Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)
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Charles de Gaulle
© La Documentation française / Jean-Marie Marcel
Appeal of June 18
Appeal of June 18. © AFP
Charles de Gaulle down the Champs-Elysées
Charles de Gaulle down the Champs-Elysées after the liberation of Paris. © AFP
De Gaulle, Roosvelt, Churchill and Giraud
De Gaulle, Roosvelt, Churchill et Giraud. © AFP
Speech by Charles de Gaulle
Speech by Charles de Gaulle. © AFP
A statesman destined to take on an exceptional mission (“It was up to me to take responsibility for France”), at a very young age Charles de Gaulle opted for a military career and Saint-Cyr military school. Injured and taken prisoner during the First World War, a training and serving officer from 1919 to 1940, he wrote books on the need for body armour and the creation of a professional army.
Promoted to brigadier general and appointed deputy Secretary of State for National Defence in the Reynaud government (6th June 1940), after the creation of the Pétain cabinet, De Gaulle launched his famous Appel du 18 Juin (Appeal of 18th June) from London in 1940. It constituted the beginning of the Resistance and the Free French Forces.
President of the provisional government after France's Liberation, he put the country back on its feet, but resigned in January 1946. Hostile to the Fourth Republic which he viewed as a “party system”, in 1947 he founded the Rassemblement du Peuple Français (the Rally of the French People, or RPF). Then, beginning his “desert crossing” (1953), he wrote his Mémoires de Guerre (war memoirs).
The Fourth Republic's inability to resolve the Algerian conflict precipitated his return to power. Called to lead the government in May 1958, he endowed France with a new Constitution. The first president of the Fifth Republic in December 1958 and re-elected in 1965 by direct universal suffrage, he readdressed France's economic situation and strengthened its presence internationally (decolonisation, Europe, national independence). After the “no” vote to his referendum regarding regionalisation and the reform of the Senate (April 1969), he retired from political life.