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As a front-line infantry officer in August 1914 de Gaulle had been wounded in the first month of the war and wounded again six months later. In 1916 at the Battle of Verdun, leading his men into attack, he suffered bayonet wounds in hand-to-hand fighting and was listed as dead. He proved his ability as a warrior again in May 1940 when, as the French army collapsed around him, he twice led his tanks in successful counter-attacks against German Panzers. 

He had been born into a provincial, middle-class, strictly Catholic family in 1890, the son of a schoolmaster and grandson of a Lille textile manufacturer. Jackson writes that the father, Henri de Gaulle, was remembered as “a gentle survivor from another age: distinguished and formal, undemonstrative and erudite . . . he passed on to his son a reverence for writers and the life of the mind”. The boy Charles’s “sale caractère” seems to have come from his mother, who had a notably aggressive personality.

He grew up in Paris but regularly returned to the north of France for holidays and family reunions. The home life of the de Gaulles was dominated by intimidating Catholic matriarchs. When, at the age of 18, Charles attended a performance of Carmen in Paris he warned a cousin to be sure not to tell their grandmother of his escapade.

He was educated by Jesuits, for some of the time at a boarding school in Belgium, and emerged with a fixed belief that his destiny was to serve his country and that his country’s history began not in 1789, with the official French reverence for Revolution and the Rights of Man, but in the year 481 with Clovis, King of the Franks and the first Christian King of France.

De Gaulle remained an undemonstrative but profoundly convinced Catholic all his life, once on the way home from Mass informing a startled aide de camp that Christ’s sacrifice “opened up the horizons of religion beyond the heart of men towards vast regions giving a place to human suffering, to human anguish, to human dignity”. References to his faith were rare in his political life but Jackson’s exhaustive research has traced a few. “What is certain,” Jackson writes, “is that de Gaulle’s Catholicism was inseparable from his patriotism and his sense of France”.

Emmanuel Macron also comes from a bourgeois Catholic background in northern France, albeit with a less orthodox record since, while still at school, he started an affair with his French teacher, Brigitte, the mother of one of his classmates, whom he subsequently married. The scandal that followed rocked his native city of Amiens and might have alienated him from the Church for life — but he too has recently shown signs of reconnecting with his Catholic roots. To the fury of the professional anti-clericals on the French Left, Macron summoned the Catholic hierarchy of France to a one-day conference in April, declaring that the time had come to “reforge the ancient links binding church and state”. The relationship between church and state is one of the most sensitive questions in French politics: furious skirmishes break out over it, normally in the field of education, every few years. So, in calling this conference Macron risked stirring up a hornet’s nest of secular outrage. “The president of the republic should be defending laicité  [secularism] and the [anti-clerical] laws of 1905, not meeting the French hierarchy,” thundered the general secretary of the Socialist Party. “Secularity is the jewel in the republic’s crown.” Undeterred, Macron insisted on the need to explore “the role of the church in society”. 
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Anonymous
June 10th, 2018
3:06 PM
The "X" have ruled for long enough to forget that the Battle of the Palace of the Martyrs was not the finish of Empire-building, but only a setback for the losers. This time the invasion is all but complete and just awaits the end-game.

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