Is Sarkozy's new wife too sexy for France?
This marriage may help French President Nicholas Sarkozy repair his relations with the people of France, say French conservatives.Updated: Feb 04, 2008 15:30 IST
The news that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his girlfriend of scarcely four months, singer and former supermodel Carla Bruni, tied the knot on Saturday will no doubt come as a relief to friends and political allies who feared he was spending too much time on his personal affairs and not enough on affairs of state.
French conservatives, facing an uphill struggle in next month's local elections, may well be hoping that normalizing the relationship will go a long way to repairing Sarkozy's with the French, who have grown tired of seeing their president and his mistress monopolise the covers of France's glossy glamour weeklies.
But France is still, despite all of Sarkozy's efforts, a morally traditional country - a macho country - where it is more or less expected that men are promiscuous and women are tactful.
This applies particularly to the country's First Couple. For example, Francois Mitterrand was known as a philanderer and even had a second family, with a daughter, Mazarine, born to his mistress. Asked to comment on it, Mitterrand said, "So what?" His wife, Danielle, on the other hand, was seen as cultured, loyal and prudent.
And stories are legion about the liaisons of Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac. A book published in 2007, Stranger in the Elysee, detailed his numerous extramarital affairs - but no one in France cared. Yet there was never any suggestion of his wife Bernadette stepping out.
Mitterrand's predecessor, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, was also known for his gallivanting. And there were few eyebrows raised in France when Sarkozy's ex-wife was quoted in a recent book as describing him as a "skirt-chaser."
But the wives of French presidents, on the other hand, have always been seen as well dressed, self-effacing and discreet. That tradition may have ended on Saturday, because Carla Bruni is not a typical First Lady.
Her list of former lovers is long and illustrious, and is said to include rockers Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, real estate mogul Donald Trump, actors Kevin Costner and Vincent Perez and former French prime minister Laurent Fabius.
According to her sister, the actress-director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, "When my sister wants someone, she takes him. You remember with Mick (Jagger)? How many evenings she spent at Eric Clapton's home to start a relationship with Jagger ... Even now that she's almost 40, she's in love like a 16-year-old."
Not surprisingly, she told Le Figaro magazine last year that she was not by nature monogamous. "I am a tamer (of men), a cat," she said. "Monogamy bores me terribly ... I am monogamous from time to time but I prefer polygamy and polyandry (its female equivalent)."
Love, she said, "lasts a long time, but burning desire - two to three weeks."
She reportedly met philosopher Raphael Enthoven, the father of her son, while living with his father, the publisher Jean-Paul Enthoven.
Raphael Enthoven's ex-wife, Justine Levy - the daughter of yet another French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy - later wrote a novel about the end of her marriage and Bruni's part in it.
In a book titled Nothing Special, Levy described the character representing Carla Bruni as a "Terminator," a woman who was "beautiful and bionic, with the look of a killer."
France's new First Lady has embraced her reputation as a femme fatale. "I'd rather be called a predator than an old hag. Predator - that's not bad for a woman," she said.
But do the French think so too? With local elections coming up and then France's turn to assume the rotating presidency of the European Union, Sarkozy - and the country - can little afford to have the First Lady's private life dominate the news.