MEMORIES OF THE GENERAL DE GAULLE IN LONDON

The General de Gaulle has been part of my life since childhood, when my father used to evoke the war with emotion. Strangely enough I was to reside in two houses in which De Gaulle had lived. One of them was the house in Hampstead where he had lived between 1942-44 during his stay in London.

MEMORIES OF THE GENERAL DE GAULLE IN LONDON

The General de Gaulle has been part of my life since childhood, when my father used to evoke the war with emotion. Throughout his life he remained a great admirer and a fervent gaulliste. As a young sergeant in the Air Force, he had escaped from a train leading him to Germany to join the Maquis in South West France. The General’s Mémoires were a recurring topic of conversation together with The Histoire de l' Empire Ottoman, another favourite he used to read and comment.

Strangely enough I was to reside in two houses in which De Gaulle had lived. The first one was a villa in the South of France when, as a teenager, I discovered the Provence, its Roman past, art and architecture, on a cultural holiday. The second was the house in Hampstead where he had lived between 1942-44 during his stay in London. Frognal House, a Georgian house in its own garden is situated at 99 Frognal on a site recorded since the 15th century in hilly Hampstead. From the roof terrace overlooking the whole of London below, he would stand at night and watch the German bombings on the City of London during the Blitz.

Frognal House, 99 Frognal, Hampstead, Camden, London NW3 Frognal House, 99 Frognal, Hampstead, Camden, London NW3

 A wall plaque commemorates his stay. 

Wall plaque at Frognal House, Hampstead, London NW3 Wall plaque at Frognal House, Hampstead, London NW3

 The house is now a convent and I stayed there on several occasions while living in Rome in the early part of 2000. The reception rooms on the ground floor have remained, but the General’s Cabinet de travail is now the chapel.

The first floor pannelled library is where I would feel his spirit most strongly hovering as I would work alone early in the morning. His presence was tangible, a masculine energy in this feminine environment, an intensity of intellect and purpose that inspired me and carried me through my own research. I treasure the memory, associated in my mind with the early morning spring breeze wafting through the open windows the honneyed scent of wisteria and the birds’s rapturous singing. 

       

In General de Gaulle’s former library at Frognal House, Hampstead, London NW3 In General de Gaulle’s former library at Frognal House, Hampstead, London NW3
                                                                                                       

In the garden roses grew, I drew and painted them in the late afternoon, when the shadows of the trees lenghtened on the lawn. His spirit was there too, and I used to wonder how often he would have come back from his headquarters in Carlton Gardens worn and weary with cares, to wander off to the peace of the leafy bowers and refresh his tired mind and soul. His memory lives on.

And I also imagine that this place where the Free French Forces gathered around their leader to stand and fight for the French traditional values of Justice and Humanism against the inertia and dishonourable compromises towards the evils of Barbarism, saw the presence of those valiant men and women, such as Stéphane Hessel, who I have known and supported in his militant fight for Human Rights. One of the authors of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 2011 he dedicated me his pamphlet Indignez vous, Time for outrage, with the words ‘…moving poetess and precious defenderess of all essential causes’. I walk in his footsteps and in those of all his companions of arms.

Monique Riccardi-Cubitt http://www.monique-riccardi-cubitt.com/

Committee Member of the British Conservatives in Paris

Paris, April 21st 2018

 

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