|Charles de Gaulle|
President of France
Co-Prince of Andorra
8 January 1959 – 28 April 1969
|Prime Minister||Michel Debré (1959–1961)|
Georges Pompidou (1962–1968)
Maurice Couve de Murville(1968–1969)
|Preceded by||René Coty|
|Succeeded by||Alain Poher (interim)|
Leader of the Free French Forces
18 June 1940 – 3 July 1944
|Preceded by||French Third Republic|
|Succeeded by||Provisional Government of the French Republic|
President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic
20 August 1944 – 20 January 1946
|Preceded by||Philippe Pétain |
(de facto, as chief of state of Vichy France)
Pierre Laval (de facto, as chief of government)
|Succeeded by||Félix Gouin|
Prime Minister of France
1 June 1958 – 8 January 1959
|Preceded by||Pierre Pflimlin|
|Succeeded by||Michel Debré|
Minister of Defence
1 June 1958 – 8 January 1959
|Prime Minister||Charles de Gaulle|
|Preceded by||Pierre de Chevigné|
|Succeeded by||Pierre Guillaumat|
|Born||22 November 1890|
|Died||9 November 1970 (aged 79)|
|Political party||Rally of the French People(1947-1955)|
Union for the New Republic(1958–1968)
Union of Democrats for the Republic (1968–1970)
|Spouse(s)||Yvonne de Gaulle|
A veteran of World War I, in the 1920s and 1930s de Gaulle came to the fore as a proponent of mobile armoured divisions, which he considered would become central in modern warfare. During World War II, he reached the temporary rank of Brigadier General, leading one of the few successful armoured counter-attacks during the 1940 Fall of France, and then briefly served in the French government as France was falling.
He escaped to Britain and gave a famous radio address, broadcast by the BBC on 18 June 1940, exhorting the French people to resist Nazi Germany and organised the Free French Forces with exiled French officers in Britain.
He gradually obtained control of all French colonies—most of which had at first been controlled by the pro-German Vichy regime—and by the time of the liberation of France in 1944 he was heading a government in exile, insisting that France be treated as an independent great power by the other Allies. De Gaulle became prime minister in the French Provisional Government, resigning in 1946 due to political conflicts. After the war he founded his own political party, the RPF. Although he retired from politics in the early 1950s after the RPF's failure to win power, he was voted back to power as prime minister by the French Assembly during the May 1958 crisis. De Gaulle led the writing of a new constitution founding the Fifth Republic, and was elected President of France, an office which now held much greater power than in the Third and Fourth Republics.
As President, Charles de Gaulle ended the political chaos that preceded his return to power. A new French currency was issued in January 1960 to control inflation and industrial growth was promoted. Although he initially supported French rule over Algeria, he controversially decided to grant independence to that country, ending an expensive and unpopular war but leaving France divided and having to face down opposition from the white settlers and French military who had originally supported his return to power.
De Gaulle oversaw the development of French atomic weapons and promoted a foreign policy independent of U.S. and British influence. He withdrew France from NATO military command—although remaining a member of the western alliance—and twice vetoed Britain's entry into the European Community. He travelled widely in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world and recognised Communist China. On a visit to Canada he gave encouragement to Quebec Separatism.
During his term, de Gaulle also faced controversy and political opposition from Communists and Socialists. Despite having been re-elected as President, this time by direct popular ballot, in 1965, in May 1968 he appeared likely to lose power amidst widespread protests by students and workers, but survived the crisis with an increased majority in the Assembly. However, de Gaulle resigned after losing a referendum in 1969. He is considered by many to be the most influential leader in modern French history.
Early life and military career
De Gaulle was born in the industrial region of Lille in French Flanders, the third of five childrenof Henri de Gaulle, a professor of philosophy and literature at a Jesuit college, who eventually founded his own school. He was raised in a family of devout Roman Catholics who were nationalist and traditionalist, but also quite progressive.
De Gaulle's father came from a long line of aristocrats from Normandy and Burgundy, while his mother, Jeanne Maillot, descended from a family of rich entrepreneurs from Lille.According to Henri, the family's true origin was never determined, but could have been Celtic or Flemish. He thought that the name could be derived from the word gaule—a long pole which was used in the Middle Ages to beat olives from the trees. Another source has the name deriving from Galle, meaning "oak" in the Gaulish language, and the sacred tree of the druids. Since de Gaulle's family hailed from French Flanders, the name could also be a francisised form of the common Dutch Van de walle meaning From the wall.
De Gaulle was educated in Paris at the College Stanislas and also briefly in Belgium. Since childhood, he had displayed a keen interest in reading and studying history.Choosing a military career, de Gaulle spent four years studying and training at the elite military academy, Saint-Cyr. While there, and because of his height, high forehead, and nose, he acquired the nicknames of "the great asparagus". and "Cyrano". He acquired yet another nickname, Le Connétable, when he was a prisoner of war in Germany during the Great War. This had come about because of the talks which he gave to fellow prisoners on the progress of the conflict. These were delivered with such patriotic ardour and confidence in victory that they called him by the title which had been given to the commander-in-chief of the French army during the monarchy. Graduating from St Cyr in 1912, he joined the 33rd infantry regiment of the French Army, based at Arras and commanded by Colonel (and future Marshal) Philippe Pétain. De Gaulle's career would follow Pétain's for the next 20 years.
