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Vincent Auriol

16/01/194716/01/1954

Vincent Auriol

Vincent Jules Auriol (27 August 1884 – 1 January 1966) was a French politician who served as President of France from 1947 to 1954.

Early life and politics

Auriol was born in Revel, Haute-Garonne, as the only child of Jacques Antoine Auriol (1855–1933), a baker nicknamed Paul, and Angélique Virginie Durand (1862–1945). His great-grandmother, Anne Auriol, was a first cousin of English engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. He earned a law degree at the Collège de Revel in 1904 and began his career as a lawyer in Toulouse. A committed socialist, Auriol co-founded the newspaper Le Midi Socialiste in 1908; he was head of the Association of Journalists in Toulouse at this time.

In 1914, Auriol entered the Chamber of Deputies as a Socialist Deputy for Muret, a position he retained until 1942. He also served as Mayor of Muret from 3 May 1925 to 17 January 1947, and as a member of the Conseil Général of Haute-Garonne from 1928 to 17 January 1947. In December 1920, after the breakup of the SFIO, Auriol refused to join the newly created SFIC and became one of the leaders of the new SFIO (the remaining socialist minority), along with Léon Blum.


Auriol in 1927.

Postwar life and presidency

After World War II, Auriol served as Minister of State in de Gaulle's provisional government. He was a member of the Constituent Assemblies which drafted the constitution of the short-lived French Fourth Republic, and was President of the Assemblies. He lobbied for a "third force" between Communism and Gaullism. Auriol led the French delegation to the United Nations and was France's first representative on the United Nations Security Council in 1946. He served as a Deputy for Haute-Garonne in the National Assembly from 1946 until 31 December 1947. Meanwhile, the National Assembly elected him on 16 January 1947 as the first President of the Fourth Republic by a wide margin, receiving 452 votes (51.19%) against the 242 (27.41%) for the People's Republican Movement (MRP) candidate, Auguste Champetier de Ribes.

As president, Auriol pursued a relatively weak presidency like the office under the Third Republic. He attempted to reconcile political factions within France and warm relations between France and its allies. He was criticized for France's ailing economy and political turmoil in the postwar period, and the war in Indochina. A series of debilitating strikes were waged across France in 1947, initiated by the Confédération Générale du Travail. The strikes escalated into violence in November of that year, leading, on 28 November, to the government deploying 80,000 French Army reservists to face the "insurrection". The Communist Party, who often supported the strikes, were expelled from the legislature in early December. The strikes ended on 10 December, but more would come in 1948, and again in 1953 in response to the Joseph Laniel government's austerity program.

Apart from the inconclusive war in Indochina, France's colonial empire decayed under Auriol's presidency. Clashes in Morocco, Madagascar, Algeria, and Tunisia became more frequent; an Algerian independence movement, the Front de Libération Nationale, was founded in 1951, and in 1953 the French overthrew Mohammed V, the Sultan of Morocco, after he demanded greater autonomy. France waged a brutal war of repression in Madagascar, and imprisoned Tunisian independence leader Habib Bourguiba in 1952.

When Auriol's term as president expired, he did not run for re-election, and was succeeded by René Coty as President of France on 16 January 1954. Auriol commented on leaving office: "The work was killing me; they called me out of bed at all hours of the night to receive resignations of prime ministers" (there were eighteen different governments during his seven years as President).

After his presidency, Auriol assumed the role of elder statesman, and wrote articles on political topics. Auriol became a member of the Constitutional Council of France in 1958 at the establishment of the French Fifth Republic; he resigned from the SFIO in the same year. He unsuccessfully lobbied against the constitution in the 1958 national referendum, and resigned from his position on the Constitutional Council in 1960 to protest the growing power of Charles de Gaulle's presidency. In 1965, he endorsed François Mitterrand for the Presidency.

On 1 January 1966, Vincent Auriol died in hospital in the 7th arrondissement of Paris and was buried at Muret, Haute-Garonne.

Personal life

On 1 June 1912, Auriol married Michelle Aucoutuier (5 March 1896 – 21 January 1979). Six years later the couple had a son, Paul (1918–1992). The aviatrix Jacqueline Auriol was his daughter-in-law.


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Published in 9/09/2020

Updated in 19/02/2021

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