(Pierre Plantard and the Committees of Public Safety)

By Jean-Jacques Bedu
Les Sources Secrètes du “Da Vinci Code”, pages 98-105 (Èditions du Rocher, 2005)

On 13 May 1958, in Paris, the new Président du Conseil Pierre Pflimlin introduced his government to the Assemblée Nationale. He announced his intention of starting negotiations with the FLN (National Liberation Front) which, on 9 May, had executed three French soldiers in reprisal for an attack on a village by the French air-force which had caused more than 70 civilian casualties. That same day the mood in Algiers became positively insurrectionary: a feeling of euphoria that bordered on hysteria threatened to bubble over into civil unrest. A ‘Committee of Public Safety’ led by Generals Massu and Salan had just been formed which roamed the streets of the Algerian capital en masse, seizing control of the general government. Other Committees of Public Safety then appeared in Constantine and Oran. Salan [45], speaking to a large gathering, called upon De Gaulle to embrace the idea of a French Algeria and exhorted him to consider the establishment of a government based on the concept of public safety. It was a genuine coup d’etat which had been orchestrated by Massu. The Algerian capital was restless. Rumours circulated that new Committees of Public Safety were being formed in the provinces [46]. Soon there were even rumours of plans to attack Paris with armed parachutists. Following the example of Algiers a group of rebels based in Corsica besieged the prefecture in Ajaccio and announced that a major coup d’etat was afoot to overthrow De Gaulle's government [47]. The police and army rallied around De Gaulle, who announced on 15 May that he was ready ‘to assume control of the Republic’. Demonstrations supporting the Algerian Committee of Public Safety took place in Paris. On 27 May De Gaulle announced that he was ready to assume leadership of a Republican government, arguing that at 67 years of age he was not prepared to start a new career as a dictator. President Coty, victim of an unconstitutional but perfectly democratic coup d’etat on 29 May, made a personal appeal to ‘the most famous of all Frenchmen’, i.e. De Gaulle, and on 4 June, in Algeria, made his famous speech beginning ‘Je vous ai compris...’ [‘I have understood you’]. On 15 October 1958 De Gaulle ordered the army to withdraw from the Committees of Public Safety, which he then dissolved. On 21 December 1958 Charles De Gaulle was officially appointed President of the Fourth Republic, which was now in its last hours.

In many French communes crowds of nitwits and fanatics – many of them with a background of involvement in nationalist or xenophobic movements – imitated the uprisings in Algeria and Ajaccio and proclaimed themselves leaders of Committees of Public Safety. It was not to be wondered at that Pierre Plantard, who had made a first attempt at ‘saving France’ in 1940 by warning Pétain of a Gaullist assassination attempt, would treat us to another piece of tomfoolery of the kind of which he was an undoubted master. According to Plantard's own words it was to him that De Gaulle entrusted first the formation of the Committees of Public Safety and, subsequently, the delicate mission of dissolving these Committees once they had got out of hand and started presenting a real threat to the fragile government that De Gaulle had founded in June 1958. In support of this revelation Pierre Plantard, the ‘saviour of France’, claimed to have received the following letter from the General himself:

‘My dear Plantard,
In my letter of 29 July 1958 I told you how much I appreciated the part that the committees of public safety had played in the restoration work that I have undertaken. Now that new institutions are being proposed that will enable our country to once again assume its place in the world I think that the committees of public safety should be released from the obligations that have been imposed upon them to date and that they can be demobilised.’

It is regrettable than the original of this letter has never been produced for public discussion so that we can discover the alleged secret role of Pierre Plantard, who was now baptised ‘Capitaine Way’, as we can see in the following extract from an article in Le Monde of 6 June 1958 devoted to the sudden growth in the Committees of Public Safety in the four corners of France and, in particular, a mysterious organisation founded by ‘Capitaine Way’:

“The Committees of Public Safety must express the wishes of the people, and it is in the name of freedom, unity and solidarity that all French people must take part in the work of rebuilding our country. All the volunteers who have responded to our appeals for the last fortnight must rally to the side of General De Gaulle. Patriots, to your posts, and place your trust in the man who has saved France: General De Gaulle!”

As he would subsequently show on many occasions, the cheek of Plantard knew no bounds. He used the print-media to get his message across, and in several editions of Le Monde [49] presented himself as the chief of the central Committee of Public Safety for Paris, and explained its purpose:

“The Central Committee was created on 17 May for propaganda purposes and to ensure communication between all the Parisian committees of Public Safety”.

In its edition of 8 June 1958 we again find Le Monde musing on this mysterious ‘Central Committee’ directed by ‘Capitaine Way’, who received his instructions from De Gaulle in person and who flooded the press with letters describing his various activities:

“This letter is signed by Monsieur Plantard, who is an accountant with a Parisian company. The home telephone number of Monsieur Plantard can be obtained by successively composing with the telephone-dial the words WAY and PAIX [peace]. A former deportee (sic), Monsieur Plantard introduces himself as secretary of the ‘National Committee’, and states that he does not want to get involved in politics but simply wants to help General De Gaulle, because if he fails we will end up being governed by the Popular Front”.

We can hardly deny the existence of Committees of Public Safety during this troubled period but it has been proved that in the French capital their role was a very limited one and that they played no part in the assumption of power by General De Gaulle. However Pierre Plantard, certainly no novice at the self-publicity game, showed his opportunism and great talent for mystification by announcing, in the edition of Le Monde of 29 July 1958, the dissolution of the Central Committee for the Paris region:

“The effective dissolution of the Central Committee of Public Safety of the Paris region, which includes that of the Committees of Public Safety of Paris and of other localities, thereby releases from their duties all those combatants who answered the call of duty on 17 May. The persons in charge of the Central Committee have instead resolved to form federations of the Mouvement du manifeste aux Français [Movement supporting the Manifesto to the French people], based at 139 Rue Lafayette, Paris 10, which is a national organisation whose programme promulgates the defence of our country and its liberty.
On behalf of the Committee secretariat: signed, Capitaine Way”.

