Jacques Chirac, French President Who Championed European Identity, Is Dead at 86 – The New York Times

In their apartment on the fashionable Rue de Seine, his father, who thought Jacques was lazy at school, would force him to listen to readings from Marcel Pagnol, Charles Baudelaire and Victor Hugo. Jacques went on to an elite secondary school in St. Cloud, west of Paris.

By the start of World War II, his father was a key adviser to Marcel Bloch, a founder of the aircraft maker Dassault, which produced the Mystère and Mirage fighter planes.

In 1950, at 18, Jacques went to sea on a tramp steamer running coal between Dunkirk, France, and Algiers, the capital of the rebellious French colony of Algeria. Encouraged by the captain, he began studying to become a merchant marine officer. But a few months later, his father showed up at the Dunkirk dock and took him home to enter the National School of Political Science, one of France’s most prestigious colleges.

As a student, Mr. Chirac attended a summer course at Harvard in 1953 and worked at a Howard Johnson’s in Boston, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to counterman. He became engaged to a Radcliffe woman, whose father wrote him an angry letter telling him, basically, to get lost. From there, Mr. Chirac went to California and Louisiana, writing a long paper on the Port of New Orleans.

On his return to Paris, he became engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Bernadette Chodron de Courcel, who was from a wealthy family in Corrèze, southwestern France. They were married, and she was later elected a regional councilor.

Their younger daughter, Claude, became her father’s communications director when he won the presidency. Mrs. Chirac and Claude survive, as does a grandson. An elder daughter, Laurence, died in April 2016 after at least one suicide attempt.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Chirac attended the National School of Administration, which has produced several prime ministers, and did well there. He then obtained an army commission and became a lieutenant in charge of a unit of 32 men that saw combat in the Algerian war for independence. In one instance he helped rescue an ambushed unit.


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