He was a Resistance hero, a bold political reformer and a lover of the British – including, if rumours are true, one iconic woman in particular.
France’s former president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, who has died at 94 as a result of Covid-19, was claimed to have had a fling with Princess Diana.
Giscard’s novel in 2009 – The Princess and the President – was about a secret affair between a French leader and an unhappy British princess who resembled Diana, and was the Princess of Cardiff.
It fuelled rumours the pair once had a romance.
Giscard liberalised laws on divorce, abortion and contraception in his time in power from 1974 to 1981.
The current president Emmanuel Macron said he transformed France and that his direction still led the way.
Mr Macron added: “A servant of the state, a politician of progress and freedom, his death has plunged the French nation into mourning.”
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Giscard was born in 1926 in Koblenz, Germany, during France’s occupation of the Rhineland. His father was a senior civil servant.
Giscard, whose education was disrupted by the Second World War, was a teenager when he joined the Resistance in occupied Paris before joining a tank battalion in 1944.
He resumed his studies after the war and worked in the Tax and Revenue Service before launching his political career in the mid-1950s.
A centre-right president, Giscard encouraged European integration.
The Anglophile met every UK leader from Edward Heath to David Cameron.
It is said Giscard played accordion in working-class areas of Paris and one Christmas morning invited four passing bin men to breakfast at the presidential palace.
He married his aristocratic cousin Anne-Aymone de Brantes in 1952 and they had four children.
There were rumours he was a womaniser. He denied a fling with Diana, who was 35 years his junior, but said she had a hand in his novel.
He said: “We were talking about love stories between the leaders of major countries and she said ‘why don’t you write a book about it?’”
He died surrounded by family at his estate in Loir-et-Cher, central France.