Georges Pompidou

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Georges Pompidou
Georges Pompidou - Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F020538-0006.jpg
President of the French Republic
Co-Prince of Andorra
In office
20 June 1969 – 2 April 1974
Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas
Pierre Messmer
Preceded by Charles de Gaulle
Succeeded by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
Prime Minister of France
In office
14 April 1962 – 10 July 1968
President Charles de Gaulle
Preceded by Michel Debré
Succeeded by Maurice Couve de Murville
Member of the Constitutional Council
In office
5 March 1959 – 14 April 1962
Nominated by Charles de Gaulle
Succeeded by Bernard Chenot
Personal details
Born Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou
(1911-07-05)5 July 1911
Montboudif, France
Died 2 April 1974(1974-04-02) (aged 62)
Paris, France
Political party Union for the New Republic (Before 1968)
Union of Democrats for the Republic (1968–1974)
Spouse(s) Claude Cahour (m. 1935; his death 1974)
Children Alain Pompidou
Alma mater École Normale Supérieure
Free School of Political Studies
Religion Roman Catholicism

Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou (French: [ʒɔʁʒ pɔ̃pidu]; 5 July 1911 – 2 April 1974) was Prime Minister of France from 1962 to 1968 - the longest tenure in the position's history - and later President of the French Republic from 1969 until his death in 1974. He had long been a top aide to president Charles de Gaulle. As president, he was a moderate conservative who repaired France's relationship with the United States, and maintained positive relations with the newly-independent former colonies in Africa.

He strengthened his political party, the Union of Democrats for the Republic ("Union des Democrates pour la Ve République" or UDR), to make it a bastion of the Gaullist movement. Pompidou's presidency is generally held in high esteem by French political commentators.


Pompidou was born in the commune of Montboudif, in the department of Cantal in central France.[1] After his khâgne at Lycée Louis-le-Grand, where he befriended Senegalese future poet and statesman Léopold Sédar Senghor, he graduated from the École Normale Supérieure with a degree of Agrégation in literature.

He first taught literature at the lycée Henri IV in Paris until hired in 1953 by Guy de Rothschild to work at Rothschild. In 1956, he was appointed the bank's general manager, a position he held until 1962. Later, he was hired by Charles de Gaulle to manage the Anne de Gaulle Foundation for Down syndrome (de Gaulle's daughter Anne had Down's syndrome).

Prime Minister

Jacques Chirac served as an aide to Prime Minister Pompidou and recalled:

The man gave the appearance of being secretive, wily, a little cunning – which he was, to a degree. However, it was primarily his intelligence, culture, and competence that conferred indisputable authority on him and commanded respect.... I remember his untamed eyebrows, his penetrating, very kindly gaze, his perceptive smile, full of humor and mischievousness, his voice with its wonderful low, warm, gravelly tone, and a figure that was both powerful and elegant. Naturally reserved, little given to emotional outbursts, Pompidou did not forge very close ties with his colleagues.[2]

He served as prime minister under de Gaulle after Michel Debré resigned, from 16 April 1962 to 21 July 1968, and to this day is the longest serving French prime minister under the Fifth Republic. His nomination was controversial because he was not a member of the National Assembly. In October 1962, he was defeated in a vote of no-confidence, but de Gaulle dissolved the National Assembly. The Gaullists won the legislative election and Pompidou was reappointed as Prime Minister. In 1964, he was faced with a miners' strike. He led the 1967 legislative campaign of the Union of Democrats for the Fifth Republic to a narrow victory. Pompidou was widely regarded as being responsible for the peaceful resolution of the student uprising of May 1968. His strategy was to break the coalition of students and workers by negotiating with the trade-unions and employers (Grenelle conference). Until this crisis, he was the Prime Minister of a quiet and prosperous France.

However, during the events of May 1968, disagreements arose between Pompidou and de Gaulle. Pompidou did not understand why the President did not inform him of his departure to Baden-Baden on 29 May. Their relationship, until then very good, would be strained from then on. Pompidou led and won the 1968 legislative campaign, overseeing a tremendous victory of the Gaullist Party. He then resigned. Nevertheless, in part due to his actions during the May 1968 crisis, he appeared as the natural successor to de Gaulle. Pompidou announced his candidature for the Presidency in January 1969. Some weeks later, his wife's name was mentioned in the Markovic scandal, thus appearing to confirm her husband's status as a cuckold. Pompidou was certain that de Gaulle's inner circle was responsible for this smear.

