Famous Men Who Were With Their Mistresses When They Died

According to The Washington Post, one of the things that make humans stand out in the animal kingdom is their "pair bonding" ability. Essentially, this means human brains are hardwired to pick someone to be their special someone and then have them and hold them until death do them part. While pair bonding is not a unique skill, it's definitely not the norm in nature.

Of course, that doesn't mean humans are incapable of leaving their special someone at home while they go out and get their jollies with a different human.

In other words, people cheat. Men and women and everyone in between. Always have, always will. One other thing that is constant? People die. And sometimes, just sometimes, you get a person, let's say a famous man who seems happily married to the outside world, who combines the two things into one big, juicy scandal. Here are some famous men who were with their mistresses when they died.

French President Félix Faure

Félix Faure was president of France from 1895-1899, per Britannica, a term which notably included the controversial Dreyfus Affair. However, his time in office was cut short when he died suddenly in salacious circumstances. His mistress, the married socialite Marguerite Steinheil, was with him at the Place Elysée when he suffered a stroke – allegedly while in the middle of a sex act. In 1913, The Theosophic Messenger reported as if it was common knowledge that Steinheil had given her much older lover (he was 58 to her 29) an aphrodisiac in wine, and that after "drinking, he loved and died."

In her memoirs, Steinheil admitted that she had been with Faure when he began feeling unwell but insisted that she had left the presidential palace hours before he died. However, she might have had good reason to separate herself from his time of death, considering she also records that within a day she was receiving death threats, and that newspapers were insinuating she'd poisoned Faure.

Amazingly, being accused of having sexual relations with the president of France as he died would not be the most scandalous event in Steinheil's life. According to DePaul University, in 1908, her husband and stepmother were strangled, and Steinheil was found tied up in the same house. She was tried for their murders, and even though she tried to frame someone else, she was found not guilty due to lack of evidence. Still, her connection with more infamous deaths brought back up the rumors she had killed Faure.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

The affair between Franklin Roosevelt and Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd was a betrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt on multiple levels, according to PBS. Lucy met Franklin through Eleanor when the latter hired her as her social secretary. Four years later, per the National Parks Service, Eleanor discovered her husband and her employee were having a relationship behind her back when she was unpacking his suitcase and found love letters from Lucy.

One of the most famous marriages in U.S. political history almost ended right then. Eleanor was not going to stand for the affair, and since Franklin wasn't going to risk his political career or his inheritance (his wealthy and controlling mother was also furious about the illicit relationship), he ended things with Lucy.

The two really did go their separate ways for decades, with Lucy marrying and having children while FDR went on to the presidency. But when Lucy was widowed in 1944, the former lovers got back in touch. Since he had promised Eleanor never to see Lucy again way back in 1918, Franklin kept this reunion quiet. However, the affair couldn't be hidden from everyone in his life, considering he was the president of the United States at the time, and his liaisons with Lucy were arranged by none other than Franklin and Eleanor's daughter Anna. Their final meeting was at the Roosevelt's holiday home in Georgia in 1945, and she was there when FDR collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage, fleeing the house before Eleanor arrived later that night.

Benito Mussolini

Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini's mistress Claretta Petacci was not only there when he died, but she famously died right alongside him – executed by a firing squad.

Petacci was literally a child when Mussolini came to power in 1922. Der Spiegel reports she first became his mistress when she was around 19 or 20 years old but would not be his main sidechick until a few years later in 1936. While this came with plenty of perks, including housing and bodyguards, Petacci also knew she was far from the only woman in Mussolini's life. Obviously, there was his wife, Rachele, the mother of his five children. But Petacci also knew that her powerful boyfriend was a sex addict who, according to one of Mussolini's servants, had "a woman brought to him every day, every afternoon." And himself Mussolini told Petacci, "There was a time when I had 14 women and took three or four them every evening, one after the other." According to what she wrote in her diary, he was shocked she didn't believe he was being faithful to her.

But Petacci would stay faithful to him, all the way to the violent end. In 1945, with the war going badly for the Axis powers, Mussolini and his mistress tried to flee to neutral Switzerland, according to History. However, they were caught, lined up against a wall together, and shot — their bodies hung gruesomely from lampposts in Milan, where a contemporary report from UPI records they were kicked and spat on by thousands of Italians.

Nelson Rockefeller

Being the grandson of the richest American ever was one of the less interesting things about Nelson Rockefeller, which is saying something. According to Britannica, Rockefeller had the kind of privileged life you'd expect from someone who came from that much money, along with having family connections and a famous last name. He went to an Ivy League school, then worked for a bank, a family company, and an oil conglomerate, before finally entering politics – as a Republican, of course.

