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Brigitte Macron: A 'first lady' in all but title

Axel Schmidt / AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron's wife Brigitte Macron arrives to attend the partners' programme during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017.
Axel Schmidt / AFP | French President Emmanuel Macron's wife Brigitte Macron arrives to attend the partners' programme during the G20 summit in Hamburg, northern Germany, on July 8, 2017.

In an interview with the French magazine Elle — to be published on Friday — French President Emmanuel Macron's wife Brigitte declared that her official role would “not be specified by a law, but by a transparency charter.”


The charter will show that she is not being paid a taxpayer-funded salary, and will outline her exact “role and accompanying resources.”

“My meetings and schedule will be published on the Élysée's website so that the French people will be able to know what I am doing,” she said in an excerpt from the longer interview published by Elle on Wednesday. It’s the first time that Brigitte Macron has spoken to the press since the election, aside from several videos published by the Élysée Palace on social media networks.

“It’s important that things be clear. I will take on a public role like my predecessors did, but the French people will be able to know what resources are being devoted to that role.”

The forthcoming transparency charter, expected within the next few days, will most likely provide official detail on the current makeup of Brigitte Macron’s staff. She currently has three assistants at her disposal, including two presidential attachés (communications director Pierre-Olivier Costa and Tristan Brome, her chief of staff) and a secretary. That’s fewer than her past three predecessors. Valérie Trierweiler, the former partner of François Hollande, had five assistants; Nicholas Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni, had eight; and Bernadette Chirac, wife of former French president Jaques Chirac, had a staff of twenty people at her disposal.

Brigitte Macron, a former schoolteacher, plans to become deeply involved in issues surrounding education and disabilities.

In the interview, she also talks about her marriage, joking lightly about the 24-year age gap between her and her husband, saying that his “only fault is being younger than me.”

“When I read things about our relationship, I always have the impression that I’m reading about somebody else. But our story is actually a simple one,” she says. Referring to having been Emmanuel Macron’s theatre teacher when he was sixteen years old, and later divorcing her husband to marry her former student, she concludes, “If I hadn’t made that choice, I would have let my life pass me by.”

Brigitte Macron also reveals how the couple felt after her husband won the first round in the two-round presidential election. “After the first round, lots of people thought that we were confident that we were going to win, but that’s wrong. We never assumed that.”

When asked about her experience of taking up residence at the Élysée Palace, she replies, “I’m so used to extraordinary things happening to me with Emmanuel that I always wonder to myself what the next adventure will be. And it’s been like that for twenty years.”

Last week, the Élysée announced that a document clarifying her role would be released, but that she would not seek an official status of first lady, as Emmanuel Macron announced when he was still a candidate.

In response to rumours that she would seek that position, an online petition “against a status of first lady for Brigitte Macron” drew 300,000 signatures. Both the left-wing opposition party France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) and the far-right Front National spoke out against a first-lady status during debates on a law on ethics in politics that was voted recently by France’s National Assembly.

Currently, there is nothing in French law that defines either the role of the spouse of a president or the resources granted to that person. Traditionally, presidential partners benefit from an office, assistants, and a security detail, paid for out of the budget of the Office of the President.

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