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After his condemnation by the High Court of Justice, Philippe Pétain, Marshal of France, is successively imprisoned from 1945 to 1951 in two prisons : the Fort of Portalet in the Pyrenees and the Pierre-Levée citadel in the center of the island of l’Île d’Yeu, in Vendée. He is the oldest prisoner in the world and, as of March 1949, he no longer has a name: he is from now on « the condemned man in the Citadel », terms employed in official communications by the doctors.

The Marshal remains at the Fort de Portalet from August 15 to November 16, 1945; there, he is subjected to a regime of moral torture in no way comparable to the treatment that was accorded General Gamelin during the war, or George Mandel, Paul Reynaud, or Leon Blum. The prisoner occupies cell n° 5 (that of George Mandel). It is without question during his stay at the Fort de Portalet that the Marshal suffered most morally. Shortly before his transfer to l’Île d’Yeu, his lawyers Jacques Isorni and Jean Lemaire, on a visit, announce to the Marshal their intention to pass by Lourdes before returning to Paris; Pétain says to them: « Ah! You go to Lourdes? Then, mention me with the Lady of Lourdes. »
On another day, in a moment of depression, the Marshal, looking at the bars of his cell, says to Isorni : « Fortunately they are there, they protect me from myself », and to his jailer: « Had there been no bars on the window, I would have thrown myself into the Gave ».

On November 16, 1945, Marshal Pétain leaves the Fort of Portalet for l’Île d’Yeu passing by Pau and Bordeaux ; at La Pallice, he embarks on an escort ship « Admiral Mouchez » ordered by Commander Destremau who receives him with the respect due a Marshal of France ! Honours to the Navy!
The arrival at Port-Joinville (l’Île d’Yeu) is effected by bad weather and disembarkation takes place under difficult conditions. The Marshal heads immediately to the Pierre-Levée Citadel where he will remain for 2,052 days (until June 29, 1951). He is installed in the two rooms which had been reserved to him and which one reached via an abrupt staircase of about thirty steps. The authorities nevertheless took care to furnish the windows with bars !

The Marshal's wife settles at l’Île d’Yeu two months after the arrival of her husband : she is a boarder in a second-story annex at the travellers’ hotel held by Gontran Nolleau, before going down to the ground floor towards the end of her stay. Every day from the moment she receives authorization to remain on l’Île d’Yeu, the Marshal's wife makes her way on foot from her hotel to the Citadel to visit the Marshal, before a car provided by a fund-raising effort provides her with the transportation.

The first of the Marshal’s « jailers » at the l’Île d’Yeu is Joseph Simon ; he had previously held this post at the Fort of Montrouge (April, 1945) and at the Fort de Portalet. The second, from October, 1949, was Charles Boulay.
Marshal Pétain has two chaplains on l’Île d’Yeu: the Pastor-Dean, Father Pontoreau, and, from September 1949 on, Father André Bailly. The first jailer passes judgement on the prisoner : « His was grand and noble soul : a force of character, kindness, patience, such are the virtues that I saw in this man that fate made it possible for me to know » ; Pointing out the floating tricolour flag on top of the Fort’s mast, the Marshal one day said to the second jailer, : « If I did not have it to support me, I do not know what I would become ». He will administer extreme unction to the Marshal on April 8, 1951. For his ninetieth anniversary on April 24, 1946, Pétain’s lawyers visit him for the first time. He confides to them : « You do not know how much I suffer ! I suffer terribly, even when I do not say anything, and especially when I seem to be laughing. But I suffer without feeling sorry for myself. I will not ever complain. » By letter of June 27, 1946, the Marshal’s lawyers protest before George Bidault, President of the Provisional Government, against the treatment he suffers at the Fort of l’Île d’Yeu : Bidault asks his Cabinet Director to respond that « the rights of the prisoner are perfectly respected ».
At the end of the year 1946a deep loneliness which weighs upon the Marshal in spite of the visit, the New Year's Day, of his lawyers who bring him numerous letters of good wishes, including one from General Weygand which particularly touches him.

