21st January – Pierre-Charles Taittinger Died Today 1965

Pierre-Charles Taittinger (October 4, 1887 – January 22, 1965) was founder of the famous Taittinger champagne house and chairman of the municipal council of Paris in 1943–1944 during the German occupation of France, in which position he played a role during the Liberation of Paris.

Born in Paris, Pierre Taittinger’s family were anciently from Lorraine and had left the Moselle département when it had been annexed by the German Empire in 1871 in order to remain French citizens. A young officer in the cavalry during the First World War, Pierre Taittinger received several citations and was decorated with the Légion d’honneur. In 1919 he was elected deputy of the Charente-Inférieure département. He was mayor of Saint-Georges-des-Coteaux, in the same département, from 1919 until 1937, and again from 1953 until his death in 1965. In 1924 he was elected deputy of the 1st arrondissement of Paris, and held this mandate until 1940.

On August 17, 1944, concerned that explosives were being placed at strategic points around Paris by the Germans, Taittinger met with the German military governor Dietrich von Choltitz. On being told that Choltitz intended to slow up as much as possible the Allied advance, Taittinger, along with the Swedish consul general Raoul Nordling, attempted to persuade Choltitz not to destroy Paris. As the Allies rolled into the Paris Basin, Pierre Taittinger made an incredible change from collaborator to a member of the resistance. After the war, he published a book called …et Paris ne fut pas détruit (“…and Paris was not destroyed”) which was awarded a prize by the French Academy. In 1954 he became honorary deputy (a title given to ancient members of the French National Assembly).

Pierre Taittinger, who before the First World War had run a business involved in the distribution and export of champagne with one of his brothers-in-law, acquired in 1931 the venerable champagne firm of Forest-Fourneaux, founded in 1734 by Jacques Fourneaux and the third oldest champagne house in existence. The next year he bought the Château de la Marquetterie and its champagne estate, near Épernay, which he had first visited during the war while stationed in the area. In the following years, he bought hundreds of acres of vineyards in the finest producing areas of Champagne, taking advantage of the cheap price of land due to the 1930s economic crisis. Forest-Fourneaux, renamed Ets Taittinger Mailly & Cie, was transformed by Pierre Taittinger into a world famous champagne house, Champagne Taittinger, operating from the cellars of the Saint-Nicaise Abbey in Reims. Pierre Taittinger restored the House of the Counts of Champagne in the center of Reims, damaged by the Germans during the First World War, which had been the residence of the Counts of Champagne during the Middle Ages and which is now the property of Champagne Taittinger. He bequeathed to the city of Reims his estate of La Grainetière on the Isle of Rhé, which has become a summer camp for the children of Reims.

Pierre Taittinger married Gabrielle Guillet (1893-1924) in 1917. In 1925 he married again to Anne-Marie Mailly (1887-1986). He died in Paris in 1965 and was buried in Reims at the cimetière du Nord with his third son François (1921-1960) who had run the Taittinger champagne house between 1945 and 1960. Another of his sons, Jean Taittinger, was mayor of Reims from 1959 to 1977.