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Why the world is more interested in Emmanuel Macron's marriage than his politics

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 1 May 2017, 18:33 IST
(Christophe Morin/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Brigitte Macron. Over the past few days, reams have been written about the wife of France's presidential hopeful Emmanuel Macron.

Married for 10 years, it’s the age gap between the two that has made the world sit up and stare. Many think it scandalous that the 39-year-old centrist married a woman 24 years his senior.

What made tongues wag even more is the fact that Brigitte was his high school teacher.

The British tabloids have gone into a bit of an overdrive now that Brigitte could just become France's first lady with headlines like “Emmanuel Macron married HIS high school teacher" and "The scandalous love life of Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Trogneux".

The unlikely romance only made global headlines a few days ago when the two celebrated their victory after the first round of elections despite the fact that none of it was ever a secret.

Macron will now go head to head with Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, on 7 May in a presidential runoff.

The age gap

For most, the age gap - Macron is 39 and Brigitte 64 - is not something to blink twice about. But the fact that the two met when Brigitte was teaching literature at a private Jesuit school in Amiens has left people agog. Their relationship began in earnest despite the fact that Brigitte was already married and had three children.

At 17, Macron’s parents sent him to Paris to continue his studies after learning about his relationship with Brigitte. 

Brigitte eventually divorced her husband and the two married in 2007 and have no kids - although Macron is step-grandfather to Trogneux’s seven grandchildren.

Brigitte eventually divorced her husband and the two married in 2007

The questions making the rounds revolve around the age of consent, forbidden student-teacher relationships and whether the two waited until the divorce came through.

In France, the age of consent is 15. Section 227 of the Penal Code, the relevant legislation, also sets out that if someone has any legal authority over someone aged up to 17 then sexual relations are prohibited.

Many of the details of the relationship are available in journalist Anna Fulda,'s book Emmanuel Macron: A Perfect Young Man. In the book, Macron's mother even reveals that she initially thought that her son was interested in Brigitte’s daughter Laurence, who was in his class.

"I told myself it would pass," his father Jean-Michel Macron said about the relationship.

Name-calling

Brigitte has also faced a lot of abuse, being called a cougar, a child molester and a pedophile. The love story has been called the "plot of some cheap paperback novel".

"Brigitte may be an amazing woman, but don't drag her everywhere with you. It looks as if she is waiting for an opportunity to wipe your mouth clean after lunch, or give you a smack for not standing up when Mrs Merkel walks into the room," wrote The Daily Mail.

It's likely that even of Macron does become the next French president, Brigitte will be used by his critics in vile ways.

All the same, sex and politics have been entwined in France for years. The current President, Francois Hollande separated from his partner Valerie Trierweiler after he was caught having an affair with an actress 18 years younger.

Even more famously, his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy famously ditched his wife to marry model-turned-singer Carla Bruni. 

Whether the French people can stomach the unusual relationship will only be known on 7 May.

First published: 1 May 2017, 16:00 IST
 
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.

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