The death of the general de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle died at his home, La Boisserie, on 9 November 1970, at 7.25 in the evening. The death was sudden, caused by the rupture of an aneurysm according to Dr. Lacheny, a GP from Bar-sur-Aube. Anxious to preserve a moment of family intimacy around the death of her husband, Yvonne de Gaulle managed to keep the event secret for 14 hours until it was announced in an AFP dispatch on 10 November at 9.40 a.m. The emotional reaction was immense, in France and around the world.
As early as 1952, the general had laid out the plans for his funeral in a handwritten document, copies of which were handed to only three people, his son Philippe, son-in-law Alain de Boissieu, his private secretary at the time, and Georges Pompidou. The ceremony, instructed the general, was to be "extremely simple": "no president, minister, assembly committees, nor constituted body" were to attend. "Only the French armed forces may participate officially in their own right, but their involvement is to be on a very modest scale, without music, fanfare or sounding of trumpets…". "No places are to be reserved for any during the ceremony save only for my family, my Compagnons, members of the Order of the Liberation, and the town council of Colombey…". The people of France could pay him the tribute of accompanying his body to its last resting place, provided it be in silence.
These instructions were followed to the letter. On 12 November, just before 4 p.m., the mortal remains of the General were laid to rest in the cemetery of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, following a service in the packed small church attended by the family, parishioners and some 350 Compagnons. Outside the church a crowd of 40 000, some of whom had spent the night in the open, stood massed in the streets and environs of the tiny village. The only concessions to required ceremony: the passing bell was rung, as it was also in many churches around France and, since virtually every sovereign and head of state around the world had announced an intention to come to Paris to pay their last respects, a Requiem Mass was held at 11 a.m. on 12 November at the high altar of the Cathedral of Nôtre-Dame. The evening before, a spontaneous demonstration, impressive in its fervour, had taken place in Paris at the Place de l'Etoile – soon to be renamed Place du Générale de Gaulle: tens of thousands of people of all races and origins assembled at the Arc de Triomphe, in the rain, to lay their tribute of flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in a last tribute to national unanimity.