Charles de Gaulle is France’s favourite national hero, embodying the country’s highest collective ideals: devotion to public service, patriotism, military valour, and personal integrity (he paid his own electricity bills when he was president). He is also a literary giant: ever since their publication in the 1950s, his War Memoirs have become one of the monuments of modern French prose. Indeed, de Gaulle is so iconic today that more French streets and public squares bear his name than any other historical figure. This is a tribute to his founding of the Fifth Republic, which has produced a stable presidential democracy, as well as his pivotal role as the symbol of the French Resistance during the Second World War.
In June, President Sarkozy will pay a special visit to London to mark the seventieth anniversary of the General’s BBC appeal of 18 June 1940, which launched the Gaullian rebellion. The commemorative flurry in France has already begun, and it includes a raft of new publications on de