François Mitterrand

François Mitterrand

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François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand fʁɑ̃swa mɔʁis mitɛˈʁɑ̃ (26 October 1916 – 8 January 1996) was the 21st President of the French Republic
President of the French Republic
The President of the French Republic colloquially referred to in English as the President of France, is France's elected Head of State....

 and ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, serving from 1981 until 1995. He is the longest-serving President of France and, as leader of the Socialist Party, the only figure from the left so far elected President under the Fifth Republic
French Fifth Republic
The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, introduced on 4 October 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing the prior parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system...

. As president, Mitterrand presided over the passage of a wide range of liberal social reforms while maintaining the “basic characteristic of a strong welfare base underpinned by a strong state,” as demonstrated by a United Nations Human Development report that found that, from 1979 to 1989, France was the only country in the OECD (apart from Portugal) in which income inequalities did not get worse.

Reflecting family influences, Mitterrand started political life on the nationalist right. He served under the Vichy Regime in its earlier years. Subsequently, however, he joined the Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

, moved to the left, and held ministerial office repeatedly under the Fourth Republic
French Fourth Republic
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems...

. He opposed de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

's establishment of the Fifth Republic. Although at times a politically isolated figure, Mitterrand outmanoeuvred rivals to become the left's standard bearer in every presidential election from 1965 to 1988, except 1969. Elected President in the May 1981 presidential election
French presidential election, 1981
The French presidential election of 1981 took place on 10 May 1981, giving the presidency of France to François Mitterrand, the first Socialist president of the Fifth Republic....

, he was re-elected in 1988
French presidential election, 1988
Presidential elections were held in France on 24 April and 8 May 1988.In 1981, the Socialist Party leader, François Mitterrand, was elected President of France and the Left won the legislative election. However, in 1986, the Right regained a parliamentary majority. President Mitterrand was forced...

 and held office until 1995.

Mitterrand invited the Communist Party
French Communist Party
The French Communist Party is a political party in France which advocates the principles of communism.Although its electoral support has declined in recent decades, the PCF retains a large membership, behind only that of the Union for a Popular Movement , and considerable influence in French...

 into his first government, a controversial move at the time. In the event, the Communists were boxed in as junior partners and, rather than taking advantage, saw their support erode. They left the cabinet in 1984. Early in his first term, Mitterrand followed a radical economic program, including nationalization of key firms, but after two years, with the economy in crisis, he reversed course. His foreign and defense policies built on those of his Gaullist predecessors. His partnership with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl
Helmut Kohl
Helmut Josef Michael Kohl is a German conservative politician and statesman. He was Chancellor of Germany from 1982 to 1998 and the chairman of the Christian Democratic Union from 1973 to 1998...

 advanced European integration via the Maastricht Treaty
Maastricht Treaty
The Maastricht Treaty was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands. On 9–10 December 1991, the same city hosted the European Council which drafted the treaty...

, but he accepted German reunification
German reunification
German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany , and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The start of this process is commonly referred by Germans as die...

 only reluctantly. He was twice forced by the loss of a parliamentary majority into "cohabitation government
Cohabitation (government)
Cohabitation in government occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France's system, when the President is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament. It occurs because such a system forces the president to name a premier that will be acceptable to the...

s" with conservative cabinets led, respectively, by Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac
Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

 (1986–88), and Édouard Balladur
Édouard Balladur
Édouard Balladur is a French politician who served as Prime Minister of France from 29 March 1993 to 10 May 1995.-Biography:Balladur was born in İzmir, Turkey, to an Armenian Catholic family with five children and long-standing ties to France...

 (1993–95). Less than 8 months after leaving office, Mitterrand died from prostate cancer
Prostate cancer
Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system. Most prostate cancers are slow growing; however, there are cases of aggressive prostate cancers. The cancer cells may metastasize from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly...

 he had sought to conceal throughout his presidency.

Beyond making the French left electable, Mitterrand presided over the rise of the Socialist Party to dominance of the left, and the decline of the once-mighty Communist Party
French Communist Party
The French Communist Party is a political party in France which advocates the principles of communism.Although its electoral support has declined in recent decades, the PCF retains a large membership, behind only that of the Union for a Popular Movement , and considerable influence in French...

