EMMANUEL MACRON: HE’S 39, SHE’S 64: THE ODD COUPLE WHO COULD BE RUNNING FRANCE.
HE’S the rising star of European politics – a young, charismatic upstart who quit his position in France’s ruling Socialist Party to set up his own political movement and is now surging ahead in the polls.
But the man who could become leader of the country if he wins the second round of the presidential election on May 7 is also known by another name: “chouchou”. It translates as “teacher’s pet”.
Aged 39 Emmanuel Macron is handsome and intelligent and as well as making political headlines is also, along with his glamorous, chic wife Brigitte Trogneux, a frequent cover star of France’s most stylish magazines.
So why the nickname? It comes from the fact that wife Brigitte is not only 25 years older than Macron – but that she used to be his high-school teacher.
Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux.
The pair met when Macron was 15 and a pupil at the Jésuites de la Providence school in Amiens, northern France. Madame Trogneux – then known as Brigitte Auzière – was his literature teacher and ran the theatre club. She was also a 40-year-old married mother of three – one of her daughters was even in his class.
Macron quickly made an impression on his teacher. “In class she always used him as an example,” recalled a former pupil. “He wrote poems all the time and she read them out.”
Romance blossomed the following year when the pair worked on a school play. “Writing brought us together,” Brigitte later said.
“It unleashed an incredible closeness. We wrote and little by little I was totally charmed by his intelligence. He wasn’t like the others. “Nobody will ever know at what moment our story became a love story. That belongs to us. That is our secret.”
Macron’s parents, however, were not so enthralled – when he confided that he had feelings for a member of the Auzière family naturally they assumed he meant Brigitte’s daughter.
When the truth emerged – that he was in love with her mother – they promptly sent him to finish his studies in Paris. Before he left, he told his teacher: “You won’t get rid of me. Whatever you do, I will marry you.”
He was right. The pair spoke every day on the phone and by the time he was 18, Brigitte had left her husband and took a teaching job in Paris to be with Macron. They have been together ever since and in 2007 tied the knot. At their wedding, Macron thanked her children for accepting their relationship, adding that they were “not a normal couple – but a couple that exists”.
The 2017 French Presidential candidates
With Brigitte by his side Macron’s political star has risen spectacularly: after making a fortune as an investment banker he joined the Socialist Party and was appointed minister of economy in 2014, before resigning last year to found En Marche! – calling for a youth-driven “democratic revolution”. But this increased profile has piqued public interest in his marriage.
At 64 Brigitte has become something of a style icon. She is regularly spotted on the front row at fashion shows and with her blonde hair, deep tan, skinny leather trousers and above-the-knee dresses, she looks more like a model than a schoolteacher.
French newspaper L’Express described her as “rock’n’roll”, adding: “Not for a second does she say, I cannot wear short skirts. Ultra-high heels, sleeveless dresses, leather trousers, she dares everything.”
And earlier this month Vogue magazine gushed about her “deep tan, peroxide-to-honey hairdo, expensive designer handbag and car-to-carpet heels”.
But there is more to Brigitte than style. The couple have never hidden the fact that she is deeply involved in his career: Macron’s former chief of staff has recalled how during his time as a minister she would attend meetings and a recent France 3 TV documentary showed her helping him prepare key campaign speeches.
Paris Match magazine declared recently: “She spends all her time beside him, she reads and listens to everything that is said about him. He asks her questions and takes her advice.” Some even say he behaves in her presence like “un petit garçon”.
Macron has also insisted that if he is elected president his wife will have an official role to play in his government.
Madame Trogneux – then known as Brigitte Auzière – was his literature teacher
Not everyone is so enamoured of the couple, however. Although it has been pointed out that their age difference is no more remarkable than that of Donald and Melania Trump (albeit in reverse), Brigitte was recently satirised on French radio as a “menopausal Barbie” – and that “chouchou” nickname has stuck.
In February their marriage was even described as a sham designed to hide the fact that Macron was having a homosexual affair with Mathieu Gallet, 40, the head of Radio France.
Macron was forced to go on TV to deny it. “I am who I am,” he said. “I have never had anything to hide. I hear people saying that I have a secret life or something. It’s not nice for Brigitte. Because I share all my days and nights with her she asks me how I manage it.”
For her part the woman who next month could be France’s fi rst lady is equally uncompromising about their unconventional relationship. “I’ve been involved in everything at his side for 20 years,” Brigitte told reporters in October. “You always seem surprised that spouses are beside their husbands. It’s time for things to evolve.”
BY: DOMINIC UTTON,EXPRESS.CO.UK
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