Exit de Gaulle

Douglas Johnson reconsiders the circumstances in which de Gaulle relinquished his position as President of France and his mythic legacy in French history.

Charles de Gaulle c.1942

On the evening of Friday, April 25th, 1969, General de Gaulle left the Elysée Palace to spend the weekend at his country home at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises. This was his usual practice unless affairs of state kept him in Paris. But this weekend was different. A referendum was to be placed before the French people on Sunday, April 27th, in which they would decide on the government’s plans for regional and Senate reform – the one setting up an elected assembly in each of the regions of France, the other converting the Senate into an advisory rather than a legislative body. De Gaulle intended to cast his own vote at Colombey on the Sunday morning.

De Gaulle left Paris after making his last television appearance urging the French people to vote ‘oui’ to the reforms. In this broadcast he reiterated his intention of resigning from office if the majority of the population rejected the proposal. There is every reason to believe that he expected to lose the vote.

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