If Francois Hollande becomes president of France, it will be a job he has worked for and hankered after for most of his adult life. If his partner, Valerie Trierweiler, becomes “first lady” of France (in fact, there is no such official position) it will be through amour, not ambition.
Trierweiler, a former television journalist and political reporter with the glossy magazine Paris Match, is no shrinking violet. Unlike the country’s current leading lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, however, she has shown little inclination to step into the harsh, unforgiving glare of the political limelight.
The woman Hollande describes as the “love of his life” has been present on the campaign trail over the past few weeks, but always behind him or on the sidelines. Not a peep has been heard from her. The 46-year-old has refused interview requests and, like a glamorous poacher turned gamekeeper, phoned up her former bosses at Paris Match to complain furiously about being pictured on the front page and featured inside.
“What a shock to discover myself on page one of my own magazine. Angry to discover the use of photos without my agreement or even prior warning,” she wrote on Twitter afterwards.
At a lunch with British and United States journalists, Trierweiler sat at the very end of the table and blanched when asked a question.
Trierweiler, a twice-divorced mother of three, was horrified by the headlines when it was announced she was to have her own office in Hollande’s campaign headquarters.
The couple met in 2005, a meeting she has described as a “coup de foudre” (a lightning strike). She reportedly fell “head over heels” in love with the chubby head of the Socialist Party, who had a penchant for ill-fitting suits and heavy-rimmed glasses.
At the time Hollande was still with Segolene Royal, the mother of his four children, who was geared up to become the party’s presidential candidate in 2007.
Hollande and Royal put on a show of unity for the election campaign five years ago — though Royal accused him of not being effusive enough in his support — but when she lost to Sarkozy he left to be with Trierweiler.
The couple made their relationship public in 2010. Afterwards, Trierweiler told Elle magazine that Hollande was “the man of my life”.
Although she was credited with persuading him to lose weight and smarten up, she said she had found him attractive as he was.
Trierweiler was born the fifth of six children in Angers in the Loire valley. Her mother worked as a cashier at the local ice rink; her father, who lost a leg when he stepped on a landmine at the age of 13, died when she was 21. She studied at the Sorbonne and became a journalist.
Former colleagues say she is “very punchy, very honest, intelligent and no-nonsense”. She is still remembered with admiration for slapping a male colleague who made a sexist comment. —