“I have often regretted not being able to keep more connection with the Charente, Jarnac, with my childhood. My political life has led me to a different territory to which I have devoted a lot of commitment.. However, I never really left Jarnac. . I come back from time to time to the house where I was born, the house where my grandparents, my parents lived. “
Francois was born into a well to do family living in a house in Jarnac, as the 5th child out of what was to be a total of 8 on the 26th October 1916. The house was 22 Rue Guy Abel, and it was purchased by his paternal great grandfather in 1850. The Lorrain family were in the wine and vinegar trade but great grandfather was originally a wood merchant.
Francois’s Father was originally an engineer for the Paris Orleans railway company but later he joined in the Lorrain family business and eventually became the President of the Federation of Vinegar makers. Francoise Mitterrand normally refered to his Father’s occupation as a Railway worker, this perhaps fitting better with the socialist ethos.
His Mother Marie Lorrain was of more aristocratic stock, she was a distant niece of Pope John 22nd and her mother was descended from Fernando 3rd of Castille, this Spanish connection might account for Francois’s somewhat southern European looks especially in earlier photos, of which there are not so many.
Being well off the family was one of the first in Jarnac to have electricity in their house. This was connected in 1922 when Francois would have been just 4 years old. His first school was a private Catholic school called Ecole Sainte-Marie which was and still is at 22 Rue des Fosses just a couple of streets along from the family house. No doubt the young Mitterrand would have walked along the streets of Jarnac every day with his brother to attend this institution.
This early childhood more or less came to an end when he was 11 and progressed to St Pauls College in Angouleme where he continued his education before going to University in Paris. During his time in Angouleme he would have returned to Jarnac only in the holidays, but day-to-day his time at home with his family ended with the start of his secondary education.
Later he was in the French army and was captured by the Germans. He escaped from a PoW camp and returned briefly to Jarnac. Later he was involved for better or for worse in the Vichy regime.
In Jarnac as you would expect there are many references to Francois Mitterrand who was the 21st President of France. He is an interesting and controversial character, he is the longest-serving President of France, you can find much about his war-time career and his rise to President and then subsequent Presidential exploits on various websites but wikipedia is always a good start. You can also visit his house at certain times of the year, there is a museum which has a display of many of the items he was presented with whilst he was the President of France. There is a not particularly recognisable bust in the centre of the town and of course he is now buried in the local cemetery.
For more general information and some photos on Jarnac click here.,
To see other photos I have taken click Alamy Photos