Tags

Capture

Under grey skies at noon on November 6, 1958 the 83-year old Winston Churchill received the Cross of Lorraine from Charles de Gaulle in a simple ceremony held in Paris in the garden of the Hotel Matignon, the residence of the French premier. With 60 high-ranking British and French officials looking on, De Gaulle and Churchill inspected the honor guard drawn from the French army, navy, and air force before the band played the two national anthems. Churchill was wearing a scarf and overcoat and leaning heavily on a stick, while de Gaulle was dressed in his plain military uniform and two-starred kepi. De Gaulle pinned the cross on Churchill’s dark overcoat while repeating the order’s admission declaration, “We recognize you as our companion for the liberation of France in its honor and in its victory.”

Afterwards De Gaulle and Churchill moved to a nearby salon where the former British prime minister made a short speech. He spoke in English, reminding the audience that he had spoken to Frenchmen in their own language during the war but that he did not “want to subject you to the ordeals of darker and sterner days.” In his remarks Churchill recalled saying of de Gaulle after their first meeting in 1940, “There is the constable of France.” Eighteen years later he reflected, “How well he lived up to that title.” De Gaulle replied in French saying about Churchill, “Today’s ceremony signifies simply that France knows what it owes him. I want him to know this: He who has just had the honor of decorating him esteems him and admires him today more than ever.” Churchill was visibly moved as de Gaulle spoke. Churchill and De Gaulle along with their wives and 20 guests lunched together at the Hotel Matignon. Later that afternoon Churchill and wife Clementine were received by President Rene Coty at the Elysee palace before they departed Paris by plane for Nice.

The meeting between Churchill and de Gaulle in 1958 was probably their first meeting since November 1945.

Advertisements