Sad marriages in Elysee Palace

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Sad marriages in Elysee Palace


French society is more macho than you think. The ratio of women compared with men in the legislature and in corporate management is one of the lowest in the European Union. France’s gender laws require an equal number of men and women in government positions and assemblies, but compliance is low. The culture of respecting privacy can also be considered macho. People are interested in the personal lives of high-ranking officials, but since most of those officials are men, they urge you to look the other way.

Elysee Palace, the official residence of French presidents, is named after Elysium, where dead heroes go in the afterlife. But it would not be a happy place for wives, as beautiful women and wine are abundant. Similarly, many of France’s first ladies have not had happy marriages in Elysee Palace.

Charles de Gaulle’s wife Yvonne lived in the shadow of her short-tempered husband, who was not content with the presidential residence. Only when de Gaulle left the Elysee and returned to his hometown could she relax.

To Claude Pompidou, Georges Pompidou’s wife and second first lady of the Fifth Republic, Elysee Palace did not leave fond memories because her husband died in office of a rare blood cancer.

Anne-Aymone Giscard d’Estaing refused to live in Elysee Palace, saying it was not suitable for raising her four children. Her husband, President Valery Giscard d’Estaing enjoyed his freedom and would drive his Ferrari to see his girlfriend. Danielle Mitterrand did not live in the Elysee either. Life in the palace would have been too restrictive for the Socialist activist, plus President Francois Mitterrand needed space for his extramarital affair.

Cecilia Sarkozy was a free spirit who said that she found the palace annoying. She left Nicolas Sarkozy six months into his presidency for another man. But Carla Bruni-Sarkozy enjoyed her life at Elysee and married Nicolas on the second floor.

Bernadette Chirac was by far the happiest first lady in Elysee Palace. She tended the gardens and provided support for President Jacques Chirac, who also loved the presidential residence.

Valerie Trierweiler may have dreamed of a happy life in the palace, but now is living a nightmare. She is the domestic partner of President Francois Hollande, but he is now apparently in a relationship with an actress. Francois Hollande may be the least macho president in the history of France. He almost entered Elysee not as the president but as the husband of the president, as his former longtime-partner Segolene Royal ran for office. Now, he is about to invite another first lady to the macho paradise of Elysee. But it is too early to know if she will be happy there.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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