10 Classic Facts about Charles de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle was one of the most influential people of the 20th Century in Europe. Yet, many of us don’t know much about this famous French leader! If you’ve spent any time studying French history, you’ll likely recognize him as one of the figureheads of World War II, and as a keen force in setting up the European Union. With that in mind, here are some fun facts about Charles de Gaulle you’ll probably want to remember.

1. From birth to death.

Charles de Gaulle was born on November 22nd, 1890, in the area of Lille, France. He died on November 9th, 1970, over in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, also in France.

2. Who was Charles de Gaulle?

Charles de Gaulle is probably best known for his role as a military leader and statesman. He played a crucial role in French politics, and, as mentioned above, he was one of the most influential figures in 20th-century France.

3. He played a part in World War II.

During World War II, Charles de Gaulle famously led the Free French Forces, which sought to liberate France from German occupation. He delivered a famous radio address in June 1940, calling on the French people to resist the German forces, doing so from the UK.

Charles De Gaulle

4. He was well-respected.

His leadership and determination earned him the respect of many French citizens and established him as a symbol of resistance against Nazi Germany. In fact, it’s hard to go pretty much anywhere in France without finding at least one street named after him!

5. De Gaulle Founded the Fifth Republic.

Following the war, Charles de Gaulle founded the French Fifth Republic. He also served as its very first President from 1959 to 1969. He introduced several constitutional reforms, including the strengthening of the presidency and the expansion of executive powers.

6. French sovereignty was a major cause for him.

Charles de Gaulle was all about French sovereignty! He pursued an independent foreign policy, asserting French sovereignty and seeking to maintain France’s status as a major world power. He opposed both Soviet communism and American dominance during the Cold War era.

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7. He played a large part in forming what’s now known as the EU.

De Gaulle was also a strong advocate for European unity. He supported the establishment of the European Economic Community (EEC), which later evolved into the European Union (EU).

8. What was dirigisme?

During his presidency, Charles de Gaulle pursued a policy of national industrialization and modernization known as “dirigisme.” He aimed to make France economically self-sufficient and reduce its reliance on foreign powers.

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The EU Flag

9. There were challenges ahead.

Although Charles de Gaulle was a relatively popular politician, he still faced significant challenges during his presidency. This included civil unrest and protests in France in May 1968.

10. He retired toward the end of the 1960s.

Charles de Gaulle retired from politics in 1969 following a referendum defeat. He lived a relatively quiet life in retirement until his death in 1970. Despite his controversial decisions and policies, he left a lasting legacy as a symbol of French national pride, independence, and leadership.

Charles De Gaulle

FAQs about Charles de Gaulle

Why was Charles de Gaulle such an important figure?

Charles de Gaulle was an important figure during World War II. And, at the end of the war, he returned to France, having spent most of the conflicts in the UK, ready to take his place as its new leader, President of the Fifth Republic.

Who succeeded Charles de Gaulle?

Charles de Gaulle was followed by President Georges Pompidou. And, yes, that name is as fun to say out loud as you might imagine!

Did Charles de Gaulle save France?

Many believe that Charles de Gaulle did indeed save France during the Second World War. However, he was not President at the time, and half of France was occupied by Nazi Germany during the period. And, given that de Gaulle also remained in the UK during the Nazi occupancy, some dispute his role as France's savior. In fact, some credit Winston Churchill more due to his aid to Charles de Gaulle in keeping the French Resistance informed via the BBC during the war.

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This page was last modified on August 3, 2023. Suggest an edit

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