While serving during World War I, he reached the rank of captain, commanding a company, and was wounded several times. One wound in the left hand obliged him later to wear his wedding ring on his right hand. He was wounded again and captured at Douaumont in the Battle of Verdun in March 1916, one of the few survivors of his battalion. While being held as a prisoner of war by the German Army, de Gaulle made five unsuccessful escape attempts and wrote his first book, co-written by Matthieu Butler, "L'Ennemi et le vrai ennemi" (The Enemy and the True Enemy), analyzing the issues and divisions within the German Empire and its forces; the book was published in 1924. After the armistice, de Gaulle continued to serve in the army, and was with the staff of General Maxime Weygand's military mission to Poland as an instructor of Polish Infantry during its war with Communist Russia (1919-1921). He distinguished himself in operations near the River Zbrucz and won the highest Polish military decoration, the Virtuti Militari.
He was promoted to Commandant in the Polish Army and offered a further career in Poland, but chose instead to return to France, where he taught at the École Militaire. Although he was a protégé of his old commander, Marshal Pétain, De Gaulle was heavily influenced by the use of tanks and rapid maneuvers rather than trench warfare.
De Gaulle served with the Army of Occupation in the Rhineland in the mid 1920s. As a Commandant (Major) by the late 1920s, he briefly commanded a light infantry battalion at Treves and then served a tour of duty in Syria, then a French protectorate under a mandate from the League of Nations. During the 1930s, now a lieutenant-colonel, he served as a staff officer in France. In 1934 he wrote "Vers l’Armée de Métier" (The Army of the Future), which advocated a professional army based on mobile armored divisions. Such an army would both compensate for the poor French demography, and be an efficient tool to enforce international law, particularly the treaty of Versailles which forbade Germany from rearming. The book sold only 700 copies in France, where Pétain advocated an infantry-based, defensive army, but 7,000 copies in Germany, where it was read aloud to Adolf Hitler.
Free French leader during World War II
Free French Forces
|The plaque commemorating the headquarters of General de Gaulle |
at 4 Carlton Gardens during World War II,.
At the outbreak of World War II, de Gaulle was only a colonel, having antagonized the leaders of the military through the 1920s and 1930s with his bold views. Initially commanding a tank regiment in the French 5th Army, de Gaulle implemented many of his theories and tactics for armoured warfare against an enemy whose strategies resembled his own. After the German breakthrough at Sedan on 15 May 1940 he was given command of the improvized 4th Armoured Division.On 17 May, de Gaulle attacked German tank forces at Montcornet with 200 tanks but no air support; on 28 May, de Gaulle's tanks forced the German infantry to retreat to Caumont—some of the few tactical successes the French enjoyed while suffering defeats across the country. De Gaulle was promoted to the rank of brigadier general, which he would hold for the rest of his life.
On 5 June, Prime Minister Paul Reynaud appointed him Under Secretary of State for National Defence and War and put him in charge of coordination with the United Kingdom. As a junior member of the French government, he unsuccessfully opposed surrender, advocating instead that the government remove itself to North Africa and carry on the war as best it could from France's African colonies. While serving as a liaison with the British government, de Gaulle telephoned Paul Reynaud, the French prime minister, from London on 16 June informing him of the offer by Britain of a Declaration of Union. The declaration, inspired by Jean Monnet, would have merged France and the United Kingdom into one country, with a single government and army. The offer was a desperate, last-minute effort to strengthen the resolve of Reynaud's government; his cabinet's hostile reaction to the offer contributed to Reynaud's resignation.
Returning the same day to Bordeaux, the temporary wartime capital, de Gaulle learned that Marshal Pétain had become prime minister and was planning to seek an armistice with Nazi Germany. De Gaulle and allied officers rebelled against the new French government; on the morning of 17 June, de Gaulle and other senior French officers fled the country with 100,000 gold francs in secret funds provided to him by the ex-prime minister Paul Reynaud. Narrowly escaping the Luftwaffe, he landed safely in London that afternoon.
De Gaulle strongly denounced the French government's decision to seek peace with the Nazis and set about building the Free French Forces from the soldiers and officers deployed outside France or who had fled France with him. On 18 June, de Gaulle delivered a famous radio address via the BBC Radio service. Although the British cabinet initially attempted to block the speech, they were overruled by Churchill. De Gaulle's Appeal of 18 June exhorted the French people to not be demoralised and to continue to resist the occupation of France and work against the collaborationist Vichy regime, which had signed an armistice with Nazi Germany. Although the original speech could only be heard in a few parts of occupied France, de Gaulle's subsequent ones reached many parts of the territories under the Vichy regime, helping to rally the French resistance movement and earning him much popularity amongst the French people and soldiers. On 4 July 1940, a court-martial in Toulouse sentenced de Gaulle in absentia to four years in prison. At a second court-martial on 2 August 1940 de Gaulle was condemned to death for treason against the Vichy regime.
With British support, the de Gaulle family settled in Berkhamsted (36 miles northwest of London) from October 1941 to September 1942. He organised the Free French forces and gradually the Allies gave increasing support and recognition to de Gaulle's efforts. In dealings with his British allies and the United States, de Gaulle insisted at all times on retaining full freedom of action on behalf of France and he was constantly on the verge of being cut off by the Allies. Many denials of the deep and mutual antipathy between de Gaulle and political leaders of Anglo-American allies of the French are on historical record. He harbored a suspicion of the British in particular, believing that they were surreptitiously seeking to steal France's colonial possessions in the Levant. Clementine Churchill, who admired de Gaulle, once cautioned him, "General, you must not hate your friends more than you hate your enemies." De Gaulle himself stated famously, "France has no friends, only interests." The situation was nonetheless complex, and de Gaulle's mistrust of both British and U.S. intentions with regards to France was mirrored by a mistrust of the Free French among the U.S. political leadership, who for a long time refused to recognise de Gaulle as the representative of France, preferring to deal with representatives of the Vichy government. Roosevelt in particular hoped that it would be possible to wean Pétain away from Germany.