 (as a share of the popular vote in the first presidential round, the Communists shrank from a peak of 21.27% in 1969 to 8.66% in 1995, at the end of Mitterrand's second term, and to 1.93% in the 2007 election). During his time in office he was a strong promoter of culture and implemented his expensive "Grands Projets
Grands Projets of François Mitterrand
The Grands Projets of François Mitterrand was an architectural program to provide modern monuments in Paris, the city of monuments, symbolizing France’s role in art, politics, and economy at the end of the 20th century...

".

Mitterrand's family


Mitterrand was born in Jarnac
Jarnac
Jarnac is a commune in the Charente department in southwestern France.It is the site of the Battle of Jarnac in 1569.-Geography:Jarnac is situated on the right bank of the river Charente between the towns of Angoulême and Cognac...

, Charente, and baptized
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand. His family was devoutly Roman Catholic, and conservative. His father, Joseph Gilbert Félix, worked as an engineer for la Compagnie Paris Orléans and his mother, Marie Gabrielle Yvonne Lorrain, was a remote niece of Pope John XXII by a genealogical link with the lords de Barbezières. He had three brothers (Robert, Jacques and Philippe) and four sisters.

Marie Lorrain's father, Jules, worked as a vinegar-maker and later served as the president of the federation of vinegar makers (Fédération des syndicats de fabricants de vinaigre), while her mother, Marguerite du Soulier de Clareuil, was a noblewoman and a descendant of both Fernando III of Castile and Jean de Brienne of Jerusalem.

Mitterrand's wife, Danielle Mitterrand
Danielle Mitterrand
Danielle Mitterrand was the wife of French President François Mitterrand, and president of the foundation France Libertés Fondation Danielle Mitterrand.-Biography:...

 née Gouze (1924-2011), came from a socialist background and worked for various left-wing causes. They married on 24 October 1944 and had three sons: Pascal (10 June 1945 17 September 1945), Jean-Christophe
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand
Jean-Christophe Mitterrand is the son of former French president François Mitterrand. He was an advisor to his father on African affairs from 1986 to 1992, and earned the nickname Papamadit in Africa.- Life and career :Mitterrand was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, Hauts-de-Seine...

, born in 1946, and Gilbert Mitterrand born on 4 February 1949. He also had a daughter, Mazarine
Mazarine Pingeot
Mazarine Marie Pingeot , who changed her name to Mazarine Marie Pingeot-Mitterrand in 2005, is a writer, journalist and professor.-Life:...

, born in 1974, with Anne Pingeot
Anne Pingeot
Anne Pingeot was the mistress of François Mitterrand, the former President of the French Republic. Together they had a daughter, Mazarine Pingeot....

. His nephew Frédéric Mitterrand
Frédéric Mitterrand
Frédéric Mitterrand , a Franco-Tunisian citizen, is the French Minister of Culture and Communication. Throughout his career, he has been an actor, screenwriter, television presenter, writer, producer and director.-Biography:...

 is a journalist, currently the Minister of Culture and Communications (and a supporter of Jacques Chirac
Jacques Chirac
Jacques René Chirac is a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. He previously served as Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988 , and as Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.After completing his studies of the DEA's degree at the...

, the former president of France), and his wife's brother-in-law Roger Hanin
Roger Hanin
Roger Hanin is a French actor , best known for playing the title role in the 1989-2006 TV crime series, Navarro.-Personal life:...

 is a well-known French actor.

Early life



Mitterrand studied from 1925 to 1934 in the collège Saint-Paul in Angoulême
Angoulême
-Main sights:In place of its ancient fortifications, Angoulême is encircled by boulevards above the old city walls, known as the Remparts, from which fine views may be obtained in all directions. Within the town the streets are often narrow. Apart from the cathedral and the hôtel de ville, the...

, where he became a member of the JEC
Jec
JEC may refer to:* James Earl Carter or Jimmy Carter , American president* James E. Cornette, a stage name for American professional wrestling manager Jim Cornette* Jewish Educational Center, in New Jersey...

 (Jeunesse étudiante chrétienne), the student organisation of Action catholique
Catholic Action
Catholic Action was the name of many groups of lay Catholics who were attempting to encourage a Catholic influence on society.They were especially active in the nineteenth century in historically Catholic countries that fell under anti-clerical regimes such as Spain, Italy, Bavaria, France, and...

