Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (22 November 1890 – 9 November 1970) was the dominant military and political leader of France for much of the period from 1940 to 1969. As an army colonel, in 1940 he bravely had some success against the Nazis, when other French units were suffering losses. Refusing to accept his government’s armistice with the German invaders in 1940, he set up his base in London, proclaimed himself the incarnation of France, and created the Free French movement. During the war he rallied the overseas colonies (especially in Africa), organized the Resistance from abroad, and struggled to gain full recognition from the British and Americans. A firm proponent of democracy, he became the leader of the Provisional Government of France following its liberation in 1944 and destroyed the vestiges of the authoritarian Vichy regime. He retired from office in 1946, but returned in 1958 as France verged on civil war over the Algerian crisis. As president (1958-69) during the new Fifth Republic, he revised the constitution to provide for presidential control of foreign and military policy, granted independence to Algeria and the African colonies, stabilized politics, and restored the nation’s economic health. Forging a close bond with West Germany, he sought to dominate the European Common Market by vetoing British entry and keeping the United States at arms’ length. Exhausted politically and emotionally, he finally left office in 1969. His enduring reputation in France is that he was the strongest and greatest of French leaders since Napoleon; but in the UK, he is regarded as a difficult and uncooperative man who was ungrateful for the assistance given to him during the war, who unfairly blocked the UK’s entry into the EEC, and who hypocritically interfered in the internal politics of Canada.
- November, 22, 1890
- November, 09, 1970