France’s structure president veau Giscard d’Estaing, that brought about rapid société change and was a leading force in founding auto European Union, passed away Wednesday at the age of 94 from complications linked à Covid-19, his household said.

“His state of health had actually deteriorated et he died ont a result de #COVID19. In accordance v his wishes, his funeral will certainly take carré in the strictest family privacy.”

— fondation Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (

Although Giscard d’Estaing seulement un served a simple term oui president from 1974 to 1981, his death marks the end of année era in français politics. Elected to office when cette was just 48 year old, Giscard d’Estaing was auto youngest dirigeants of auto Fifth Republic until Emmanuel panneau de longueur won thé presidency in 2017 at the age of 39.

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During his seven years at auto Élysée presidential palace, auto conservative Giscard d’Estaing cultivated année image as a modern reformist. However his unpopularity with french voters commander to a fail re-election bid versus his Socialist rival François Mitterand.

Following the loss, Giscard d’Estaing faded right into obscurity. Once année icon du social change, he was shortly forgotten by the français public. In one telling moment at Mitterand’s funeral in 1996, a constitue minister, andré Santini, struggled à recall that cette was even encore alive. “I don’t remember nous doing auto same parce que le Giscard,” Santini said.

Giscard at auto helm

Decades antérieur à Macron started his Republic conditions météorologiques the move party (La républicains en Marche or LREM), Giscard d’Estaing was currently a president “on auto move”. After a fiercely dealt with presidential campaign, Giscard d’Estaing famously entered the Élysée nous foot antérieur à a cheering crowd on peut faire 27, 1974.

“This day point a nouveau era in français politics … i will lead thé change, marqué I will not lead it alone … ns can calmer hear the french people clamouring, questioning us for change. We will make this échanger with him, for him, v respect for his numbers and diversity, and we will certainly lead it, in particular, v his youth,” he said in his inauguration speech.

At auto time de his election, Giscard d’Estaing was tarif from unknown, having currently spent nearly deux decades in the salle of power. Hey began his political job in 1956 as a member du parliament.

Young, handsome and charming, Giscard d’Estaing to be appointed finance minister by then president Charles aux Gaulle, a position hey retained under de Gaulle’s successor, georges Pompidou.

Following Pompidou’s death in 1974, Giscard d’Estaing launched his own bid parce que le the presidency, setup himself apart from his opponents with an innovative, new contact strategy: an individual branding. Parce que le the first time ever, auto French auditeur was cure to images of a émergence president skiing in auto Alps, soutien his favourite feat team, playing thé accordion nous television jaune even posing in a swimsuit. Hey also appreciated the appui of français celebrities such ont Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Hallyday and alain Delon, that sported campaign T-shirts et stickers bearing thé popular slogan: “Giscard at auto helm” (“Giscard parce que le barre”).


After knocking veteran Gaullist Jacques-Chaban Delmas out de the cours in the life round, Giscard d’Estaing scored point with voters during a second-round controversy with Mitterand when, in response to année attack over his social policies, hey famously quipped: “You faire not oui a monopoly on the heart.”

A couple of days later, he narrowly won the presidency with 50.81 percent du the sondage in what remains to this day auto closest election in auto history de the fifth Republic.

A liberal, reformist president

Once in office, Giscard d’Estaing wasted ne sont pas time pursuing his ambition to modernise français society. “France should become une huge reform project,” hey declared at his sapin Council du Ministers.

True to his word, change followed, occasionally even versus the comportement of his very own conservative majority. End the artaserse of his administration, Giscard d’Estaing presented divorce by mutual consent and eased thé government’s control over auto audiovisual sector. He also presided over the legalisation ns abortion, a measure championed by his health minister, Simone Veil.

While Giscard d’Estaing prospered at introducing social reforms, he faced numerous economic challenges, including a surging in unemployment following the 1973 oil crisis. In response, he named economist Raymond Barre as his composants minister in 1976, introducing a duration of intenté austerity the would affichage the end ns his popularity as a leader.

His photo was further tarnished in October 1979 when a french investigative newspaper, le Canard Enchaîné, released revelations the the former emperor of central Africa, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, had actually secretly gifted Giscard d’Estaing diamonds in 1973 while cette was calmer serving oui finance minister. The français president sought to downplay the scandal as nothing much more than a simple giv received while performing his main duties and denied thé jewels’ report value.

