Sunday, September 15, 2013

Charles de Gaulle's Birthplace and Museum

1. Commandant (Major) Charles de Gaulle (c. 1928 - 29)
Commander, 19th Infantry Battalion, Trier, Rhineland
2. Charles de Gaulle's Birthplace and Museum
[No 9, Rue de Princesse, Lille, Nord, France]
3. Two of the signs at the museum entrance
4. The ground floor veranda overlooking the garden 
 For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

The Charles de Gaulle birthplace and museum

Pierre Charles André Joseph Pierre-Marie de Gaulle (1890 - 1970) [Photograph No 1] was born on 22 November 1890 at No. 9, Rue de Princesse, Lille in northern France [Photograph No 2]. On the same day he was born, Charles de Gaulle, as he would become known, was baptised at the Catholic Church of St André in Lille. During the Second World War, after June 1940, General Charles de Gaulle became the head of the Free French Forces and leader of the French Committee of National Liberation.

Following the Allied Liberation of France in 1944 until January 1946, Charles de Gaulle became President of the Provisional Government of the French Republic. Later, following the establishment of Vth French Republic in the late 1950s he became the nation's first President under the new constitution.

Yet, there is even more to the life story of Charles de Gaulle than even these facts indicate. His was a long and eventful life and one that began with his birth at the home of his maternal grandparents in Lille, Jules-Émile Maillot and Julia Marie Maillot (née Delannoy).

In 1967, while Charles de Gaulle remained President of France, a group of the President's friends purchased the house and transformed into a constantly-evolving museum. It is a place of national and international importance. One of the signs at the right-hand side of the front entrance tells the passer-by that this is building is an historic monument while a second sign proudly proclaims this was General Charles de Gaulle's birthplace [Photograph No 3]. There is also a tablet on the left-hand side of the entrance door.

Sunday, 15 September, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The 'cradle' of Charles de Gaulle

Many of those who think they know of Charles de Gaulle will have the image of the 'Man of 18 June 1940', 'General Micro', the 'Liberator of France' and the 'Founder of the Vth French Republic'. They might also see him as the 'Ultimate Frenchman' and alongside Napoleon Bonaparte one of the most illustrious Frenchmen of all time. He was perhaps an enigmatic, modest and sometimes aloof character who believed in the path that destiny had laid out for him.

For those who wish to better understand Charles de Gaulle, his life and times and his place within French history and world history this is as good place to begin that quest. In effect, this is a 'living museum'.

Firstly, there is an interactive timeline tracing the key dates in the long life of Charles de Gaulle through items that he would have known and audio-visual materials. Secondly, there is a conference room allowing audio-visual displays, conferences and debates. Thirdly, there is a multi-media resource centre offering the public access to a computer database and library much of it based on the personal archives of Charles de Gaulle as well as the history of the 19th and 20th centuries. Fourthly, there is an area specifically dedicated to welcoming youngest generation (4 - 11 year olds) so they can discover for themselves the life of one of the 'great' figures of the 20th century.

The rooms in the right wing of the building and the garden have developed over time. Yet, much of the furniture and fittings dates back to the time when Charles de Gaulle's maternal grandmother and other relatives lived or stayed here. Part of the garden which would have been the childhood playground of Charles de Gaulle, his siblings and cousins has disappeared. in the rear centre of what remains of the garden is a bust of General de Gaulle sculpted by André Journet and mounted on a granite plinth donated by the inhabitants of a small island off the west coast of Brittany, the Île de Sein, Compagnon de la Libération.

The inhabitants of the Île de Sein were among the first to hear General de Gaulle's famous 'Appeal' over the radio waves on 18 June 1940. Almost all the men of the island, mainly fisherman, left their homes and families behind and sailed their boats to the U.K. to join General de Gaulle. They were the first to join General de Gaulle following the 'Appeal'.

