Charles de Gaulle

  • Born: November 22, 1890
  • Died: November 9, 1970
  • Location:


Charles de Gaulle

France mourns the death of their former President and leader of the French Free Forces

One of the greatest figures in the history of France, General Charles de Gaulle, has died at his home of a heart attack. He was 79.

The wartime hero and former president was playing patience and watching television when he suddenly slumped in his chair.

His wife, Yvonne, called a doctor and priest, but he died within minutes.

There was no warning: this afternoon, he took his usual walk in the gardens, then worked on his memoirs in his study.

At first, news of his death was kept strictly within the family, and his wife told only their son, Philippe, and daughter, Elizabeth.

The French President, Georges Pompidou, was informed several hours later.

Funeral wishes

The General has set out in great detail his wishes for his funeral in a letter written in January 1952 to Mr Pompidou, then a completely unknown bank worker but also a close confidant.

He said he wanted to be buried in his home village, Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, beside his daughter Anne who died, aged 20, after the war.

He said there should be no official ceremony at the time of his death - and said he didn't want a state funeral.

He also explicitly refused all distinctions and promotions on his death, and even dictated the simple inscription to go on his tombstone, giving just his name and the years of his birth and death.

In accordance with the General's wishes, President Pompidou will not attend the funeral on Thursday, although he is going to Colombey privately to pay his respects.

War hero

De Gaulle became a hero of the French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II, when he fled to London and led the Free French in exile.

He was overwhelmingly elected president of the provisional post-war government of 1945, but resigned in January 1946 after a new constitution for the country could not be agreed.

He withdrew from political life until 1958, when he was called upon to avert civil war in Algeria.

On 1 June of that year he was named premier and granted wide emergency powers including the right to prepare a new constitution - the foundation of the Fifth Republic.

In 1965 he was elected president for a second seven-year term but resigned in 1969 after staking his reputation on a referendum on political reform, which he lost.