5 things to know about French President-elect Macron and his no ordinary wife

5 things to know about French President-elect Macron and his no ordinary wife
PHOTO: Reuters

When they first met, he was only 15 while she was a married 40-year old literature teacher. When he was nearly 30 and she 54, they tied the knot.

Whether people see the student-teacher relationship as cute or questionable, it has undeniably provided more than enough fodder for gossip in the Western world when the private lives of French President-elect Emmanuel Macron, 39, and his wife, Brigitte Trogneux, 64, came under the spotlight after he announced his intention to contest the election.

The media attention has not ceased, especially after Macron credited his victory in the first round to his wife and declared that she would have a public role should he become the new president.

Here's more about the Macrons, the most-talked about couple in Europe now, who are widely seen as a more successful unconventional couple than Donald and Melania Trump.

Photo: Reuters

1. Brigitte is expected to play a larger role as First Lady

Quite the opposite of Melania Trump with regards to age and affairs of state, Brigitte is expected to show much interest like the active former First Lady Michelle Obama of United States.

Macron has said that he will propose within the first weeks of his presidency, a formal but unpaid role for the French First Lady and that she will have her say in how that role is defined, according to Reuters.

Some quarters have speculated that she might be active in education and the arts.

"She will have an existence, she will have a voice there, a view on things. She will be at my side, as she has always been, but she will also have a public role," he said.

Photo: Reuters

2. Brigitte is expected to be a major influencer in Macron's government

During the victory speech for the first round of the contest, an emotional Macron expressed his gratitude to his wife for her unstinting support.

"Brigitte, always present, and even more now, without whom I would not be me," he said as hundreds of his supporters shouted her name, reported Reuters.

"She spends a lot of time here because her view matters to me, because she brings a different atmosphere, that is important. My life is here, you cannot work well if you are not happy," Macron said in his last staff meeting after he resigned from the Hollande government in August 2016.

Photo: Reuters

3. Brigitte played a big role in his successful campaign

She was always seen by his side during his campaign, managing his agenda, editing his speeches and advising him on his stage presence, reported Reuters.

Even before he formally declared his presidential bid in November last year, Macron had already made his intimate relationship with Trogneux an integral part of his public persona. So supporters are voting not just for him, but for her too. Or so it seems.

Photo: Reuters

4. Both were complete unknowns

Macron was not well-known when he was appointed economy minister in Socialist President Francois Hollande's government in August 2014.

Brigitte was a teacher then, but resigned a year later to help her ambitious husband, reported Reuters.

At the economy ministry, she was reportedly present during meetings with officials though discreetly.

 

Photo: Reuters

5. Their age difference has been mocked but they don't seem to mind

French cartoonists and satirical radio and TV programmes have poked fun at the couple's 24-year age difference, depicting Macron as a schoolboy taking orders from his teacher.

Macron supporters say nobody would bat an eyelid if the age difference - the same as that between US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania - had been the other way around.

Brigitte had joked that if he wanted to run for president, he better do it soon, while she still looked good.

"He needs to go for it in 2017 because by 2022, his problem will be my face," she was quoted as telling a friend in Nico­las Pris­sette's book "Emma­nuel Macron en marche vers l'Élysee", reported Reuters.

chenj@sph.com.sg

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