Overall, the hostile dependent wartime relationship of de Gaulle and his future political peers re-enacted the historical national and colonial rivalry and lasting enmity of the French and English, and foreshadowed the deep distrust of France for post-war Anglo-American partnerships.
Working with the French resistance and supporters in France's colonial African possessions after the Anglo-U.S. invasion of North Africa in November 1942, de Gaulle moved his headquarters to Algiers in May, 1943. He became first joint head (with the less resolutely independent General Henri Giraud, the candidate preferred by the U.S. who wrongly suspected de Gaulle of being a British puppet) and then - after squeezing out Giraud by force of personality - sole chairman of the French Committee of National Liberation.
At the liberation of France following Operation Overlord, he quickly established the independent authority of the Free French Forces in France, avoiding an Allied Military Government for Occupied Territories, as well as a communist takeover. He flew into France from Algeria a few days before the liberation of Paris by Leclerc's French Armoured Division, and drove near the front of the liberating forces into the city alongside Allied officials. De Gaulle made a famous speech emphasising the role of France's people in her liberation by her allies.
After his return to Paris, he moved back into his office at the War Ministry, thus proclaiming continuity of the Third Republic and denying the legitimacy of the Vichy regime.
Under the leadership of General de Lattre de Tassigny, France fielded an entire army - a joint force of Free French together with French colonial troops from North Africa - on the western front. Initially landing as part of Operation Dragoon, in the south of France, the French First Army helped to liberate almost one third of the country and actively rejoined the Allies in the struggle against Germany. The French First Army captured a large section of territory in southern Germany after the Rhine crossings, thus enabling France to be an active participant in the signing of the German surrender. Also, through the intervention of the British and Americans at Yalta and despite the resistance of the Russians, a French zone of occupation was created in Germany and Berlin.
De Gaulle served as President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic starting in September, 1944 and visiting Moscow for talks with Stalin at the end of 1944. He sent the French Far East Expeditionary Corps to re-establish French sovereignty in French Indochina in 1945 making Admiral d'Argenlieu High commissioner of French Indochina and General Leclerc commander-in-chief in French Indochina and commander of the expeditionary corps. De Gaulle found dealing with the "regime of parties" frustrating; one of his ministers described him as "A man equally incapable of monopolizing power and of sharing it". De Gaulle resigned from the provisional government on 20 January 1946; he favored a strong executive for the nationand disapproved of the draft constitution for the Fourth Republic, which he believed placed too much power in the hands of a parliament with its shifting party alliances. He was succeeded by Félix Gouin (French Section of the Workers' International, SFIO), then Georges Bidault (Popular Republican Movement, MRP) and finally Léon Blum (SFIO).
1946–58: Out of power
De Gaulle's opposition to the proposed constitution failed as the parties of the left supported a parliamentary regime. The second draft constitution narrowly approved at the referendum of October 1946 was even less to de Gaulle's liking than the first. He then returned to his home at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises to write his war memoirs.
In April 1947 de Gaulle made a renewed attempt to transform the political scene by creating a Rassemblement du Peuple Français (Rally of the French People, or RPF), but after initial success the movement lost momentum. In May 1953, he withdrew again from active politics, though the RPF lingered until September 1955.
He once more retired to his country home to continue his war memoirs, Mémoires de guerre. The famous opening paragraph of this work begins by declaring, "All my life, I have had a certain idea of France (une certaine idée de la France)", comparing his country to an old painting of a Madonna, and ends by declaring that, given the divisive nature of French politics, France cannot truly live up to this ideal without a policy of "grandeur" (roughly "greatness"). During this period of formal retirement, however, de Gaulle maintained regular contact with past political lieutenants from wartime and RPF days, including sympathisers involved in political developments in French Algeria, becoming "perhaps the best-informed man in France".
1958: Collapse of the Fourth Republic
May 1958 crisis
The Fourth Republic was tainted by political instability, failures in Indochina and inability to resolve the Algerian question. It did, however, pass the 1956 loi-cadre Deferre which granted independence to Tunisia and Morocco, while the Premier Pierre Mendès-France put an end to the Indochina War through the Geneva Conference of 1954. Under Guy Mollet, while he survived the 1956 Suez Crisis, French prestige suffered a humiliating defeat with the forced withdrawal from Egypt under international pressure.
On 13 May 1958, settlers seized the government buildings in Algiers, attacking what they saw as French government weakness in the face of demands among the Arab majority for Algerian independence. A "Committee of Civil and Army Public Security" was created under the presidency of General Jacques Massu, a Gaullist sympathiser. General Raoul Salan, Commander-in-Chief in Algeria, announced on radio that he was assuming provisional power, and appealed for "confidence in the Army and its leaders".
Under the pressure of Massu, Salan declared Vive de Gaulle! from the balcony of the Algiers Government-General building on 15 May. De Gaulle answered two days later that he was ready to "assume the powers of the Republic". Many worried as they saw this answer as support for the army.