On February 10, 1947, Jacques Isorni and Jean Lemaire are received by the President of the Republic, Vincent Auriol. They ask him to take the necessary administrative steps likely to improve the condition of prisoner Pétain. He addresses these to André Marie, Minister of Justice, who refuses to receive them. With a memorandum dated February 20, they renew their request, to which André Marie responds on February 27, « that he decided to continue to apply to Philippe Pétain, without any bullying as without any favours, the regime that is specified for all detainees by the May 25, 1872 decree ». On April 10, 1947, the French Academy intervened before Paul Ramadier, President of the Council, in favour of the Marshal : a waste of time and effort. On July 10, 1947, the Marshal receives members of the Parliamentary Investigation Commission relative to the events in France from 1933 to 1945 ; according to Isorni « the Marshal shows a marvellous dignity, simplicity, and spirit of repartee ( examples : « What do you think of Paul Reynaud ? All in all, he’s a small man ; What do you think of Albert Lebrun? : nothing » ). Taking leave of the Marshal, the commissioners cannot dissimulate their « feelings ». At year’s end, the first physical and mental failures besiege the Marshal.

In March 1948, under the impulsion of the attorneys, a « Committee for the Release of the Marshal » in which, among others, appears the names of Cardinal Liénart, André Chaumeix, Henry Bordeaux, Jerome and Jean Tharaud, Admiral Lacaze of the French Academy, the wife of Marshal Joffre, Generals George, Serrigny, and Lafont. Whereupon the Minister of Interior and the Police Prefect prohibit all Committee activity. The Marshal, by letter of April 23, addresses himself to the Minister of Justice : « In my cell, I learned the creation of a committee which proposes to ask for my release. I thank those who took this initiative but, conscious of the services rendered to my country, I did not ask anything and will not ask anything. It is towards those who obeyed me and who are today imprisoned that go my initial thoughts. It is their freedom which is important to me and important to France. For my part, I made the sacrifice of my person and I my only thoughts go to the union of the French people ». By year’s end there is a significant aggravation and decline in the Marshal’s health.

From 1949 on, the fortress of Pierre-Levée becomes a prison-infirmary. During the year 1949, several facts point to the troubles caused by the inhuman regime suffered by the Marshal, of which two are significant : the first, during a dinner in which the Archduke Otto de Habsbourg manifests to Jacques Isorni the respectful admiration in which he holds the Marshal ; the second, when General de Gaulle declared to a journalist, during a press conference held on March 29 at the Palais d’Orsay : « Today, there is an old man in a fort; an old man of which I myself and many others recognize that he rendered great services to France ; we do not forget him and we should not forget him ». In July, the President of the Council, Henri Queuille, intervenes with the Minister of Justice so that the Marshal's wife be authorized to share the Marshal’s captivity. It is also in July that the direction of the Fort changes hands ; Charles Boulay replaces Joseph Simon.

In March 1950, the authorities -- very far-sighted (!) have a coffin delivered to the Citadel ! This very month, before French and foreign journalists, General de Gaulle declares, perhaps suddenly overcome by remorse ? : « It is an disgrace to leave in prison a man who will be 95 years old ; We should make it such that we do not have this responsibility on our shoulders ». This same year, under the pressure of public opinion, the Minister of Justice transfers the Marshal to a bunker arranged on the ground floor of the Citadel. At the same time, Jacques Isorni and Jean Lemaire lay a wreath of flowers carrying the inscription « To the soldiers of Verdun and their Chief, Marshal Pétain » at the Verdun Memorial. And at the cathedral in Paris, Monsignor Feltin, archbishop, prays for the Marshal, which causes the precipitated exit of the Prefect. On May 16, René Mayer, Minister of Justice, officially receives the Marshal’s attorneys who present him with a Request in Revision (of the Trial) transmitted to the High Court of Justice at the end of June. On June 25, appears an official doctors’ statement : « the decline of his general physical condition is more obvious each day ».
On December 29, 1950, in one of his last moments lucidity, the Marshal declared to his lawyers who came to visit him : « We have lived some painful hours and days ; between us, they matter ; we do not know what tomorrow will bring, but we are forever tied to each other ; you know today the degree of my affection for you ; I have confidence in you, and I see on your faces that I was not mistaken ; I entrusted a mission to you; it is necessary to go all the way. »

