Mitterrand’s mistress blames her silence on ‘submissive’ upbringing

Derrick Ceyrac, AFP | Former French President François Mitterrand’s mistress Anne Pingeot (pictured right) comforts her daughter Mazarine during a burial ceremony in the southwestern town of Jarnac on January 11, 1996

Former French president Francois Mitterrand's mistress and mother of the daughter he kept hidden for 20 years blamed her "submissive" upbringing for agreeing to "accept the unacceptable", in an interview broadcast Monday.


Anne Pingeot told France Culture radio that, growing up in a conservative Catholic household in southwest France, she was taught that "a woman should be submissive and have no intellectual life."

"My family was one or two generations behind the times. This was the countryside, it was very reactionary, very right-wing... Farmers in the area were still harvesting with scythes."

The great love of Mitterrand's life, who last week published the 1,218 love letters she received from him over the course of their passionate 33-year affair, said it took the Socialist leader to "help me advance in another direction."

"At the same time that submissive side led me to accept the inacceptable," the 73-year-old former museum director said.

Pingeot was just 14 when her father, a car firm executive, brought Mitterrand home after a round of golf in Hossegor, a seaside resort in southwest France.

Mitterrand, who was married to Danielle and had two children, was just a year younger than her father.

But he and Pingeot were instantly smitten.

"He left an indelible impression," she said.

Six years later they began an affair that continued throughout his 1981-1995 presidency until his death from prostate cancer in 1996.

Mitterrand's intensely intimate, beautifully-written letters to his lovers were published last week under the title "Lettres a Anne (Letters to Anne), 1962-1995."

The intensely private Pingeot said she agreed to make the letters public to ensure they were not published "in the wrong way".

"I don't know if I did the right thing," she said of the book, which has catapulted her back into the spotlight, more than 20 years after Mitterrand's death.

Silent heroine

Mitterrand's affair with Pingeot was an open secret among reporters who covered his presidency, bound by an unwritten French code of respect for the private lives of public figures.

The public was, however, oblivious to his double life as head of state and a man mad about a woman and a child with whom he spent much of his free time and holidays.

It was not until late 1994, a few months before he left office, that the existence of Mazarine was revealed in a picture on the front cover of Paris Match magazine, on the eve of her 20th birthday.

A little over a year later, Mazarine and her mother were among the mourners at Mitterrand's funeral, alongside Danielle.

Mazarine Pingeot, now 41 and a professor of philosophy, broke her silence on her childhood in 2010 with a book "Bouche Cousue" (which translates as "My Lips Are Sealed").

In the book she described her mother as "the heroine of a film that no one will ever see".


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