Frances' First (unwed) Lady revolutionizes the role


Valerie Trierweiler, 47, the partner of Mr. Hollande, will become the first unmarried ‘Première Dame’ in history to enter the Elysee Palace on the arm of France’s most powerful man.

There is some speculation as to whether Trierweiler, whose companion Francois Hollande was elected Socialist president on Sunday, will marry her man before he gets the keys of the Elysee on May 15.

If she does not, certain host countries may face some embarrassment as to the proper protocol when receiving an unmarried head of state turning up with his unwed companion.

But for Trierweiler, a twice-divorced 47-year-old journalist and mother of three teenagers who says she plans to continue her media career and combine it with her first lady role, the issue is dismissed.

“I’m not sure it will come up all that much. Maybe when visiting the pope? Frankly, it is not really something that bothers me. This question of marriage is above all a personal matter in our private life,” the new first lady told AFP.

Apart from the Vatican, conservative countries that might view her unmarried status as a diplomatic dilemma include the Arab Gulf states, where Islamic traditions apply, and in conservative societies like India.

Trierweiler was revealed as Hollande’s lover after he got separated from the mother of his four children, Segolene Royal, who in 2007 lost to Sarkozy in the presidential election. Her ‘lover’ status could cause few logistic problems.

“Typically we only give the protocol facilities to a spouse,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told AFP on Monday. “But I don’t know the details of this case and we can’t really answer this question.”

A French foreign ministry official said that most countries to which a French president travels are happy to accommodate to his wishes and that in the 21st century being unmarried did not pose a major problem.

“If we tell them ‘treat this person as the president’s wife’, then they will do so,” predicted the official, who asked not be named.

The Paris Match magazine reporter, who has put her work on ice for now, insists that being a celebrity is more of a chore than an ambition, and could impinge on life's simple pleasures, such as unnoticed sorties to her local food market.

“Being First Lady is playing supporting act,” Trierweiler told Reuters in an interview.

“I am not seeking notoriety and I am not seeking to grab the limelight”.

Trierweiler, who bears a resemblance to late American actress Katharine Hepburn, says people have recently started asking for pictures and autographs.
She is happy to do so but still wonders why they ask.

Trierweiler was attributed the nickname of ‘Rottweiler’ after she slapped a colleague in Paris Match magazine who said something she deemed sexist.

The magazine had put her picture on the cover titling ‘Francois Hollande’s charming asset’, so she tweeted: ‘Bravo Paris Match for its sexism ... my thoughts go out to all angry women.’

The soon-to-be first lady has also voiced concerns at the prospect of losing her independence because of her partner’s new role, so a wedding is probably the last thing on the to-do list of the new presidential couple.