France

France’s presidential first ladies? Carla Bruni Sarkozy v Valerie Trierweiler

Reuters

Both career women, both mothers, the partners of the two frontrunners in France’s presidential elections are inevitably attracting attention…

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There has never been a female French president and the wives have traditionally stayed in the background, though Jacques Chirac’s wife Bernadette remained a local politician throughout his time in office.

There is no official American-style First Lady or First Family in France either and until Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency, the families of presidents were rarely photographed or written about.

Sarkozy broke the mould, he and second wife Cecilia appeared happy to be photographed for many years, but once president he was heavily criticised for appearing to court publicity which many French people judged undignified.

Since then he has tried to appear more presidential and had less contact with photographers.

His advisors toyed with the idea of giving Carla a big role in his current campaign, but in the end decided against.

As a singer and former top model, she has a considerable fortune and Sarkozy’s team feared that she might project an image of wealth and glamour which distanced their candidate from voters.

In the end she was told to remain discreetly supportive in the background and try to appear like a normal woman.

She has given a few interviews, notably one to a high circulation TV listings magazine where she said she liked soap operas and police series, and was photographed with practically no makeup sprawled on the sofa.

But after 4 years as wife of the French president, she recently told French television “I make lots of mistakes. I have managed not to make any huge errors, because I am very careful, but I’m very scared.”

Last week she had to be particularly careful, as she watched her husband trade jibes in a TV debate with former Socialist French Prime Minster Laurent Fabius, who is said to be one of her old flames.

She has one son from a previous relationship and gave birth in October to Sarkozy’s daughter.

 

Valerie Trierweiler, François Hollande’s partner is also used to the cameras. She’s a former political journalist who now covers cultural affairs for Paris Match and Direct 8, a TV channel.

She was already romantically linked to François Hollande in 2007 when his then partner Ségolène Royale failed in her own bid to become president. Hollande and Royale have 4 children together.

Trierweiler tweets regularly and last week was involved in a public spat with her employers Paris Match, who put a photo of her on the front cover of the magazine, without first notifying her.

She tweeted her fury, they replied that as independent journalists they did not seek autorisation for their front covers. She tweeted defiantly that she would not be resigning.

She and Hollande are not married and there has been some speculation over whether they would marry if he became president.

She has 3 children of her own from her marriage to a journalist, Denis Trierweiler.

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