Year
1969

Charles de Gaulle resigns as leader of France

Following the defeat of his proposals for constitutional reform in a national referendum, Charles de Gaulle resigns as president of France.

A veteran of World War I, de Gaulle unsuccessfully petitioned his country to modernize its armed forces between the wars. After Henri Petain and other French leaders signed an armistice with Nazi Germany in June 1940, he fled to London, where he organized the Free French forces and rallied French colonies to the Allied cause. His forces fought successfully in North Africa, and in June 1944 he was named head of the French government in exile. On August 26, following the Allied invasion of France, de Gaulle entered Paris in triumph. Three months later, he was unanimously elected provisional president of France.

He resigned in January 1946, however, claiming he lacked sufficient governing power. De Gaulle formed a new political party that had only moderate electoral success, and in 1953 he retired. However, five years later, a military and civilian revolt in Algeria created a political crisis in France, and he was called out of retirement to lead the nation. A new constitution was passed, and in late December he was elected president of the Fifth Republic.

During the next decade, President de Gaulle granted independence to Algeria and attempted to restore France to its former international stature by withdrawing from the U.S.-dominated NATO alliance and promoting the development of French atomic weapons. However, student demonstrations and workers’ strikes in 1968 eroded his popular support, and in 1969 his proposals for further constitutional reform were defeated in a national vote. On April 28, 1969, Charles de Gaulle, 79 years old, retired for good. He died the following year.

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