There’s a lot riding on France’s presidential election: the future of the European Union, the spread of right-wing populism, the rise of Vladimir Putin and his likeminded friends. But behind all that is the prospect of something far more intimate, if equally intriguing: that the man predicted to become France’s next president is married to his former high-school teacher, who is 24 years his senior.
The love life of Emmanuel Macron, the former economy minister expected to win Sunday’s vote, adds to a long list of conventions the candidate has broken. He split from the Socialists to start his own centrist party, En Marche!, only a year ago. He managed to beat both mainstream parties in the first round of voting, despite never holding elected office before. A win would make him the youngest president in French history.
With equal defiance, he has upended the cultural norm of men marrying younger women.
Now the couple swans around elegantly, preparing to take their place at the helm of a deeply divided country. For me, a transplant from America living in Paris, Macron’s wife, Brigitte Trogneux, represents a coagulation of everything French. The way she dresses, her sun-bleached hair, her preternaturally slender physique. She is a chocolate-company heiress from a rustbelt town, a trained school teacher who now sits front row at Louis Vuitton fashion shows. She embodies all that is intoxicating and enviable and ridiculous about French culture, impossibly elitist and socialist all at once.
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