In social policy, Pompidou's tenure as prime minister witnessed the establishment of the National Employment Fund in 1963 to counter the negative effects on employment caused by industrial restructuring.[3]


After the failure of the 1969 constitutional referendum de Gaulle resigned and Pompidou was elected president of France.[4] In the general election of 15 June 1969, he defeated the centrist President of the Senate and Acting President Alain Poher by a wide margin (57%–42%).[5] Though a Gaullist, Pompidou was more pragmatic than de Gaulle, notably facilitating the accession of the United Kingdom to the European Community on 1 January 1973. He embarked on an industrialisation plan and initiated the Arianespace project, as well as the TGV project, and furthered the French civilian nuclear programme. He was sceptical about the "New Society" programme of his prime minister, Jacques Chaban-Delmas. In 1972, he replaced Chaban-Delmas with Pierre Messmer, a more conservative Gaullist. While the left-wing opposition organised itself and proposed a Common Programme before the 1973 legislative election, Pompidou widened his presidential majority by including Centrist pro-European parties. In addition, he paid special attention to regional and local needs in order to strengthen his political party, the UDR (Union des Democrates pour la Ve République), which he made it a central and lasting force in the Gaullist movement.[6]

Foreign affairs

The United States was eager to restore positive relations with France after de Gaulle's departure from office. New US President Richard Nixon and his top advisor Henry Kissinger admired Pompidou; the politicians were in agreement on most major policy issues. The United States offered to help the French nuclear program. Economic difficulties, however, arose following the Nixon Shock and the 1973-75 recession, particularly over the role of the American dollar as the medium for world trade.[7]

Pompidou sought to maintain good relations with the newly-independent former French colonies in Africa. In 1971, he visited Mauritania, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroons, and Gabon. He brought a message of cooperation and financial assistance, but without the traditional paternalism. More broadly, he made an effort to foster closer relations with North African and Middle Eastern countries in order to develop a hinterland including all nations bordering the Mediterranean.[8]

Modernizing Paris

Pompidou's time in office was marked by constant efforts to modernise France's capital city. He spearheaded construction of a modern art museum, the Centre Beaubourg (renamed Centre Pompidou after his death), on the edge of the Marais area of Paris. Other attempts at modernisation included tearing down the open air markets at Les Halles and replacing it with the shopping mall of the same name, building the Montparnasse Tower, and constructing an expressway on the right bank of the Seine.

Death in office

While still in office, Pompidou died on 2 April 1974, 9 PM,[9] from Waldenström's macroglobulinemia.

Pompidou's wife Claude Pompidou lived more than thirty years past his death. The couple had one son, Alain Pompidou, former president of the European Patent Office.

France withdrew from the Eurovision Song Contest 1974, which took place just four days after Pompidou's death, as a mark of respect.


  • Anthologie de la Poésie Française, Livre de Poche/Hachette, 1961
  • Le Nœud gordien, éd. Plon, 1974
  • Entretiens et discours, deux vol., éd. Plon, 1975
  • Pour rétablir une vérité, éd. Flammarion, 1982


Second ministry, 28 November 1962 – 8 January 1966


  • 23 July 1964 – François Missoffe leaves the cabinet. He is not replaced as Minister of Repatriates
  • 22 February 1965 – Gaston Palewski leaves the ministry and is not replaced.

Third ministry, 8 January 1966 – 6 April 1967

Fifth ministry, 30 May – 10 July 1968

See also


  1. Wall, E. H. (1976). "Pompidou, Georges Jean Raymond". In William D. Halsey. Collier's Encyclopedia. 19. Macmillan Educational Corporation. p. 236.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Jacques Chirac, M Life and Politics" (2011) p 24
  4. Robert J. Jackson, "The Succession of Georges Pompidou: The French Presidential Election of 1969, Political Quarterly (1970) 41#2 pp 156-168
  5. Berstein, Serge; Rioux, Jean-Pierre (2000). The Cambridge History of Modern France: The Pompidou Years, 1969–1974. Cambridge University Press pages=14–15. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Frank L. Wilson, "Gaullism without de Gaulle," Western Political Quarterly (1973) 26#3 pp. 485-506 in JSTOR
  7. Trachtenberg, 2001
  8. Edward A. Kolodziej, French Foreign Policy under de Gaulle and Pompidou: The Politics of Grandeur (1974).
  9. Declaration of vacancy, Constitutional Council of France

Further reading

  • Berstein, Serge, and Jean-Pierre Rioux (2000). The Pompidou Years, 1969-1974. Cambridge UP. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>S, major scholarly history of France
  • Hibbs, Douglas A., and Nicholas Vasilatos. "Economics and Politics in France: Economic Performance and Mass Political Support for Presidents Pompidou and Giscard d'Estaing." European Journal of Political Research (1981) 9#2 pp: 133-145. online
  • Kolodziej, Edward A. French international policy under de Gaulle and Pompidou: the politics of grandeur (Cornell Univ Press, 1974) online
  • Lauber, Volkmar. The political economy of France: from Pompidou to Mitterrand (1983)
  • Trachtenberg, Marc. "The French Factor in US Foreign Policy during the Nixon-Pompidou Period, 1969–1974." Journal of Cold War Studies (2011) 13#1 pp: 4-59. online
Political offices
Preceded by
Michel Debré
Prime Minister of France
Succeeded by
Maurice Couve de Murville
Preceded by
Alain Poher
President of France
Succeeded by
Alain Poher
Party political offices
New political party Union of Democrats for the Republic nominee for President of France
Succeeded by
Jacques Chaban-Delmas
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Alain Poher
Co-Prince of Andorra
Served alongside: Ramon Malla Call (Acting), Joan Martí i Alanis
Succeeded by
Alain Poher
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Alain Poher
Honorary Canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran
Succeeded by
Alain Poher