I know almost nothing about Charles de Gaulle, and so I was intrigued by the recent essay about him by Peter Hitchens in First Things: “A Certain Idea of France.” One paragraph in particular struck me:
“De Gaulle possessed that great chivalrous virtue of being ready to walk unbowed and defiant in front of the powerful, while being gentle and even submissive to the defenseless and weak. He once became so angry with Churchill that he smashed a chair in his presence to emphasize his rage. Likewise, he defied Franklin Roosevelt over and over again. But he would go home after these battles to sing tender love songs to his daughter Anne, who suffered from Down syndrome. The tiny glimpses we have of this part of his life, obtained from the accidental observations of others, tear at the heart. His concern for Anne was entirely private and not at all feigned. After any long absence from home his first act was to rush up to her room. She died, aged twenty, in his arms. At her funeral, he comforted his wife Yvonne with the words, ‘Maintenant, elle est comme les autres’ (‘Now, she is like the others’), which must be one of the most moving things said in the whole twentieth century.”Peter Hitchens, “A Certain Idea of France”
Now, she is like the others.
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