At a 19 May press conference, de Gaulle asserted again that he was at the disposal of the country. As a journalist expressed the concerns of some who feared that he would violate civil liberties, de Gaulle retorted vehemently:
Have I ever done that? On the contrary, I have reestablished them when they had disappeared. Who honestly believes that, at age 67, I would start a career as a dictator?
A constitutionalist by conviction, he maintained throughout the crisis that he would accept power only from the lawfully constituted authorities. De Gaulle did not wish to repeat the difficulty the Free French movement experienced in establishing legitimacy as the rightful government. He told an aide that the rebel generals "will not find De Gaulle in their baggage".
The crisis deepened as French paratroops from Algeria seized Corsica and a landing near Paris was discussed (Operation Resurrection). Political leaders on many sides agreed to support the General's return to power, except François Mitterrand, Pierre Mendès-France, Alain Savary, the Communist Party, and certain other leftists. On 29 May the French President, René Coty, appealed to the "most illustrious of Frenchmen" to confer with him and to examine what was immediately necessary for the creation of a government of national safety, and what could be done to bring about a profound reform of the country's institutions.
De Gaulle remained intent on replacing the constitution of the Fourth Republic, which he blamed for France's political weakness. He set as conditions for his return that he be given wide emergency powers for six months and that a new constitution be proposed to the French people. On 1 June 1958, de Gaulle became Premier and was given emergency powers for six months by the National Assembly, fulfilling his desire for parliamentary legitimacy.
On 28 September 1958, a referendum took place and 79.2 percent of those who voted supported the new constitution and the creation of the Fifth Republic. The colonies (Algeria was officially a part of France, not a colony) were given the choice between immediate independence and the new constitution. All African colonies voted for the new constitution and the replacement of the French Union by the French Community, except Guinea, which thus became the first French African colony to gain independence, at the cost of the immediate ending of all French assistance.
According to de Gaulle, the head of state should represent "the spirit of the nation" to the nation itself and to the world: "une certaine idée de la France" (a certain idea of France).
1958–62: Founding of the Fifth Republic
De Gaulle in 1961 at the Köln/Bonn airport
In the November 1958 elections, de Gaulle and his supporters (initially organised in the Union pour la Nouvelle République-Union Démocratique du Travail, then the Union des Démocrates pour la Vème République, and later still the Union des Démocrates pour la République, UDR) won a comfortable majority. In December, de Gaulle was elected President by the electoral college with 78% of the vote, and inaugurated in January 1959.
He oversaw tough economic measures to revitalise the country, including the issuing of a new franc (worth 100 old francs). Internationally, he rebuffed both the United States and the Soviet Union, pushing for an independent France with its own nuclear weapons, and strongly encouraged a "Free Europe", believing that a confederation of all European nations would restore the past glories of the great European empires. He set about building Franco-German cooperation as the cornerstone of the European Economic Community (EEC), paying the first state visit to Germany by a French head of state since Napoleon. In January 1963, Germany and France signed a treaty of friendship, the Élysée Treaty. France also reduced its dollar reserves, trading them for gold from the U.S. government, thereby reducing the US' economic influence abroad.
On 23 November 1959, in a speech in Strasbourg, de Gaulle announced his vision for Europe:
Oui, c’est l’Europe, depuis l’Atlantique jusqu’à l’Oural, c’est toute l’Europe, qui décidera du destin du monde.
("Yes, it is Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals, it is the whole of Europe, that will decide the destiny of the world.")
Monument to de Gaulle in Moscow
His expression, "Europe, from the Atlantic to the Urals", has often been cited throughout the history of European integration. It became, for the next ten years, a favourite political rallying cry of de Gaulle's. His vision stood in contrast to the Atlanticism of the United States and Britain, preferring instead a Europe that would act as a third pole between the United States and the Soviet Union. By including in his ideal of Europe all the territory up to the Urals, de Gaulle was implicitly offering détente to the Soviets, while his phrase was also interpreted as excluding the United Kingdom from a future Europe.
Upon becoming president, de Gaulle was faced with the urgent task of finding a way to bring to an end the bloody and divisive war in Algeria. French left-wingers were in favour of granting independence to Algeria and urged him to seek a way to achieve peace while, at the same time, avoiding a French loss of face. Although the military's near-coup had contributed to his return to power, de Gaulle soon ordered all officers to quit the rebellious Committees of Public Safety. Such actions greatly angered the French settlers and their military supporters, who de Gaulle had manipulated to believe that he supported them. He was forced to suppress two uprisings in Algeria by French settlers and troops, in the second of which (the Generals' Putsch in April 1961) France herself was again threatened with invasion by rebel paratroops. De Gaulle's government also covered up the Paris massacre of 1961, issued under the orders of the police prefect Maurice Papon. He was also targeted by the settlers' resistance group Organisation de l'armée secrète (OAS) and several assassination attempts were made on him; the most famous is that of 22 August 1962, when he and his wife narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when their Citroën DS was targeted by machine gun fire arranged by Colonel Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry at the Petit-Clamart.
After a referendum on Algerian self-determination carried out in 1961, de Gaulle arranged a cease-fire in Algeria with the March 1962 Evian Accords, legitimated by another referendum a month later. Although the Algerian issue was settled, Prime Minister Michel Debré resigned over the final settlement and was replaced with Georges Pompidou on 14 April 1962. France recognised Algerian independence on 3 July 1962, while an amnesty was belatedly issued covering all crimes committed during the war, including the genocide against the Harkis. In just a few months in 1962, 900,000 French settlers left the country. After 5 July, the exodus accelerated in the wake of the French deaths during the Oran massacre of 1962. It had now become clear that the Evian Accords would not be enforced and that the French government had no intention of protecting the settlers.