Rockefeller's political career was a mix of extreme highs and the lowest lows. He was governor of New York from 1959-1973 (winning reelection four times) and U.S. vice president under Gerald Ford. However, he ran for president three times and never even got the Republican nomination. In New York, he spearheaded the expansion of the State University system – but he was also responsible for the disastrous response to the Attica Prison Riots.

Rockefeller's death in 1979 was no less confusing than his political life. As The New York Times reported, the first story released by his people was that he'd died while at his office, working alone with just a security guard. However, soon they released a second story: He'd actually been in his home office with a guard and a chauffeur. The official story then changed a third time: The 70-year-old Rockefeller had been with a 31-year-old woman named Ruth Marshack in his townhouse late at night when he had a heart attack, and no one called 911 for an hour. The public drew the obvious conclusion.

Edward VII

While virtually all kings of England had mistresses at one time or another, Edward VII's love life, both during the many decades he was Prince of Wales as he waited for his mother Queen Victoria to die and during his eventual nine years on the throne, was exceptional.

During his later years, he seems to have slowed down a bit, and his main mistress for the last decade of his life was a woman named Alice Keppel, according to "Mrs. Keppel: Mistress to the King." The two spent so much time together that she considered herself more important to him than his wife. The book "Edward VII: The Prince of Wales and the Women he Loved" records that the two shared many hobbies like hunting and gossiping about their rich and powerful friends. She was also discreet, and it helped a lot that her husband didn't make a fuss about his wife's infidelity with the sovereign. A servant who wrote down some of the conversations she heard between Keppel and Edward recorded that she was constantly making the king laugh.

One person who did not find the affair enjoyable was Edward's wife, Queen Alexandra. By 1910, it was obvious the king was seriously unwell. In preparation for the worst, he'd given his mistress a letter that all but forced Alexandra to let Keppel come see him if he was dying. When the time came, Alexandra relented, but the second Edward lost consciousness, she ordered a courtier to "get that woman out of here."

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee was a glass-ceiling-breaking actor, but whatever more he might have achieved in his career was left for people to speculate when his life was cut short in 1973, aged 32.

Lee was in Hong Kong on business, according to "Bruce Lee: A Life." In the middle of the day, Lee went to the apartment of actor Betty Ting Pei for a "nooner." Pei would later admit to the South China Morning Post that the two had been having an affair for a year. Lee died suddenly at Pei's house, after getting a headache, taking a pill, and lying down. But the immediate issue was covering up the fact he was with his mistress when he died. There is evidence his body was at least partially redressed and there may have been attempts to move it from her house before paramedics were called. The official announcement of his death claimed Lee had been at home with his wife Linda when he died.

Even though what exactly happened to Lee remains unclear decades later, as of 2008, Pei was not willing to go into details, saying, "He died very suddenly. I hope people can understand that this was an unfortunate incident that was not because of anyone." However, in a 1983 interview, she did make it clear that whatever else happened, they were not in the middle of having sex when he died (via SCMP) – although in 2013 she would admit they did have sex sometime that day (via "Bruce Lee: A Life").

Pope John XII

There were several centuries when the papacy was better known for sex and corruption than guiding the religious education of its flock, but even then, John XII stands out for how icky he was. "But perhaps," one historian is quoted as saying in "The Lives of the Popes in the Early Middle Ages," "the errors of John XII, however scandalous, were not greater than might have been expected ... from the natural struggle of impulse and passion against the unnatural struggle of a rank forcibly imposed in the absence of every qualification."

John XII was either in his late teens or early 20s when he became pope thanks to his powerful father. John then proceeded to use his new money and position to get his freak on. In 963, the Catholic Encyclopedia records that 50 bishops got together to accuse the pope of crimes including "sacrilege, simony, perjury, murder, adultery, and incest." That would be an astonishing list of charges against anyone, let alone the head of a major religion. John refused to show up in person and told them if they tried to replace him as pope their eternal souls would be in big trouble.

The bishop's problems ended, however, shortly thereafter when John died. The contemporary historian Liutprand of Cremona wrote that John was on vacation with his mistress when "he was so struck by the devil on the temples that he died within eight days," which is usually interpreted either as a stroke or his being hit in the head by the woman's husband.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Despite his drive to succeed and obvious genius with words, F. Scott Fitzgerald – who went by Scott – faced more than enough tragedy for one person in his too-short life.

