British statesman Roy Jenkins wrote of the life and career of French soldier-leader Charles de Gaulle that “compared with his companions on the world stage [De Gaulle] had mostly to play a poor hand from a weak seat”, adding that “he behaved in a way which, seeking grandeur, invited ridicule, yet always escaped it. He was a frog that puffed itself up but instead of bursting became almost as big as it wanted to be”.   

More than 50 years after De Gaulle’s death his political shadow and strategic architecture still shade France and Europe, no mean accomplishment for someone who — from the obscurity of his prior deputy ministry, by his own will and sense of ingrained grandeur — set himself up in exile in London in 1940 as the leader of the Free French. After the war he managed to insert France — defeated and occupied for most of the war by the Nazis — into the very centre of European and world affairs, a place it still occupies today.  ..

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