Direct presidential elections
In September 1962, de Gaulle sought a constitutional amendment to allow the president to be directly elected by the people and issued another referendum to this end. After a motion of censure voted by the Parliament on 4 October 1962, de Gaulle dissolved the National Assembly and held new elections. Although the left progressed, the Gaullists won an increased majority—this despite opposition from the Christian democratic Popular Republican Movement (MRP) and the National Centre of Independents and Peasants (CNIP) who criticised de Gaulle's euroscepticism and presidentialism. De Gaulle's proposal to change the election procedure for the French presidency was approved at the referendum on 28 October 1962 by more than three-fifths of voters despite a broad "coalition of no" formed by most of the parties, opposed to a presidential regime. Thereafter the President was to be elected by direct universal suffrage for the first time since Louis Napoleon in 1848.
1962–68: Politics of grandeur
With the Algerian conflict behind him, de Gaulle was able to achieve his two main objectives: to reform and develop the French economy, and to promote an independent foreign policy and a strong stance on the international stage. This was named by foreign observers the "politics of grandeur" (politique de grandeur).
"Thirty glorious years"
In the context of a population boom unseen in France since the 18th century, the government under prime minister Georges Pompidou oversaw a rapid transformation and expansion of the French economy. With dirigisme—a unique combination of capitalism and state-directed economy—the government intervened heavily in the economy, using indicative five-year plans as its main tool.
Iranian Empress Farah Pahlavi meeting with Charles de Gaulle in France, 1961
High-profile projects, mostly but not always financially successful, were launched: the extension of Marseille harbor (soon ranking third in Europe and first in the Mediterranean); the promotion of the Caravelle passenger jetliner (a predecessor of Airbus); the decision to start building the supersonic Franco-British Concorde airliner in Toulouse; the expansion of the French auto industry with state-owned Renault at its center; and the building of the first motorways between Paris and the provinces.
With these projects, the French economy recorded growth rates unrivalled since the 19th century. In 1964, for the first time in nearly 100 years France's GDP overtook that of the United Kingdom, a position it held until the 1990s. This period is still remembered in France with some nostalgia as the peak of the Trente Glorieuses ("Thirty Glorious Years" of economic growth between 1945 and 1974).
He vetoed the British application to join the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1963 because, he said, he thought the United Kingdom lacked the necessary political will to be part of a strong Europe. He further saw Britain as a "Trojan Horse" for the USA. He maintained there were incompatibilities between continental European and British economic interests. In addition, he demanded that the United Kingdom accept all the conditions laid down by the six existing members of the EEC (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands) and revoke its commitments to countries within its own free trade area. He supported a deepening and an acceleration of common market integration rather than expansion. However, in this latter respect, a detailed study of the formative years of the EEC argues that the defence of French economic interests, especially in agriculture, in fact played a more dominant role in determining de Gaulle's stance towards British entry than the various political and foreign policy considerations that have often been cited. The General's attitude was also influenced by resentments which had come about during his exile in Britain during the Second World War. Added to these were fears of an Anglo-American agreement in regard to nuclear weapons – the USA had provided Britain with Polaris missiles the previous year.
In December 1967, claiming continental European solidarity, de Gaulle again rejected British entry into the European Economic Community. The United Kingdom nevertheless became a member of the EEC in January 1973.
Fourth nuclear power
As early as April 1954, de Gaulle had proposed that France should have its own nuclear weapons. This would enable it to become a partner in any reprisals and would give it a voice in matters of atomic control. Six years later, on 13 February 1960, France became the world's fourth nuclear power when a nuclear device was exploded in the Sahara some 700 miles south-south-west of Algiers. In November 1967, an article by the French Chief of the General Staff (but inspired by de Gaulle) in the Revue de la Défense Nationale caused international consternation. It was stated that French nuclear force should be capable of firing "in all directions" – thus including even America as a target. This surprising statement was intended as a declaration of French national independence, and was in retaliation to a warning issued long ago by Dean Rusk that US missiles would be aimed at France if it attempted to employ atomic weapons outside an agreed plan. However, criticism of de Gaulle was growing over his tendency to act alone with little regard for the views of others. In August, concern over de Gaulle's policies had been voiced by Valéry Giscard d’Estaing when he queried ‘the solitary exercise of power’.
Recognition of the People's Republic of China
De Gaulle was convinced that a strong and independent France could act as a balancing force between the United States and the Soviet Union, a policy seen as little more than posturing and opportunism by his critics, particularly in Britain and the United States, to which France was formally allied. In January 1964, France established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China (PRC)—the first step towards formal recognition. This was done without first severing links with the Republic of China (Taiwan), led by Chiang Kai-shek. Hitherto the PRC had insisted that all nations abide by a "one China" condition, and at first it was unclear how the matter would be settled. However, the agreement to exchange ambassadors was subject to a delay of three months and in February, Chiang Kai-shek resolved the problem by cutting off diplomatic relations with France.Eight years later U.S. President Richard Nixon visited the PRC and began normalising relations - a policy which was confirmed in the Shanghai Communiqué of 28 February 1972.
As part of a European tour, Nixon visited France in 1969. He and de Gaulle both shared the same non-Wilsonian approach to world affairs, believing in nations and their relative strengths, rather than in ideologies, international organisations, or multilateral agreements. De Gaulle is famously known for calling the United Nations the pejorative "le Machin".
