Jean Lecanuet

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Jean Lecanuet
Jean Lecanuet.jpg
Lecanuet in 1959
Minister of Justice
In office
28 May 1974 – 25 August 1976
PresidentValéry Giscard d'Estaing
Prime MinisterJacques Chirac
Preceded byJean Taittinger
Succeeded byOlivier Guichard
Mayor of Rouen
In office
Preceded byBernard Tissot
Succeeded byFrançois Gautier
Personal details
Born(1920-03-04)4 March 1920
Rouen, France
Died22 February 1993(1993-02-22) (aged 72)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Political partyPopular Republican Movement
Democratic Centre
Centre of Social Democrats
Other political
Union for French Democracy

Jean Adrien François Lecanuet (4 March 1920 – 22 February 1993) was a French centrist politician. He was born to a family of modest means, and gravitated towards literature during his studies. He received his diploma at the age of 22, becoming the youngest agrégé (full professor) in France.

He participated in the Second World War French Resistance movement. He was arrested by the German forces in August 1944 but managed to escape. After the Liberation, he became a general inspector at the Ministry of Defence.

Under the Fourth Republic, he held ministerial posts numerous times (11 posts in 10 years) and was a member of the Christian-Democratic Popular Republican Movement (MRP). From 1951 to 1955, he was MRP deputy from the Seine-Inférieure region. He became senator from Seine-Maritime in 1959 and was president of the MRP from 1963 to 1965.

In 1965, he ran in the presidential election as a center-right candidate. He was supported by Paul Reynaud. He advocated modernity and European integration and declared to represent a third way between Gaullism on the one hand and the Socialist and Communist Left on the other hand. His "modern-style" campaign and dashing smile had some journalists nickname him "the French Kennedy". Lecanuet obtained 3,777,120 votes (15.6%) in the election's first round, forcing Charles de Gaulle to compete in a second round against François Mitterrand. He replaced the ageing MRP by the Democratic Centre, integrating the liberal-conservative National Centre of Independents and Peasants.

In 1972, he founded the Reforming Movement with Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber. During the French legislative elections of 1973, Lecanuet negotiated the withdrawal of candidates with Pierre Messmer to ensure the success of the majority. Elected deputy of Seine-Maritime. Actively participated in the 1974 presidential election campaign in support of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

He was Minister of Justice in Jacques Chirac's first cabinet (1974–1976). From 1976 to 1977, he was Minister of State in charge of planning and the l’Aménagement du territoire (zoning commission) Raymond Barre's first cabinet. In 1978, he was elected president of the UDF, the party coalition created to support President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. He held that position until 1988. From 1979 to 1988, he was a Deputy in the European Parliament and, as Senator for Seine-Maritime, the French Senate's chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Forces Commission, a post that he had already held between 1971 and 1973.

In 1986 at the beginning of the first period of "cohabitation" in modern French politics (a President and Prime Minister from opposing parties sharing power) Chirac nominated Lecanuet as Foreign Minister, but President François Mitterrand vetoed the appointment, along with some of Chirac's other nominees.[1]

In 1968, he was elected Mayor of Rouen, a position he held until his death in 1993.



  • Chaline (Nadine-Josette), Jean Lecanuet, Beauchesne, Paris, 2000.
  • Priol (Philippe), Jean Lecanuet, le vol de l’albatros, Maître Jacques, Caen, 2001.
Political offices
Preceded by
Bernard Tissot
Mayor of Rouen
Succeeded by
François Gautier
Preceded by
Jean Taittinger
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
Olivier Guichard
Title last held by
Olivier Guichard
Minister of Planning
Title next held by
Michel Rocard
Party political offices
New political party President of the Union for French Democracy
Succeeded by
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing