Anne, daughter of Charles de Gaulle

Here is an article of 2007, where the link with the actuality is not important. To read on Patricia Bauer blog:

Public man, private father

Nowadays, pregnant women regardless of age are offered prenatal screening and testing for Down syndrome. That wasn’t the case in 1984 when my daughter Margaret arrived, all blue eyes and strawberry curls. She was just about the biggest surprise my husband and I ever got. We resolved to give her the best start we could and hope for the best.

Fortunately, health care for people with Down syndrome had started to improve, and there was a fresh federal law on the books guaranteeing our daughter the right to a public education. We were relentless in seeking out people who could help.

This fall Margaret will move into her own apartment with a couple of girlfriends. She’s giddy with excitement. Like many parents of young adults, her dad and I are holding our breath.

For years I hadn’t wanted to know too much about what had happened to people with Down syndrome in the years before they began to get education and health care. I feared that their sad historical legacy might dampen my resolve to help Margaret achieve her potential.

But when a friend sent me a note recently saying that Charles de Gaulle, too, had had a daughter with Down syndrome, I had to find out more. Who was she? What was her place in history? And what lessons might her life hold for those of us who have followed in her family’s footsteps?

My quest leads me down a shaded, winding road in France’s jewel-like Chevreuse Valley, near the little country town of Milon-la-Chapelle, just outside Versailles. Embraced by the arms of a mighty oak that is said to represent the great man himself, there stands the elegant Château Vert-Coeur.

The chateau is home to a few dozen souls, some of them refugees taken in by Charles and Yvonne de Gaulle after the Second World War, all of them with intellectual disabilities of one kind or another. I am welcomed by its inhabitants, gracious women with soft hands and kind faces, as well as by members of the de Gaulle family, and by representatives of the foundation that bears the name of Anne de Gaulle.

The general’s nephew Etienne Vendroux roars his approval upon glimpsing the photograph of my children I carry. “Margaret!” he cries. “My grandmother, Madame de Gaulle’s mother, was Marguerite. We have many Margarets in the family.” We laugh at the unexpected bond. My grandmother, too, was called Margaret. My daughter’s middle name is Anne.

An enthusiastic tour of the grounds begins, followed by lunch in a sunlit room. Over champagne, I learn the story of the relationship between one of the world’s most powerful men and his cherished, vulnerable daughter.

Scholars from all over the world have long combed the archives for clues into the puzzle that was de Gaulle. How did one young general find the courage to stand alone against the Nazis, breathing life into a dying nation? Even as the Germans marched into Paris in 1940, de Gaulle’s stirring call to arms via a BBC radio broadcast put a thumb in the eye of the would-be conquerors and created the French resistance: “”But has the last word been said? Must hope disappear? Is defeat final?” he roared. “No!”

There are many theories about the roots of de Gaulle’s indomitable resolve, most originating in ideas about a haughty man marked by boundless ambition, an iron will and a passionate allegiance to France’s ancient glories. But for those who knew him in his private moments, some part of the answer to the riddle resides in the influence of a girl who was not like the others.

The general’s youngest child Anne arrived on New Year’s Day, 1928. Her face carried the characteristic signs of Down syndrome, a condition now known to be caused by an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. Adding to the family’s woes, Anne had also experienced birth injuries that left her with motor impairments. Despite the family’s best efforts at teaching her, she would never be able to walk alone.

The news of Anne’s disability devastated her father, a war hero and an officer posted to Trier, Germany, and his wife, the former Yvonne Vendroux. He was a studious and driven young man wedded to the nomadic life of the military; she, the daughter of a Calais businessman, was not yet 28. They already had two other small children, Philippe and Elisabeth.  Continue reading.

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