At the end of his interview with France’s revengeful former First Lady, Andrew Marr was left dazzled. This very uncommon guest on his Sunday show left him starstruck: ‘What a cracking interview!’ he exclaimed.
Most of the media focusses on Madame Trierweiler’s glamour: her plum satin blouse and matching lipstick, her tasteful appearance with hints of sensuality. We’re meant to think of her as a vamp. Indeed, Valérie Trierweiler made quite an impression on BBC journalist Marr as she disclosed some intimate secrets of her 10-year relationship with the French President. She was given the red-carpet treatment when she came to London two weeks ago for the release of her latest memoir Thank You for This Moment: A Story of Love, Power and Betrayal.
Even if her book has sold like hot cakes (almost 800,000 copies sold), in France Valérie Trierweiler is now under severe criticism for being ‘hysterical’ and ‘uncontrollable’. Women who wear plum are apparently like that – if you believe the press. It seems nothing can stop her from divulging more spicy episodes of the development and brutal ending of her relationship with François Hollande. Well, ending their invitations for interviews and features might go some way to stopping this, but I guess most journalists haven’t thought that far.
In the UK, however, the French ex-First Lady is seen as an honest and consistent woman. During the interviews she granted The Sunday Times and Newsnight a fortnight ago, Valérie Trierweiler made very heartfelt and sincere confessions about her breakup with the French President whose secret affair with French actress Julie Gayet was splashed across every front page earlier this year. Madame Trierweiler is just a woman putting across her side of the story – and why shouldn’t she?
When François Hollande issued a very blunt press statement to formally announce the end of their relationship (‘Je fais savoir que j’ai mis fin à la vie commune que je partageais avec Valérie Trierweiler,’ meaning ‘I publicly announce that I put an end to the conjugal life I shared with Valérie Trierweiler’) the former First Lady felt totally humiliated and her world was suddenly turned upside down.
After a few months’ rest and healing, the former journalist eventually started writing her memoirs and set out to tell the whole story from her own point of view. According to what she said in the interviews given in the press two weeks ago, the writing process had something cathartic about it.
Needless to say, Madame Trierweiler does not mince her words in Thank You for This Moment, and her straightforward descriptions of her ex-partner are honest but scathing. It’d be too easy to portray her as a deeply hurt woman who emerges as the stereotypical victim in this story. After all, she’d neither expected Hollande’s adulterous affair with Julie Gayet to make front page news nor having to cope with the President’s macho behaviour and his churlish attempt at quickly ‘repudiating’ her.
What is even more striking is that the whole French ‘affaire’ sounds like a state scandal – but Monsieur Hollande and Madame Trierweiler had never tied the knot and this prevented Madame Trierweiler from being involved in many acts of state. For example, Queen Elizabeth never officially received Madame Trierweiler for etiquette reasons.
With hindsight, a parallel might be drawn between this current presidential story and that of Emperor Napoleon, who repudiated Empress Josephine for not giving him an heir to the throne. It should also be remembered that adultery at the level of the French Presidency is not uncommon, as President Mitterrand had already caught French people by surprise when, on the day of his funeral, his illegitimate twenty-year-old daughter Mazarine was seen grieving over his coffin alongside his lawful wife. Is the ménage à trois typically French?
Valérie Trierweiler tells a few hometruths and discloses a few political secrets that put Monsieur Hollande’s presidency at a disadvantage. Readers of her memoirs learn that, according to Madame Trierweiler, in the midst of the raging and heated debate around le mariage pour tous (Same-Sex Marriage Act), ‘François had never understood – except in a theoretical way – the scope of this emblematic reform introduced by the Left’.
It is sad to think that the French President himself was not convinced by a bill he had pledged he would introduce once he was elected. Although he was in his own right not to be convinced, the fact that the Président de la République himself was not aware of the scope of the far-reaching implications of this law in same-sex couples’ daily lives comes as a shock since it is a blatant political – indeed historical – mistake.
On this matter, Valérie Trierweiler accounts for Hollande’s indecisiveness by subtly parallelling some aspects of their own relationship. Indeed, she claims that the French President, unlike some the members of the Cabinet, supported same-sex marriage laws only mildly because ‘he is inclined to regard marriage as a closing door’. Touché!
Whether you approve or disapprove of the former French First Lady’s exquisite revenge, Thank You for This Moment (Biteback Publishing) is more than a revenge story. It is the marketing strategy of a humiliated and deceived elegant Parisian woman who only writes about love.