But auto damage to be done. Public opinion turned versus Giscard d’Estaing, that was currently perceived as année out-of-touch aristocrat. His lifestyle came under fierce criticism, including his family background, his searching parties et apparent fondness for castles.

To do matters worse, his first et only term was marked par stark divisions among his conservative base. This to be perhaps best exemplified passant par his relationship with his first componter minister, Jacques Chirac, who found Giscard d’Estaing to be arrogant et snobbish. Auto bitter rivalry between the two masculin exploded to auto fore after Chirac refused venir endorse Giscard d’Estaing’s re-election bid in 1981, saying only that cette would vote à la him “in a an individual capacity”, basically dooming his campaign.

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Impossible comeback

Following his defeat by Mitterand, Giscard d"Estaing to be left humiliated. In a symbolic gesture, cette left auto Élysée palace thé same way cette entered it, passant par foot. Cible instead of cheers this temps around he to be booed par protesters toutes les personnes the way to his car.

His tragic departure from thé presidency was made only more so by his televised bye speech, i m sorry has since become thé stuff of french legend. Giscard d"Estaing solemnly handle his countrymen if stiffly seated at a desk decorated just with a bouquet ns flowers. At auto end de the seven-minute monologue, thé outgoing president pauses meaningfully antérieur à delivering a pronounced, “Au revoir”. Hey then stands, both hands nous the desk, turns et strides out of the room to a recording ns the French national anthem, thé Marseillaise, leaving the camera filming an empty chair for an excruciating full minutes until the song concludes.

Despite his ignominious end, Giscard d"Estaing refused to retire from français politics. Hoping à start end from scratch, hey ran for and won the emplacement of aperçu councillor in the quartier général town of Chamalières in 1982 before returning to parliament deux years later. Passant par the late 1980s, there was widespread speculation he was plot a comeback.

“I don’t want you à say: ‘Giscard let nous down’. Si there space ever challenging circumstances jaune serious difficulties in ours country, elle can always count nous me,” hey said in a televised appearance.

Yet his rêver of returning à the national scene were at some point dashed after his se réconcilier rival, Chirac, wrested control ns the country’s conservatives to win the presidency in 1995.

Advocate de the european Union

One du Giscard d"Estaing’s greatest legacies, however, peut être be his contribuant to the création of thé European Union. A longtime advocate of a joined Europe, he life expressed his support for thé idea while still a young MEP in 1957.

Under his presidency, france took an active role in furthering thé European project. In December 1974, he and then German chancellor Helmut Schmidt created auto European Council, launching a monetary system that would certainly serve oui a precursor to the Euro. Giscard d"Estaing additionally approved thé election du a europe Parliament through directement suffrage, paving the way for the tons European élection in 1979.

In 2001, cette was called president de the Constitutional convention on the émergence of Europe with Chirac’s support.

Giscard d"Estaing was additionally at auto origin of un autre international group: nous November 15, 1975, hey brought ensemble representatives of the unified States, Japan, France, West Germany et the united kingdom at Rambouillet Castle west du Paris. Thé summit marked the sapin meeting du what would become known as the grouper of 5 – currently the group of Seven, jaune G7, with thé addition de Italy and Canada – an intergovernmental economic organisation that meets every year.

Guardian ns the français language

After retiring from politics, Giscard d"Estaing sought asile in année unexpected outlet: literature. With the soutien of français writer jean d"Ormesson he was elected in 2004 venir the académie Française, i beg your pardon is tasked through safeguarding the french language.

His membership venir the académie initially appeared à be as much politics motivated ont literary. Till then, Giscard d"Estaing’s oeuvre largely consisted du political essays et memoirs, with the notable produire of a semi-erotic roman titled “Le Passage”, which recounts a amour story between a notary and a hitch-hiker.

In 2009, he again attempted his hand at writing with “The Princess et the President” ("La princesse et le Président"), i m sorry details auto relationship between deux characters who carefully resemble the late Princess Diana and himself. The book revived long-dormant rumours of a faisabilité affair, despite Giscard d"Estaing’s insistence that he “made everything up”.

In 2012, an ageing Giscard d"Estaing warned then president francis Hollande: “I might die during her presidency.”

“I don’t want année official ceremony, nor a state tribute,” cette added, seulement un to it is in reassured par Hollande the his wishes would certainly be respected.

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Perhaps Giscard d"Estaing hoped à leave this life oui simply ont he arrived at the Élysée, nearly 50 year ago.