Visit to Latin America
In September and October 1964, despite a recent operation for prostate cancer and fears for his security, he set out on a punishing 20,000-mile tour of all ten republics in Latin America. He had visited Mexico the previous year and spoke, in Spanish, to the Mexican people on the eve of their celebrations of their independence at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City. During his visit, he was again keen to show the French flag and gain both cultural and economic influence in this new 26-day tour. He spoke constantly of his resentment of US influence (hegemony) in Latin America - "that some states should establish a power of political or economic direction outside their own borders". Yet France could provide no investment or aid to match that from Washington.
In December 1965, de Gaulle returned as president for a second seven-year term, but this time he had to go through a second round of voting in which he defeated François Mitterrand, who did far better than anyone dreamed possible, gaining 45% of the vote. In February 1966, France withdrew from the common NATO military command, but remained within the organisation. De Gaulle, haunted by the memories of 1940, wanted France to remain the master of the decisions affecting it, unlike in the 1930s, when France had to follow in step with her British ally. He also declared that all foreign military forces had to leave French territory and gave them one year to redeploy.
In September 1966, in a famous speech in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), he expressed France's disapproval of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam as the only way to ensure peace. As the Vietnam War had its roots in the previous Indochina War, in which the United States had provided France with aid, this speech did little to endear de Gaulle to the Americans, even if their leaders later came to the same conclusion. He later visited Guadeloupe, in the aftermath of Hurricane Inez for 2 days, bringing aid which totalled billions of francs.
Empty Chair Crisis
During the establishment of the European Community, de Gaulle helped precipitate one of the greatest crises in the history of the EC, the Empty Chair Crisis. It involved the financing of the Common Agricultural Policy, but almost more importantly the use of qualified majority voting in the EC (as opposed to unanimity). In June 1965, after France and the other five members could not agree, de Gaulle withdrew France's representatives from the EC. Their absence left the organisation essentially unable to run its affairs until the Luxembourg compromise was reached in January 1966. De Gaulle succeeded in influencing the decision-making mechanism written into the Treaty of Rome by insisting on solidarity founded on mutual understanding. He vetoed Britain's entry into the EEC a second time, in June 1967.
With tension rising in the Middle East in 1967, de Gaulle on 2 June declared an arms embargo against Israel, just three days before the outbreak of the Six-Day War. This, however, did not affect spare parts for the French military hardware with which the Israeli armed forces were equipped.
This was an abrupt change in policy. In 1956 France, Britain, and Israel had cooperated in an elaborate effort to retake the Suez Canal from Egypt. Israel's air force operated French Mirage and Mystère jets in the Six-Day War, and its navy was building its new missile boats in Cherbourg. Though paid for, their transfer to Israel was now blocked by de Gaulle's government. But they were smuggled out in an operation that drew further denunciations from the French government. The last boats took to the sea in December 1969, directly after a major deal between France and now-independent Algeria exchanging French armaments for Algerian oil.
Under de Gaulle, following the independence of Algeria, France embarked on foreign policy more favourable to the Arab side. General de Gaulle's position in 1967 at the time of the Six Day War played a part in France's newfound popularity in the Arab world. Israel turned towards the United States for arms, and toward its own industry.
In a televised news conference on 27 November 1967, de Gaulle described the Jewish people as "this elite people, sure of themselves and domineering". In his letter to David Ben-Gurion dated 9 January 1968, he explained that he was convinced that Israel had ignored his warnings and overstepped the bounds of moderation by taking possession of Jerusalem, and so much Jordanian, Egyptian, and Syrian territory by force of arms. He felt Israel had exercised repression and expulsions during the occupation and that it amounted to annexation. He said that provided Israel withdrew her forces, it appeared that it might be possible to reach a solution through the UN framework which could include assurances of a dignified and fair future for refugees and minorities in the Middle East, recognition from Israel's neighbors, and freedom of navigation through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Suez Canal.
Nigerian Civil War
The Eastern Region of Nigeria declared itself independent under the name of The Independent Republic of Biafra on 30 May 1967. On July 6 the first shots in the Nigerian civil war were fired, marking the start of a conflict would last until January 1970. Britain provided military aid to the Federal Republic of Nigeria—yet more was made available by the Soviet Union. Under de Gaulle's leadership, France embarked on a period of interference outside the traditional French zone of influence. A policy geared toward the break-up of Nigeria put Britain and France into opposing camps. Relations between France and Nigeria had been under strain since the third French nuclear explosion in the Sahara in December 1960. From August 1968, when its embargo was lifted, France provided limited and covert support to the breakaway province. Although French arms helped to keep Biafra in action for the final 15 months of the civil war, its involvement was seen as insufficient and counterproductive. The Biafran Chief of Staff stated that the French "did more harm than good by raising false hopes and by providing the British with an excuse to reinforce Nigeria."
Vive le Québec libre
A day after his Vive le Québec Libre! speech, Charles de Gaulle attracts a crowd at Montreal's Expo 67 on 25 July 1967.
In July 1967, de Gaulle visited Canada, which was celebrating its centennial with a world's fair in Montreal, Expo 67. On 24 July, speaking to a large crowd from a balcony at Montreal's city hall, de Gaulle shouted Vive le Québec! (Long live Quebec!) then added, Vive le Québec libre! (Long live Free Québec!). The Canadian media harshly criticised the statement, and the Prime Minister of Canada, Lester B. Pearson stated that "Canadians do not need to be liberated." De Gaulle left Canada abruptly two days later, without proceeding to Ottawa as scheduled. He never returned to Canada. The speech caused offense in most of Canada; it led to a significant diplomatic rift between the two countries However, the event was seen as a watershed moment by the Quebec sovereignty movement.
