This French presidential candidate has an unusual love story

2017-04-30 12:35
Emmanuel Macron

Johannesburg - It is the stuff of tabloids: A handsome 39-year-old French presidential hopeful with a wife 24 years his senior.

Although Emmanuel Macron won the first round of France’s presidential elections last Sunday, all the international gossip magazines could focus on was the fact that his wife, Brigitte Trogneux-Macron, 64, was his drama teacher at school.

They met when he was 15 years old.

Brigitte was married with children and Macron’s parents sent him away to Paris in the hope that the love affair would fizzle out, but that did not happen.

Being labelled a Ben 10

Macron’s story resonates with a number of young South African men involved in intergenerational relationships. They do not appreciate being labelled a Ben 10.

One of the men City Press spoke to this week knows only too well what it must feel like for Macron, who has just racked up the achievement of his life, only to have public attention focus on his marriage.

The man, who asked not to be named, is involved with a high-profile South African entertainer.

They are raising a family together and he is building his own business. But still people jokingly refer to him as a Ben 10.

“This makes me so angry,” he said.

“Why must I be labelled and put in a box? I am a whole person with my own career and I love an older woman. That’s all there is to see here.”

Another younger man with an older partner said he did not find anyone his own age who could provide the level of companionship he needed.

“My partner and I want similar things in a relationship and in life. We want a long-term relationship based on compatibility and trust,” he said.

“People stop and stare when they see us holding hands, but I have never received any hostility.

“Relationships are about ourselves. People should do what makes them happy. Age does not determine the success of the relationship.”

Used to seeing the opposite?

South Africans are used to seeing the opposite: A leader with younger partners. Three out of President Jacob Zuma’s four wives are much younger than him.

Although his first wife, Sizakele Khumalo-Zuma, is about two years older than Zuma, second wife Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma is 33 years younger, third wife Thobeka Madiba-Zuma is 31 years his junior, and fourth wife Bongi Ngema-Zuma is 23 years younger.

US president Donald Trump, 70 is also 23 years older than wife Melania, 47.

So, why is Macron making headlines?

This week, UK tabloid the Daily Mail reported one of his old English teachers, Christian Monjou, saying the presidential favourite was driven to succeed by his marriage to Brigitte, to prove his parents wrong and prove to his wife that she had made the right choice in leaving her husband for him.

Monjou told of how a heartbroken Macron was dispatched to Paris, aged 17, while in the throes of the affair that rocked the small town of Amiens in northern France, and his parents ordered Brigitte to “stay away” from their son.

How it all began

Macron and Brigitte met at La Providence Catholic High School when they co-wrote a play together, and while she was married to banking executive Andre-Louis Auziere.

Classmate Antoine Joannes said: “We knew they were close. I saw this fusion happening between them, but I imagined then that it was platonic love.”

Local journalist Benoit Delespierre told the tabloid: “People are opened-minded about love and sex in France. But still it was a big deal. She was married with three children and he was her pupil.

“You can imagine what the other parents made of it all.”

Brigitte has refused to disclose when their sexual relationship started, saying it was “our secret”.

Macron’s parents, who are both doctors, and married the same year Brigitte married her first husband, decided not to lay a charge of “corruption of a minor” to police.

His mother, Françoise, said: “We couldn’t believe it. What is clear is that when Emmanuel met Brigitte, we couldn’t just say, ‘That’s great!’”

She then begged Brigitte to leave Macron alone until he was 18. Brigitte replied that she couldn’t promise her anything, said political reporter Anne Fulda, who wrote a book about the couple.

So, Macron was sent to a new school in Paris.

“His father contacted the head teacher directly and asked if he would accept his son so he would be separated from Madame Trogneux-Macron,” Fulda said.

“The head teacher, Patrice Corre, was sympathetic and kept the family’s secret.”

But Macron would not give up, telling Brigitte: “It doesn’t matter what you do. One day I will marry you.”

Macron’s mother is now friends with his wife. “With Brigitte, it’s adoration,” she said.

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