Sunday, 15 September, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The veranda and 'horse-skirt' of Charles de Gaulle

The maternal grandfather of Charles de Gaulle, Jules-Émile Maillot, died in 1891. From that time until 1912, the years when the young Charles de Gaulle knew the house on the Rue de Princess at Lille, it was his grandmother Mme. Julia Maillot who was the head of the household and the matriarch of the family. The family rooms of the present-day birthplace museum largely recreate the cosy but comfortable family home created by Grandmother Maillot.

Overlooking the garden on the ground floor of the left wing of the building is the veranda [Photograph No 4]. According to the memoirs of Mme. Marie-Agnès Cailliau (née De Gaulle), the sister of Charles de Gaulle, as a 5-year-old for a St Nicholas' Day present (6 December) the young Charles had long dreamed of receiving a 'horse-skirt', in French a « cheval-jupon ».

However, on St Nicholas' Day 1896, because the young Charles merited a punishment his parents withheld the desired gift for a time. Instead, Charles received a letter from St Nicholas saying he had not merited the longed-for 'horse-skirt' ... but if Charles displayed that he had been 'wiser' during the next month, St Nicholas would bring him the desired toy. Needless to say, the 5-year-old Charles learnt his lesson and received the 'horse-skirt' after achieving his merit. These were early lessons for the young Charles in overcoming a major disappointment, discipline, persistence and patience. The 'horse-skirt' can be seen hanging at the right-hand side of the mantelpiece in the veranda of Grandmother Maillot's house [Photograph No 4].

The veranda was also where Grandmother Maillot would tell or read stories to her grandchildren. During the summer months her extended family would also take lunch or dinner together in the room.

The garden and veranda were favourite parts of the house for the children. In this part of the house the children would play games such as hide-and-seek or recite poetry and stories to the adults. When playing with toy soldiers, the young Charles de Gaulle was always at the head of the French armies and always won, or at least according to the De Gaulle legend!

Sunday, 15 September, 2013  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Family rooms of the Maillot household

The remaining rooms on the ground floor of the right wing of the building include: a hall, a small living room, a large living room, a vestibule, dining room, kitchen and service entrance. The large staircase to the first floor is carpeted leading to a toiletry room, with the first room on the floor giving access to the other rooms. This first room had a number of uses over the years. For example, at one time it was just a simple 'walk-through' room. At another time it was converted into an office where a secretary worked.

Also on the first floor is the 'Grand Salon' with windows overlooking the garden, the main bedroom of the house used by M and Mme Maillot), the 'Guest Room' and the 'Second Bedroom'. This latter bedroom is of special interest as it was in this room where Charles de Gaulle was born on 22 November 1890. In this room one can see his christening gown and the ivory crucifix used at his baptism.

The second floor of the property, accessible by another staircase, is partly used as the administration area of the museum. In the time when this was a family home, this area would have been mainly used by the domestic employees.

Adorning the walls, mantelpieces and some of the pieces of furniture are family photographs and portraits. Mme. Maillot's pedigree included German and British forebears and their portraits are among those displayed on the walls of the house.

In addition, throughout the house are religious symbols reflecting the devout Catholic faith of Grandmother Maillot. For example, on the mantelpiece of the veranda is a small statue of the Madonna and Child Jesus [seen in Photograph No 4 above]. Upstairs, in the main bedroom is a personal kneeler so that Grandmother Maillot could kneel down to say her daily prayers at the beginning and the end of each day.

After her husband's death, Mme Maillot's daily routine included attending the 7.00 a.m. Mass at the nearby Parish Church of St André (the baptismal church of Charles de Gaulle). Thus, it can be seen that, among other things, the family home of Charles de Gaulle's grandmother was a house of piety and religious devotion. Among the other items displayed are Charles de Gaulle's officer's sword from the St Cyr Military Academy and the lead soldiers he used as a child.

Further information

To discover more about the Charles de Gaulle birthplace and museum (in French) and to take a virtual tour of the museum, click on the following link:
Charles de Gaulle birthplace and museum website

Sunday, 15 September, 2013  

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