In the following year, de Gaulle visited Brittany, where he declaimed a poem written by his uncle (also called Charles de Gaulle) in the Breton language. The speech followed a series of crackdowns on Breton nationalism. De Gaulle was accused of hypocrisy, on the one hand supporting a "free" Quebec because of linguistic and ethnic differences from other Canadians, while on the other oppressing a regional and ethnic nationalist movement in Brittany.
May 1968 in France
De Gaulle at the inauguration of the German embassy in Paris, February 1968
De Gaulle's government was criticised within France, particularly for its heavy-handed style. While the written press and elections were free, and private stations such as Europe 1 were able to broadcast in French from abroad, the state's ORTF had a monopoly on television and radio. This monopoly meant that the executive was in a position to bias the news. In many respects, society was traditionalistic and repressive, including the position of women. Many factors contributed to a general weariness of sections of the public, particularly the student youth, which led to the events of May 1968.
The huge demonstrations and strikes in France in May 1968 severely challenged de Gaulle's legitimacy. He and other government leaders feared that the country was on the brink of revolution or civil war. On 29 May de Gaulle disappeared without notifying Prime Minister Pompidou or anyone else in the government, stunning the country. He fled to Baden-Baden, Germany to meet with General Massu, now head of the French military there, to discuss possible army intervention against the protesters. De Gaulle returned to France after being assured of the military's support.
In a private meeting discussing the students' and workers' demands for direct participation in business and government he coined the phrase "La réforme oui, la chienlit non", which can be politely translated as 'reform yes, masquerade/chaos no.' It was a vernacular scatological pun meaning 'chie-en-lit, no'. The term is now common parlance in French political commentary, used both critically and ironically referring back to de Gaulle.
But de Gaulle offered to accept some of the reforms the demonstrators sought. He again considered a referendum to support his moves, but on 30 May Pompidou persuaded him to dissolve parliament (in which the government had all but lost its majority in the March 1967 elections) and hold new elections instead. The June 1968 elections were a major success for the Gaullists and their allies; when shown the spectre of revolution or civil war, the majority of the country rallied to him. His party won 352 of 487 seats, but de Gaulle remained personally unpopular; a survey conducted immediately after the crisis showed that a majority of the country saw him as too old, too self-centered, too authoritarian, too conservative, and too anti-American.
Retirement and death
US president Richard Nixon visiting president Charles de Gaulle one month before de Gaulle's retirement.
Charles de Gaulle resigned the presidency at noon, 28 April 1969, following the rejection of his proposed reform of the Senate and local governments in a nationwide referendum. De Gaulle vowed that if the referendum failed, he would resign his office. Despite an eight-minute-long speech by de Gaulle, the referendum failed and he duly resigned, whereupon he was replaced by Georges Pompidou.
De Gaulle retired once again to Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, where he died suddenly on 9 November 1970, two weeks before his 80th birthday and in the middle of writing his memoirs. He had generally been in very robust health until then despite an operation on his prostate some years before. He had been sitting in front of the television while waiting for the start of the news when he felt unwell and collapsed. His wife called the doctor and the local priest, but by the time they arrived he had died: the cause of death was a heart attack.
Grave of Charles de Gaulle at Colombey-les-Deux-Églises
De Gaulle had made arrangements that insisted that his funeral would be held at Colombey, and that no presidents or ministers attend his funeral - only his Compagnons de la Libération.
Heads of state had to content themselves with a simultaneous service at Notre-Dame Cathedral. He was carried to his grave on an armoured reconnaissance vehicle, and as he was lowered into the ground the bells of all the churches in France tolled starting from Notre Dame and spreading out from there. He was buried on November 12.
He specified that his tombstone bear the simple inscription of his name and his years of birth and death. Therefore, it simply says: "Charles de Gaulle, 1890–1970".
De Gaulle was nearly destitute when he died. When he retired, he did not accept the pensions to which he was entitled as a retired president and as a retired general. Instead, he accepted only a pension to which colonels are entitled. He was punctilious with regard to money, taking care to separate his private expenses from those of his official function. He paid for his own haircuts, the stamps for personal correspondence and had an electricity meter installed in the private accommodation at his official residence.
His family had to sell the Boisserie residence. It was purchased by a foundation and is currently the Charles de Gaulle Museum.
Charles de Gaulle married Yvonne Vendroux on 7 April 1921. They had three children: Philippe (born 1921), Élisabeth (1924), who married General Alain de Boissieu, and Anne (1928–1948). Anne had Down's syndrome and died at the age of 20.
One of Charles de Gaulle's grandsons, also named Charles De Gaulle, was a member of the European Parliament from 1994 to 2004, his last tenure being for the National Front. Another grandson, Jean de Gaulle, was a member of the French Parliament until his retirement in 2007.
Charles de Gaulle Airport
Further information: Things named after Charles de Gaulle
France's largest airport, in Roissy outside Paris, is named Charles de Gaulle Airport in his honour. Many however still call it simply Roissy Airport.
