OBITUARY:Gilbert Prol

Gilbert Prol had a distinguished and unusual career. Unusual because it was so varied.

A product of the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, he became a civil servant who worked in Morocco before becoming de Gaulle's press attach. Then for 17 years he was a businessman, secretary-general and the President of Air France. He was a diplomat who directed the Quai d'Orsay at the difficult time of the first co-habitation between the Socialist President and a right-wing government, who was ambassador in Tunis, Tokyo and finally (1988-91) in Rome. And having voluntarily retired from officialdom at the age of 64, he became an active politician, a journalist and author.

In all these activities, whether he was endeavouring to soothe a de Gaulle who had been irritated by the late arrival of the newspapers, whether he was negotiating with airline pilots about their salaries, or whether he was reconciling Prime Minister Chirac's furious attempts to intervene in foreign affairs and President Mitterrand's obstinate belief that this was his domain, he showed the same patience, persistence and skill. It is not surprising that he was an outstanding chess player.

Naturally it was his experience of working with de Gaulle that most marked him. It was Prol who was responsible for the organisation of the famous press conferences which the General usually held twice a year. He not only took part in the minute preparation of the material that de Gaulle imposed upon himself and his staff, he was also responsible for the procedure - above all, organising the questions to be asked. Since it was the voice of France speaking, there was to be no improvisation.

But Prol has described how he sat next to de Gaulle during theses lengthy sessions, wracked with nervousness, fearful that the General would lose his way in the elegant complexity of his argument. But he never did, and as the journalists rushed for their telephones, a relaxed de Gaulle would hand his notes, which he had never consulted, to Prol and ask, "How did it go?"

It was in 1966 that Prol was sent to Ottawa to begin the arrangements for de Gaulle's visits to Canada the following year. He reported that he had never known a colder or more hostile reception. But he also picked up the idea that the authorities in Ottawa would be thwarted if de Gaulle proceeded by ship across the Atlantic and up the Saint Lawrence to Montreal. He was one of the small group that prepared in the greatest secrecy the detailed planning of the journey that culminated in the "Vive le Qubec libre" speech.

Prol's venture into politics was polemical. His book La Grandeur de la France, published in 1992, was a vicious attack on the socialism that had split French society in two and had diminished French national sovereignty. He attached himself to those who opposed the Treaty of Maastricht and who supported the national interests of France, notably Philippe de Villiers. Like the General he believed, with Hamlet, "Rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument".

Douglas Johnson

Gilbert Prol, civil servant, diplomat and author: born Tunis 31 May 1926; diplomatic posts in Paris, Morocco, Ethiopia, Algeria 1953-62; Office of President de Gaulle 1963-67; Secretary-General, Air France 1967-74, managing director 1974-82; Ambassador to Tunisia 1983-85; Ambassador to Japan 1985-87; Secretary General, Ministry of External Relations 1987- 88; Ambassador to Italy 1988-91; married 1949 Huguette Cuchet- Cheruzel (three sons); died Paris 8 March 1995.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living