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Charles de Gaulle
- Created 2012-02-26
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle
(ˈtʃɑrlz or ˈʃɑrl_dəˈɡɔːl; ʃaʁl də ɡollang; 22 November 1890 – 9 November 1970) was a French
and statesman who led the
Free French Forces
World War II
. He later founded the
French Fifth Republic
in 1958 and served as its first
from 1959 to 1969. 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 earned the rank of
(retained throughout his life), leading one of the few successful armoured counter-attacks during the 1940
Battle of France
in May in Montcornet, and then briefly served in the French government as France was falling. De Gaulle was the most senior French military officer to reject the June 1940
armistice to Nazi Germany
right from the outset.
When his superior, the maréchal Pétain gave a radio address to convince the French people to give in to allow the Germans to take over, he happened to be in Britain for military reasons and responded to it the next day by giving a famous radio address, broadcast by the
on 18 June 1940,
exhorting the French people to resist
and organized the
Free French Forces
with exiled French officers in Britain. As the war progressed, de Gaulle gradually gained control of all French colonies except
. By the time of the Allied invasion of France in 1944 he was heading what amounted to a French government in exile. From the very beginning, de Gaulle insisted that France be treated as a great power by the other Allies, despite her initial defeat. De Gaulle became
French Provisional Government
, resigning in 1946 because of political conflicts.
After the war ended he founded his own political party, the
Rally of the French People
- Rassemblement du Peuple Francais, (RPF) on 14 April 1947. Although he retired from politics in the early 1950s after the RPF's failure to win power, and had limited access to government-controlled TV and radio, he was voted back to power as
President of the Council of Ministers
by the French Assembly during the
May 1958 crisis
. De Gaulle led the writing of a new constitution founding the
and was elected
President of France
As President, Charles de Gaulle was able to end 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
, 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 European settlers and French military who had originally supported his return to power.
Immensely patriotic, de Gaulle and his supporters held the view, known as
, that France should continue to see itself as a major power and should not rely on other countries, such as the United States, for its national security and prosperity. Often criticized for his
Politics of Grandeur
, de Gaulle oversaw the development of French atomic weapons and promoted a foreign policy independent of American and British influences. He withdrew France from
military command—although remaining a member of the western alliance—and twice vetoed Britain's entry into the
. He travelled widely in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world and recognised
. On a visit to Canada in 1967, he gave encouragement to
with his historical "
Vive le Québec Libre
During his term, de Gaulle also faced controversy and political opposition from
and Socialists, as well as from the far right. Despite having been re-elected as President, this time by direct popular ballot, in 1965, in
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 in 1969 after losing a referendum in which he proposed more decentralization. He is considered by many to be the most influential leader in modern French history.
from Wikipedia (last updated: 13 June), licensed under
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News, speech excerpts and quotations
Speeches (in original French) collected by the Charles de Gaulle foundation
Biographical elements from the Charles de Gaulle foundation
Mémorial Charles de Gaulle
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