Second Government, 21 December 1945 - 26 January 1946
Charles de Gaulle: Chairman of the Provisional Government France
Georges Bidault: Minister of Foreign Affairs
Edmond Michelet: Armed Forces Minister
Charles Tillon: Minister of Armaments
Adrien Tixier: Minister of the Interior
René Pleven: Minister of Finance
François Billoux: Minister of National Economy
Marcel Paul: Minister of Industrial Production
Ambroise Croizat: Minister of Labour
Pierre-Henri Teitgen: Minister of Justice
Paul Giacobbi: Minister of National Education
Laurent Casanova: Minister of Veterans and War Victims
François Tanguy-Prigent: Minister of Agriculture and Supply
Jacques Soustelle: Minister of Colonies
Jules Moch: Minister of Public Works and Transport
Robert Prigent: Minister of Population
Raoul Dautry: Minister of Reconstruction and Town Planning
Eugène Thomas: Minister of Posts
André Malraux: Minister of Information
Vincent Auriol: Minister of State
Francisque Gay: Minister of State
Louis Jacquinot: Minister of State
Maurice Thorez: Minister of State
Third Ministry, 9 June 1958 - 8 January 1959
Charles de Gaulle: President of the Council and Minister of National Defence
Maurice Couve de Murville: Minister of Foreign Affairs
Émile Pelletier: Minister of the Interior
Antoine Pinay: Minister of Finance and interim Minister of Public Works, Transport, and Tourism
Édouard Ramonet: Minister of Industry
Paul Bacon: Minister of Labour
Edmond Michelet: Minister of Veterans and War Victims
Michel Debré: Minister of Justice
Jean Berthoin: Minister of National Education
Roger Houdet: Minister of Agriculture
Bernard Cornut-Gentille: Minister of Overseas France
Robert Buron: Minister of Public Works, Transport, and Tourism
Eugène Thomas: Minister of Posts
Édouard Ramonet: Minister of Commerce
Pierre Sudreau: Minister of Construction
Max Lejeune: Minister of Sahara
Guy Mollet: Minister of State
Pierre Pflimlin: Minister of State
Félix Houphouët-Boigny: Minister of State
Louis Jacquinot: Minister of State
12 June 1958: André Malraux enters the cabinet as Minister of Radio, Television, and Press.
14 June 1958: Guy Mollet becomes Minister of General Civil Servants Status.
7 July 1958: Bernard Chenot enters the cabinet as Minister of Public Health and Population. Jacques Soustelle succeeds Malraux as Minister of Information.
23 July 1958: Antoine Pinay becomes Minister of Economic Affairs, remaining also Minister of Finance.
In popular culture
In France, he is commonly referred to as Général de Gaulle or simply Le Général, or by his detractors as "la Grande Zohra"
In the English-speaking world de Gaulle is remembered as a presence in the Frederick Forsyth novel The Day of the Jackal, in which the OAS - after the failure of the actual August 1962 Petit Clamart assassination attempt - hire an English professional assassin to attempt to kill him on Liberation Day 1963. The novel was made into a film, starring Edward Fox and Michel Lonsdale, in 1973.
Charles de Gaulle's head was in the Futurama movie Bender's Big Score.
De Gaulle was seen in Ike: Countdown to D-Day played by actor George Shevtsov. In the film he opposes the plans to invade Normandy and Dwight D. Eisenhower's request that the French people accept Eisenhower as the united voice of the Allies.
La Discorde Chez l’Ennemi (1924)
Histoire des Troupes du Levant (1931) Written by Major de Gaulle and Major Yvon, with Staff Colonel de Mierry collaborating in the preparation of the final text.
Le Fil de l’Épée (1932)
Vers l’Armée de Métier (1934)
La France et son Armée (1938)
Trois Études (1945) (Rôle Historique des Places Fortes; Mobilisation Economique à l’Étranger; Comment Faire une Armée de Métier) followed by the Memorandum of 26 January 1940.
Mémoires de Guerre
Volume I - L’Appel 1940–1942 (1954)
Volume II - L’Unité, 1942–1944 (1956)
Volume III - Le Salut, 1944–1946 (1959)
Volume I - Le Renouveau 1958–1962 (1970)
Discours et Messages
Volume I - Pendant la Guerre 1940–1946 (1970)
Volume II - Dans l’attente 1946–1958 (1970)
Volume III - Avec le Renouveau 1958–1962 (1970)
Volume IV - Pour l’Effort 1962–1965 (1970)
Volume V — Vers le Terme 1966–1969
The Enemy's House Divided (La Discorde chez l’ennemi). Tr. by Robert Eden. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2002.
The Edge of the Sword (Le Fil de l’Épée). Tr. by Gerard Hopkins. Faber, London, 1960 Criterion Books, New York, 1960
The Army of the Future (Vers l’Armée de Métier). Hutchinson, London-Melbourne, 1940. Lippincott, New York, 1940
France and Her Army (La France et son Armée). Tr. by F.L. Dash. Hutchinson London, 1945. Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1945
War Memoirs: Call to Honour, 1940–1942 (L’Appel). Tr. by Jonathan Griffin. Collins, London, 1955 (2 volumes). Viking Press, New York, 1955.
War Memoirs: Unity, 1942–1944 (L’Unité). Tr. by Richard Howard (narrative) and Joyce Murchie and Hamish Erskine (documents). Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1959 (2 volumes). Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959 (2 volumes).
War Memoirs: Salvation, 1944–1946' (Le Salut). Tr. by Richard Howard (narrative) and Joyce Murchie and Hamish Erskine (documents). Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1960 (2 volumes). Simon and Schuster, New York, 1960 (2 volumes).