Since the beginning of the year, the Marshal’s health has kept worsening. However, on 24 April, surrounded by his family and his attorneys, the Marshal celebrates his 95th anniversary.
Shortly before then, the President of the Council, Henri Queuille, made known to Pétain’s attorneys his decision to have the Marshal buried in his uniform of Marshal of France: « It is a joy, an immense joy for me » says the Marshal's wife in learning the news.
On June 8, the President of the Republic, ruling in the Higher Council of the Magistracy, decrees that : « perpetual detention pronounced against Philippe Pétain in a fortified enclosure, is commuted to residence in a hospital or any other place of this nature. »

Pursuant to the above mentioned decree, the Marshal is transported on June 29 to a house located at Port-Joinville itself ; it was chosen by his attorneys and belongs to the attorney Luco, former General Counsellor for Vendée. The Marshal’s new residence is located opposite the villa « Les Simounelles » where Pétain resided during a visit which he made in 1921 ! The transfer of the Marshal from the Citadel to the Luco house is carried out under the responsibility of the Doctor-in-Chief Tabet, who cannot keep from declaring to his colleague and Doctor-Captain : «France is dishonoured to have treated this old man in this fashion ». A wooden plaque is affixed on the right of the entryway to the Luco house carrying the inscription : « Nantes Military Hospital, Île d’Yeu Annex ».
From July 8 on, the Marshal’s health gently declines ; he enters anguish on the 18th ; it will last five days.

On July 23, at 9:22 a.m., Marshal Pétain stops living ; the Doctor-Captain announces to the Marshal's wife the death of her husband by pronouncing these few words: « Madam, the Marshal of France is no more ». The Marshal is clothed with his uniform carrying only one decoration, the Military Medal. The dignity of Marshal of France will be inscribed on all official certificates.

The Marshal's wife receives, that very same day, several thousands of messages of condolences including from Marshal Joffre’s wife and General Juin.
On July 24, the War Veterans, who had been refused the possibility of paying their respect before the Marshal’s remains, organize a vigil in front of the mortuary: voices rise in silence of the night, « Saints of France, pray for our elderly Chief ! Marshal, please forgive France ! »
Many demonstrations of fidelity to the Marshal take place throughout France, in particular in the capital where Parisian gather under the Arch of Triumph at l’Étoile, in front of the tomb of the unknown Soldier when they lay flowers in the form of an immense cross.

The funeral service in memory of the Marshal takes place on July 25, at the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Port : the coffin, covered with the tricoloured flag, is placed in front of the altar. On one side is Marshal's wife, on the in full dress uniform are Generals Weygand and Héring as well as Admiral Fernet ; the ecclesiastical authorities are represented by Mgr Chappoulie, Bishop of Angers ; Mgr Rodhain, Chaplain-in-Chief of the prisons ; and Mgr Cazeaux, Bishop of Luçon who speaks and arrives at his conclusion: « We will pray that God forgives the sins and crowns the merits of this long and tragic existence, and we will even pray, for I am sure that he wants it so, for what were his lifelong dream and the wish : The unity of the French people and the salvation of the Homeland. »

After the funeral ceremony, the procession makes its way to the marine cemetery of l’Île d’Yeu : behind the coffin, a war veteran carries, on a black cushion, the Marshal’s kepi and the Military Medal ; further back, Pierre de Hérain, son-in-law of the Marshal, Generals Weygand and Héring, Admiral Fernet, the Marshal’s attorneys, Jacques Isorni and Jean Lemaire, and many notable personalities. The coffin is lowered into the pit covered with a white slab carrying the inscription in bronze letters : « Philippe Pétain, Marshal of France ». The tomb is facing the continent ; it is surmounted by a cross similar to those in our military cemeteries. The famous soldier rests temporarily on l’Île d’Yeu while awaiting his rehabilitation and return, in the midst of his « Poilus », where his place is reserved at the Ossuary at Douaumont.