Pierre Laval

... was President of France's Council of Ministers from January 1931 to February 1932. This was the equivalent post, in the Third and Fourth Republics, to the Prime Minister. He was popular in the American press at the time for opposing the Hoover Moratorium – a temporary freeze on World War I debt payments that was disliked in both France and the USA.

He held the same post from June 1935 to January 1936. During the occupation of France by Germany in World War II, he served in Philippe Pétain's collaborationist Vichy Regime, first as vice–president of the Council of Ministers (July 1940 to December 1940) and later as the head of government (April 1942 to August 1944).

After the liberation of France in 1944, Laval fled to Spain. He was soon deported back to France, where he was arrested and found guilty of plotting against the security of the State and collaboration with the enemy. After a thwarted suicide attempt, he was executed by firing squad in October 1945. His manifold political activities left a complicated and controversial legacy, and he has been the subject of more than a dozen conflicting biographies.

© Haydn Thompson 2020