In Depth

Non to Valerie, Non to Julie: Hollande 'wants no First Lady'

If he continues his romance with Julie Gayet, she's unlikely to be seen at the Elysee or on foreign trips

IT LOOKS as if Francois Hollande is going to do the sensible thing and ditch the position of First Lady while he remains President of France.

He needs a little more time to think about it - okay, to dither - but according to the French political pundit Michael Darmon of i-Tele he's already told a small group of journalists he doesn't want a first lady at the Elysee Palace.

It means Valerie Trierweiler will have to leave her office in the Elysee with its taxpayer-funded staff of five, whether or not she continues to be his girlfriend out of hours. That looks unlikely: all the indications are that he's finished his relationship with the Paris Match journalist.

And if his romance with the actress Julie Gayet survives the storm of publicity following Closer magazine's expose, she will not be sharing croissants with her boyfriend at the Palace either.

Presumably the President's weekend retreat of La Lanterne in Versailles, where La Trierweiler is currently recuperating after leaving hospital, will also be out of bounds.

It's not quite the ground-breaking decision it might sound like - because there is no official 'first lady' role in France anyway. Few wives of French presidents during the Fifth Republic have played much of a role (except to observe the comings and goings of their husband's mistresses, it seems). As one political watcher put it to me this week, even Carla Bruni never set foot in the Elysee except for occasional state events.

It is not clear when Hollande will share his thoughts with the rest of France - though he has promised to make a statement about the position of the first lady before he travels to Washington DC next month. It now looks certain that he will be going solo.

As for Trierweiler, as few tears will be shed for her in France as for Carla Bruni, who's also down in the dumps. She's had to cancel a singing tour of north America because so few tickets were sold to her concerts it wasn't worth the bother. Shame.

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