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Without ring,French first lady creates own road

Hollande,Trierweiler are first unmarried couple at Élysée Palace,she plans to continue working as a journalist

Valerie Trierweiler faces an uncommon predicament. Twice married and twice divorced,she covered politics as a journalist for more than 20 years with no inkling that she would one day become France’s first lady,certainly not when she fell for François Hollande,a jovial,unglamorous leftist politician who hardly seemed like presidential material.

“I almost want to laugh when I think of it,” Trierweiler said in an interview.

But Hollande was elected on May 6 and was sworn in on Tuesday,and now Trierweiler — whom he calls “the love of my life” — is concerned with preserving her independence. “In France,a first lady has no status,and therefore she isn’t supposed to do anything else,” Trierweiler said. “My perception of life is not to ask François Hollande,who isn’t the father of my children,to support me financially.”

Last week she told the newspaper Le Figaro that she would have to “think” about her future role. Elle magazine has quoted her as saying she would continue to work as a journalist.

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Hollande and Trierweiler are the first unmarried couple to occupy the presidential Élysée Palace together,following close on the heels of the new president of Germany,Joachim Gauck,whose live-in companion is also a journalist. The arrangements do raise some concerns about protocol — how to travel together to places like Saudi Arabia,for instance,where unmarried cohabitation is not accepted.

Born in 1965 to a disabled father and a mother who worked as a cashier at an ice rink,Trierweiler grew up with five siblings. She studied political science and then took a job as a reporter on a weekly review,Profession Politique; she later moved to the magazine Paris Match.

She seemed happy,if a bit shocked,on the stage last Sunday when her partner delivered his victory speech. While Hollande is clearly his own man,Trierweiler’s influence is palpable. She confirmed to Le Figaro that she had asked Julien Dray,a controversial Socialist leader,to leave victory celebration for Hollande last Sunday.

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Trierweiler met Hollande in 1988,and became friends in 1997,when she was married to a colleague,Denis Trierweiler. Hollande was a party leader in a relationship with Ségolène Royal,who was then a cabinet minister. When Royal announced in 2006 she would run for president,she and Hollande had been together for 30 years and had four children. Hollande’s affair with Trierweiler had already begun.

Trierweiler has three teenage sons.

Hollande and Trierweiler are a loving couple,people who know them say. The question now is how Trierweiler can reinvent the role of first lady to fit comfortably. “I haven’t been raised to serve a husband,” she said. “I built my entire life on the idea of independence.”

First published on: 17-05-2012 at 01:02 IST
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