ma chère Lucie,
- Voila dix longs jours que tu m'as abandonné, durant lesquels j'ai souffert le martyre.
- Je viens te supplier à genoux de ne pas m'abandonner dans la vie et d'accorder un peu de pitié à celui qui t'adore et ne cesse de penser à toi nuit et jour.
- Te connaissant capable d'un bon mouvement, j'espère que ta générosité ne me fera pas endurer trop longtemps les souffrances dans lesquelles je suis plongé, en t'ayant près de moi.
- Comme je te l'ai dit hier, j'accepte d'avance toutes les conditions que tu m'imposeras, mais ce que j'implore de toi c'est de la pitié pour celui qui meurt de chagrin d'être séparé de celle qui est toute sa vie.
- J'espére que tu ne me laisseras pas mettre à exécution le funeste projet que j'ai en tête, et si, par malheur, j'en arrivais là, tu m'accorderas, avant de mourir, un dernier baiser.
- J'emporterai de toi le souvenir de l'être qui aura été pour moi le seul but de la vie.
- Réfléchis bien, à la douleur que nos deux familles ressentiront à cette triste fin.
- Reçois les meilleurs baisers de celui qui va bientôt s'éteindre en pensant à celle qu'il adore.
- Signé : Albert
Sur un verdict négatif du jury, la Cour a, aux applaudissements de l'auditoire, acquitté M. Albert Lemaître.
- A previous motoring event had been held in 1887 but received only a single entrant. Georges Bouton and his passenger the Comte Jules-Albert de Dion had completed the 2 mile drive from the Bois de Boulogne to Porte Maillot in a steam powered vehicle of their own manufacture, the genesis of the De Dion-Bouton.
- Forix, Autosport, 8W – Welcome to Who? What? Where? When? Why? on the World Wide Web. The cradle of motorsport by Rémi Paolozzi, May 28, 2003
- Le Petit Journal, 7 September 1906, Court Reports - Crime of Passion
- Newspaper cuttings - Le Figaro Paris, 8 May 1906 - Nouvelles Diverses - À Paris. Le Drame de la rue de Miromesnil. Le Figaro, Paris, 7 September 1906 - Gazette des Tribunaux Cour d'assises de la Seine : Meurtrier de sa Femme; :(see Notes)
- (Google Books) Mercedes And Auto Racing In The Belle Epoque, 1895-1915 by Robert Dick.
- TNF - Lemaitre and Giraud. Doug Nye - By 1897 'La France Automobile' listed him as Albert Lemaitre of Ay (Marne)
- TeamDan Motoring database, 1897 French results
- TeamDan Motoring database, 1898 French results
- TeamDan Motoring database, 1899 French results
- Grand Prix Winners 1895-1949 by Hans Etzrodt
- Hill Climb Winners 1897-1949 by Hans Etzrodt
- TeamDan Motoring database, 1901 French results
- Nice Week, 1902. George Lemaître and Mercedes Simplex
- (Google Books) Mercedes And Auto Racing In The Belle Epoque, 1895-1915 by Robert Dick.
- Gallica, Online Archive, Le Petit Journal Index
- Gallica, Online Archive, Le Petit Journal 7 September 1903 – Court Reports (Les Tribunaux)