The reader will have noticed that this dissolution of the pseudo-Central Committee was announced well before October when De Gaulle first expressed his desire that soldiers resign from the Committees of Public Safety. This ‘Central Committee’, which was nothing more than the creation of the paraphrenic Pierre Plantard, did not have the slightest authority to unite the Committees of Public Safety, and was therefore just another ham-fisted attempt on his part at hijacking current events, just as he had tried to do it in 1940. To achieve his goals he founded a new organisation rejoicing in the name of the Mouvement du manifeste aux Français. Le Monde informs us about the composition of its secretariat:

- Monsieur Bonerie-Clarus, journalist, is its President.
- Monsieur Robin is the Treasurer.
- Monsieur Pierre Plantard, also known as Capitaine Way, is press & communications secretary.

Until now, no one has fathomed the mystery of this ‘Capitaine Way’. Who was really hiding behind these three letters? Pierre Plantard, an acknowledged master of symbology, never revealed the secret of this enigma. Has it ever been considered that WAY could be seen as an anagram of AWY? These three initials, AWY, could represent, in Arabic, the words Abdel Wahêd Yahia, which means: ‘the Servant of the Unique’. More particularly this is the name under which René Guénon is known to initiates. Guénon converted to Islam in 1912 and died in 1951 after acquiring Egyptian nationality in 1949. Guénon, the disciple of Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, author of Roi du monde, one of the earliest Polaires and undoubtedly one of the greatest occultists of the 20th century, would have fascinated a man like Pierre Plantard. Some have also have depicted General De Gaulle as a man who was imbued with Guénon's philosophy. A strange book published in 1982 by the Reverend Père Martin states that a secret group of forty-five people worked in the General's immediate entourage. Some have seen in this group the Priory of Sion and the influence of Plantard, although Martin's book does not specifically mention this [50]. Others, without fear of ridicule, have assigned to Jacques Benoît-Méchin an influence over De Gaulle within the framework of his policy towards the Arab countries. This former minister of Vichy, known for his involvement in the synarchical movement, who was sentenced to death in 1947 and then pardoned in 1954, lived in exile in Cairo, where he sought to become a disciple of Guénon. Benoit-Méchin preached dialogue and rapprochement with the Arab countries. During his lifetime however René Guénon always refused to have any disciples of any kind.

As if by chance, in the same year as the publication of the book by the Reverend Father Riquet, the authors of the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, inclined as they were to believe in Plantard's strange deliriums, devoted a whole chapter to Plantard's role in De Gaulle's rise to power. They make the General, along with Malraux [51], into an influential member of the Priory of Sion. Basing themselves on Plantard's apocryphal documents, they state, thumbing their noses at the credulous reader: “To our knowledge, no one has ever disputed or cast doubts on their authenticity.”[52] And they conclude: “A strategy of this kind could in any case only have been achieved within the framework of narrow and secretive collusion between De Gaulle and Pierre Plantard”.[53] In the following chapters we will show that there was indeed a collusion, but that it was between Pierre Plantard and the three authors of the Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, and that it was a collusion in which it is hard to tell, in this murky story, exactly who was deceiving whom.

In this affair we are dealing with proportions that chemists call “stoichiometric”, i.e. there is a precise proportioning of ingredients to enable a perfect combustion to be achieved. In this particular case alchemists of language (which is what Pierre Plantard and his entourage undoubtedly were) have managed to achieve a subtle proportioning of dollops of esotericism, truth and lies, resulting in the explosion of a sort of ‘media bomb’, the ridiculous consequences of which Octave Mirbeau – whom we quoted at the outset of this chapter – warns us to be on our guard against.


[45] This episode is however disputed by the party concerned, who says that when he felt the barrel of a revolver sticking into his back he felt he had no alternative but to shout “Vive De Gaulle”. “I didn't shout ‘Vive De Gaulle’. They just wanted me to say that. I thought to myself, oh well, never mind, I'll do what they say.” Éric Roussel, Charles de Gaulle, Gallimard (2002)

[46] These Committees were formed in Lyons, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nantes, Angers, Strasbourg and Marseilles on the initiative of Charles Pasqua. They were ordered to seize all the prefectures.

[47] This operation, known as “Operation Resurrection”, was countermanded because it never received De Gaulle's approval.

[48] This letter, which is mentioned by Plantard's first wife Léa Hisler, was retranscribed in a duplicated booklet lodged with the Bibliothèque Nationale in dubious circumstances in 1964. [NB: The ‘letter’ was actually first mentioned in Louis Vazart, Abrégé de l'Histoire des Francs, page 272 (Suresnes, 1978) and not in Hisler’s document.]

[49] Edition of 18/19 May 1958.

[50] Le Livre des compagnons secrets – L'enseignement secret du générale de Gaulle, Editions du Rocher 1982. ‘Reverend Father Riquet’ is a pseudonym.

[51] De Gaulle did not need a mythomaniac like Pierre Plantard in his entourage, as he surely had enough already with André Malraux, whose ‘pathetic embellishments’ his first wife Clara had already made known. From his alleged meeting with Stalin to the false discovery of the ruins of the palace of the Queen of Sheba, to a bogus war-wound from his past as a member of the Resistance, Malraux regaled us with many examples of his skill as a mythomaniac and a liar.

[52] Le Message de l'Enigme sacrée [sic], p. 320. [French edition of The Messianic Legacy]

[53] Ibid., p. 33.