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1970: France mourns death of de Gaulle
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.

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General de Gaulle
General de Gaulle won the hearts of the French people from exile during the war



In Context
The news did not filter through to the public until the following day, and France was plunged into mourning.

The President, Georges Pompidou, said France had been widowed by his death.

The General's funeral took place on Armistice Day, 11 November.

His wishes for a simple ceremony in his home village were respected.

However, so many ordinary French citizens made their way to Colombey to mourn that the village's normal population of about 400 swelled to 50,000.

De Gaulle's political influence continues to this day.

"Gaullism" remains a powerful force in French politics, and although it has been discredited in recent years, de Gaulle's ideas can still be seen in the tendency towards a strong presidency and the pursuit of an independent foreign policy.

Abroad, however, recently released wartime records have shown that General de Gaulle faced considerable hostility from Allied leaders.

The British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and US President Franklin D Roosevelt both disliked and distrusted him, and Churchill even attempted to have him removed as leader of the Free French forces.

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