Britannica records that before he ever published a novel he had already flunked out of Princeton and been dumped by his first love. When the U.S. entered WWI, Scott joined the Army, and when stationed in Alabama he met his future wife. After a few good years and one daughter, things started to go badly wrong. Scott abused alcohol and Zelda had two mental breakdowns until she was institutionalized permanently. Scott's writing suffered during this period.

In 1937, while he was still married to the very much alive, if hospitalized, Zelda, Scott took up with a journalist named Sheilah Graham. She was his mistress until his death three years later, although as she wrote in one of her memoirs about her time with Scott, she did not accept this title: "When people ... referred to me as his mistress ... I felt humiliated and exposed. ... 'You were not his mistress,' Edmund Wilson assured me when I told him of my distress. 'You were his second wife.'" In an earlier book, Graham described being there when Scott died. The two were having a quiet day together in her home when he suddenly jumped up from his chair and collapsed. Once she realized it was serious, Graham ran for help. She wrote that reports they were having sex when he died upset her greatly.

Errol Flynn

A 1985 Los Angeles Times article declared, tongue firmly in cheek, that this was one the finest opening lines ever: "There's one thing I want to make clear right off: My baby was a virgin the day she met Errol Flynn." That eyebrow-raising declaration is from a book by Florence Aadland, the mother of actor Beverly Aadland. The latter's biggest role was that of Errol Flynn's mistress – his underage mistress.

Flynn had already been on trial for two different incidences of statutory rape in 1943, according to West Hollywood History Center, but after he was acquitted, he kept taking advantage of teenage girls. In 1957, he met Beverly Aadland and started a sexual relationship with her the same day. She was 15.

Even back then, the relationship was illegal and scandalous. But the two stayed together for the next two years. During that time, Flynn was still married to his third wife, although they were separated. Monte Cristo Magazine reports that in 1959, Flynn went to Vancouver with Aadland to sell his yacht. There, he developed intense pain in his back and legs that kept him bedridden, and finally resulted in him seeking out a doctor. At the man's house, Flynn went to lie down, and when Aadland checked on him just minutes later he was unresponsive. After resuscitation efforts failed, the 50-year-old actor was pronounced dead.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Charles Dickens

While all the other men on this list were unquestionably with their mistresses when they died, or at least as they were about to die, the presence of Charles Dickens' mistress at his demise is a theory that has been debated by scholars for over three decades, ever since the publication of the 1991 book "The Invisible Woman: The story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens." This work laid out the reasons why the official story of how and when Dickens died might have been fudged to remove the national treasure's mistress from the scene and protect his reputation.

Dickens began an affair with actor Nelly Ternan in 1857, when he was 45 and she was 18. The relationship immediately got serious, according to Smithsonian Magazine, and he bought her a house so he could visit her without drawing attention. Eventually, Dickens separated from his wife, although they never divorced.

The official story of Dickens' death, according to The Guardian, is that the author was having dinner at his home in Kent in 1870 when he felt unwell, then collapsed, became unconscious, and died the next day. However, "The Invisible Woman" lays out evidence from eyewitnesses that Dickens was traveling across London the day before he died, towards Ternan's home. He also withdrew a large amount of money, which was not found on him or in his house when he died, and may have been for Ternan. This theory posits that the author collapsed at Ternan's home and, while barely clinging to life, was escorted by her in a carriage to his own home to avoid scandal.

Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria

Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, was the son of the infamous Empress Sisi and was first in line to the throne. However, for all the benefits of a privileged royal life, it also meant he had to marry who he was told to, and in his case, this meant Princess Stephanie of Belgium, who was 15 when they wed in 1881. The two tolerated each other, but not much more, according to The New York Times.

Unhappy at home, the charming Rudolf had continual affairs, until he finally met Baroness Mary Vetsera, or rather, she was thrust forcefully into his path by her social-climbing mother, per "Twilight of Empire: The Tragedy at Mayerling and the End of the Habsburgs." Only three months after their affair began, the two died together at the royal family's hunting lodge, in an apparent suicide pact. She was 17, he was 30.

After their deaths, rumors spread so quickly that some are still repeated as fact today, or are at least cited by Mayerling conspiracy theorists. Even the ambassador from the Vatican was passing along rumors, telling people the gun wasn't one of the crown prince's and that too many bullets had been fired for it to be suicide. Other conspiracies claimed Mary had really killed Rudolf because he was leaving her, or that they both had serious defensive wounds that pointed to an assassination by a third party. However, there is no evidence it was anything other than two people dying by suicide.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.