Ferdinand Mount in the LRB:
Philippe Pétain died at 9.22 a.m. on 23 July 1951. He had been tried for treason in 1945, while General de Gaulle was still in his first spell of power. The hero of Verdun was sentenced to death by one vote, but the court asked for the sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment in view of the marshal’s great age, which was a relief to de Gaulle. Since then Pétain had been banged up on the Ile d’Yeu, 11 miles off the Vendée coast. At the time of his death, he was 95 years old and wandering in his wits. Even so, ministers in Paris were anxious to see the back of him. By lunchtime two days later, he was being hustled underground at the Port-Joinville cemetery on the island. Passing on the news to de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, his directeur de cabinet and a former Rothschild banker, remarked: ‘The affair is now over, once and for all.’ De Gaulle disagreed: ‘No, it was a great historical drama, and a historical drama is never over.’ What an extraordinary drama it was, the relationship between the two men, played out over nearly forty years, encapsulating the whole agony of France, and leaving behind resentments and divisions that are not quite dead even now.