Valery Marie Rene Georges Giscard d’Estaing, who served as president of France from 1974 to 1981, passed away from what his family said were effects of the novel coronavirus, having been hospitalized with breathing difficulties.

Also known as Giscard and VGE, d’Estaing was the third president of the French Fifth Republic, succeeding the popular Georges Pompidou as the leader of the Gaullist conservatives. He narrowly lost re-election to socialist Francois Miterrand, after a challenge from the right by future president Jacques Chirac.

VGE was hospitalized in September with a lung infection, and then again in mid-November, but was discharged after just five days. French media reported the cause of his death as Covid-19, citing his family.

#BREAKING Former French president Giscard d’Estaing has died, entourage says

He retired to Auvergne and continued to be active in regional politics until 1989, when he became a member of the European Parliament. Starting in 2001, he chaired the Convention on the Future of Europe, which ended up producing a draft of the European Constitution. 

In an ironic twist, it was France that blocked the ratification of the Constitution in a 2005 referendum. The Dutch likewise rejected it less than a week later. 

Though D’Estaing went on the record advocating an “honest treaty” and “total transparency,” the EU went ahead and reworked the constitution as the Treaty of Lisbon. When the Irish rejected it in a 2008 referendum, they were made to vote again, and the treaty came into effect in 2009.

While his grandfather had adopted the surname d’Estaing, the family was only distantly related to the famous 18th-century French admiral of the same name. VGE and his brother eventually bought the castle of Estaing in 2005.

D’Estaing fought in the Second World War as part of the Free French forces of General Charles de Gaulle, first as part of the resistance in occupied France and later in uniform with the First Army. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his military service. 

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