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France’s controversial First Ladies. A brief history of “fake”, naked and unmarried powerful women

At least since Jacques Chirac, all of the French presidents’ life partners have been remarked as powerful and at least controversial personalities. And the one who celebrates now the victory of Emmanuel Macron is no exception. Here is a brief history of the First Ladies of the Hexagon, from the one who did not believe at all in this institution, to the one who did not even get married to the first man in the state.

Brigitte Trogneux, 64-year-old wife of Emmanuel Macron, is his former teacher who has asked her for marriage since he was 17 years old. Now, he says he owes this woman a lot, because he helped him become what he is now.


Below is a brief story of Brigitte Trogneux’s predecessors:

Bernadette Chirac did not believe in the First Lady’s institution

Bernadette Thérèse Marie Chirac (84), the wife of Jacqeus Chirac, was the First Lady of France between 1995 and 2007. She met her future husband at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris where they both studied. He had a boy and a girl with Chirac and an adoptive daughter, of Vietnamese origin.

His first daughter, Laurence, suffered of anorexia for years, trying to commit suicide 15 times. She died in April last year, at the age of 58, following a heart attack. Trying to explain her daughter’s behavior, Bernadette blamed the meningitis she took during a Corsica holiday in 1973, but also the acute absence of his father in her life, because of his political career.

Besides being involved in various health organizations and charity for children, she remains, even at this advanced age, an elected member of the Corrèze Regional Council.

Perhaps Bernadette’s most memorable statement was that the “First Lady” institution in France is ridiculous. But she did not say this when she was a First Lady, but only in 2014, in the context of the amorous scandal involving François Hollande.


“At most, [a First Lady] would need a secretary to deal with the high volume of correspondence. But an official status of First Lady is ridiculous. The president is the one chosen, and no one else. If the president happens to be married, the better for him,” said Bernadette Chirac, pointing out that the company has expectations from the wives of the presidents to” make some use of it.”

Both in the race to win the presidential election in France in 1995 and during her husband’s two mandates, Bernadette has been very helpful, supporting him actively.

Cecilia Attias, Nicolas Sarcozy’s second wife, a ”fake” First Lady?

When Cecilia (60) married her first husband, Jacques Martin, in 1984, the man who married them was Nicolas Sarcozy, the mayor of Neuilly. The two met again in 1987 when Sarcozy fell as struck by lightning, although he was still married to his first wife. For her it was also love at second glance.

It did not take long for both to leave their life partners – she got divorced in 1988, but it was not until 1996 when the couple married, the year when he obtained his divorce. A year later they had a baby.

At the time Sarcozy was minister, Cécilia Sarkozy had an office right next to her husband’s, with  the role of his closest counselor. In 2002, she was appointed Minister of the Interior, and in 2005 she was appointed Chief of Staff for the UMP Party.

In 2007, just in the first year of Nicolas Sarcozy’s mandate, the Élysée Palace officially announced that the two decided together to break apart, but immediately after that the palace corrected the announcement, stating that they had already divorced. Of course, there have been speculations that the two have resisted together just to prevent Sarcozy from being blocked by a divorce at the most important moment in his political career.

A year later, Cécilia Attias launched the Cécilia Attias Foundation for Women, dedicated to improving women’s lives around the world. Later she confessed that some of her friends had “forgotten” her after she lost her First Lady’s title.

“I was betrayed by close friends. But I do not care. It’s in human nature. I understand that the gold of the French Republic could tempt more than one. ”

With Richard Attias, her third husband, she married in 2008. They were together since 2005.

Soon after the divorce, Cecilia was quoted in the press as calling the French president a “stingy philanderer”, unworthy of leading a country. He was, according to a quote in one biography, “a man who likes no-one, not even his children.” However, she later claimed that 80% of everything written about her after divorce was false.

Carla Bruni, a naked First Lady on 10,000 bags

Carla Bruni Sarcozy (50) is probably the most controversial of the former presidents of France. At the age of 19 she entered the fashion world, becoming a model for some of the biggest fashion designers, such as Christian Dior, Givenchy, Paco Rabanne, Christian Lacroix, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves Saint-Laurent, Chanel or Versace.

In the 1990s, she was among the best paid 20 models in the world, earning $7.5 million in her peak year. During her modeling career, Carla Bruni dated celebrities such as Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger. In April 2008, her nude photograph, made in 1993, was auctioned with $ 91,000, 60 times more than the expected price.

In 1997 she started playing music, singing and composing successful lyrics until today. She even sang at Nelson Mandela’s 91-year anniversary.

He met recently divorced Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 at a party. They married a few months later at the Élysée Palace, this being her first marriage, while his was third. She began to accompany him during state visits. One of the most resounding ones was in the UK, juts during the auction of the Christie’s House, who managed to sell the nude photograph of Bruni from her youth when she was a modeling international star.

Also in 2008, Carla Bruni sued Pardon, a manufacturer of bags that printed that image on 10,000 bags.

first lady of france
Photo: Facebook/Carla Bruni

In the same year, she became the global ambassador for the protection of mothers and children against HIV, and a year later she launched the Carla Bruni-Sarkozy Foundation in order to facilitate access to culture for as many people as possible. In 2011 he gave birth to a girl named Giulia.

The scandals involving Carla Bruni did not stop though. She was critical of Pope Benedict XVI about the controversial subject of religion and AIDS. Vatican officials urged her not to accompany his husband on an official visit to Italy on the grounds that local newspapers will reprint “spicy” photos during her modelling career.

In 2010, Iran’s state-controlled Kayhan newspaper called Carla Bruni-Sarkozy a “prostitute”, after she had condemned the stoning sentence against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for adultery in an open letter.

Valérie Trierweiler – First Lady, but unmarried

Valérie Trierweiler (52) was, until 2014, the life partner of the current French President, François Hollande. She is a journalist and an author, she has hosted many televised political talk shows.

In 2012, she announced she would keep her contract as a journalist with the Paris Match magazine despite the fact that her partner had just been elected France’s president. She was not willing to compromise and let her concubine’s political career break her own career.

In 2012, during the parliamentary elections in France, Valérie sparked a great controversy when she made public her support for Olivier Falorni, the socialist counter-candidate of Ségolène Royal, François Hollande’s former life partner, whom the president officially supported.

Hollande met her in 1988 when he was with Ségolène Royal, the woman who had been his life partner for more than 30 years, with whom he has four children.

The couple broke up in 2007, the year when the relationship between Valérie and Hollande started, while she was still married to writer Denis Trierweiler, with whom she has three children. Only after the divorce was pronounced in 2010 the two made the relationship public.

Four years later, in January 2014, the Closer magazine published seven pages showing the relationship between Hollande and actress Julie Gayet.

“The news about Julie Gayet was headlining the morning news … I cracked. I couldn’t listen to it. I rushed into the bathroom. I grabbed a small plastic bag containing sleeping pills,” she wrote later in a book published in 2015.

“François followed me. He tried to snatch the bag. I ran into the bedroom. He grabbed the bag and it split. The pills scattered over the bed and the ground. I managed to recover some of them. I swallowed what I could. I wanted to sleep. I didn’t want to live the hours that would follow. I felt the storm that would break over me and I didn’t have the strength to fight it. I lost consciousness.”

On January 10, Trerweiler was forced into a private clinic because he could not bear the public pressure. A week later, President Hollande visited her at the clinic, and on January 25th, it was announced their relationship had ended.

Claire Reynolds