. Arriving in Paris in autumn 1934, he then went to the École Libre des Sciences Politiques
École Libre des Sciences Politiques
École Libre des Sciences Politiques , often referred to as the École des Sciences Politiques or simply Sciences Po was created in Paris in February 1872 by a group of European intellectuals, politicians and businessmen, which included Hippolyte Taine, Ernest Renan, Albert Sorel, Pierre Paul...

 until 1937, where he obtained his diploma in July of that year. Mitterrand took membership for about a year in the Volontaires nationaux (National Volunteers), an organisation related to François de la Rocque
François de la Rocque
François de La Rocque was leader of the French right-wing league named the Croix de Feu from 1930–1936, before forming the more moderate Parti Social Français , seen as a precursor of Gaullism.- Early life :François de La Rocque was born on 6 October 1885 in Lorient, Brittany, the third son to a...

's far-right league, the Croix de Feu; the league had just participated in the 6 February 1934 riots which led to the fall of the second Cartel des Gauches
Cartel des Gauches
The Cartel des gauches was the name of the governmental alliance between the Radical-Socialist Party and the socialist French Section of the Workers' International after World War I , which lasted until the end of the Popular Front . The Cartel des gauches twice won general elections, in 1924 and...

(Left-Wing Coalition).

Contrary to some reports, Mitterrand never became a formal member of the Parti Social Français (PSF) which was the successor to the Croix de Feu and may be considered the first French right-wing mass party. However, he did write news articles in the L'Echo de Paris
L'Écho de Paris
L'Écho de Paris was a daily newspaper in Paris from 1884 to 1944.The paper's editorial stance was initially conservative and nationalistic, although it did later become close to the French Socialist Party. Its writers included Octave Mirbeau, Georges Clemenceau, Henry Bordeaux, François Mitterrand,...

newspaper, which was close to the PSF. He participated in the demonstrations against the "métèque invasion" in February 1935 and then in those against law teacher Gaston Jèze
Gaston Jèze
Gaston Jèze was a French academic, humanitarian and Human Rights activist. He was a professor of public law , president of the International Law Institute , founder and director of the Journal of Science and financial legislation Director of the Public Law Review .During the 1930's he served as...

, who had been nominated as juridical counsellor of Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

's Negus
Negus
Negus is a title in Ge'ez, Tigrinya, Tigre and Amharic, used for a king and at times also a vassal ruler in pre-1974 Ethiopia and pre-1890 Eritrea. It is subsequently used to translate the word "king" in Biblical and other literature...

, in January 1936.

When Mitterrand's involvement in these conservative nationalist movements was revealed in the 1990s, he attributed his actions to the milieu of his youth. Mitterrand furthermore had some personal and family relations with members of the Cagoule
Cagoule
A cagoule, cagoul, kagoule or kagool is the British English term for a lightweight , weatherproof raincoat or anorak with a hood, which often comes in knee-length....

, a far-right terrorist group in the 1930s. However, as a nationalist, it was logical for Mitterrand to be disturbed by Nazi expansionism, including the Anschluss
Anschluss
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 whereby Germany absorbed Austria.

Mitterrand then served his conscription
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 from 1937 to 1939 in the 23rd régiment d'infanterie coloniale. In 1938, he became the best friend of Georges Dayan, a Jewish socialist, whom he saved from anti-Semite aggressions by the national-royalist movement Action française
Action Française
The Action Française , founded in 1898, is a French Monarchist counter-revolutionary movement and periodical founded by Maurice Pujo and Henri Vaugeois and whose principal ideologist was Charles Maurras...

. His friendship with Dayan caused Mitterrand to begin to question some of his nationalist ideas. Finishing his law studies, he was sent in September 1939 to the Maginot line
Maginot Line
The Maginot Line , named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defences, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I,...

 near Montmédy
Montmédy
Montmédy is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.-Citadel of Montmédy:In 1221 the first castle of Montmédy was built on top of a hill by the Count of Chiny. Montmédy became soon the capital of his territory - later it belonged to Luxembourg, Burgundy, Austria and...

, with the rank of Sergeant-chief (infantry sergeant). He became engaged to Marie-Louise Terrasse (future actress Catherine Langeais
Catherine Langeais
Catherine Langeais, was a French television presenter and actress.She was born Marie-Louise Terrasse in Valence , France, and died in Paris.- François Mitterrand :...

) in May 1940 (but she broke it off in January 1942).