French First Ladies who were in the spotlight

From left: Mrs Danielle Mitterrand, Mrs Bernadatte Chirac, Ms Carla Bruni and Ms Valerie Trierweiler have made headlines during their time.
Mrs Danielle Mitterrand (above), Mrs Bernadatte Chirac, Ms Carla Bruni and Ms Valerie Trierweiler have made headlines during their time.
From left: Mrs Danielle Mitterrand, Mrs Bernadatte Chirac, Ms Carla Bruni and Ms Valerie Trierweiler have made headlines during their time.
Mrs Danielle Mitterrand, Mrs Bernadatte Chirac (above), Ms Carla Bruni and Ms Valerie Trierweiler have made headlines during their time.
From left: Mrs Danielle Mitterrand, Mrs Bernadatte Chirac, Ms Carla Bruni and Ms Valerie Trierweiler have made headlines during their time.
Mrs Danielle Mitterrand, Mrs Bernadatte Chirac, Ms Carla Bruni (above) and Ms Valerie Trierweiler have made headlines during their time.
From left: Mrs Danielle Mitterrand, Mrs Bernadatte Chirac, Ms Carla Bruni and Ms Valerie Trierweiler have made headlines during their time.
Mrs Danielle Mitterrand, Mrs Bernadatte Chirac, Ms Carla Bruni and Ms Valerie Trierweiler (above) have made headlines during their time.

The wives of French leaders have made headlines at least since a revolutionary tribunal removed the head of the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette, with a guillotine in 1793. Here is a look at four First Ladies of more recent times whose stories have caused tongues to wag. Danielle Mitterrand: She was well aware that her husband, Francois - France's longest-serving president from 1981 to 1995 - had a second family. He spent almost every night with art historian Anne Pingeot, his mistress of 30 years, with whom he had a daughter, Mazarine.

Not only did Mrs Mitterrand stand by her husband, she stood near Ms Pingeot at his funeral in 1996 and let Mazarine stand between her two surviving sons.

Bernadette Chirac: Her response to the infidelities of her husband Jacques Chirac during her days as First Lady from 1995 to 2007 was to pour her heart out in a book.

In Les Chirac, Les Secrets d'un Clan, Mrs Chirac says the staff called her husband "Mr Three Minutes, shower included".

The book also revealed that as mayor of Paris in the 1980s, Mr Chirac had ordered the purchase of a coach fitted out with a bedroom so he could meet his lovers during official engagements.

Carla Bruni: Five months after Mr Nicolas Sarkozy moved into the Elysee Palace as president in 2007, his wife Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz left him for another man.

The following year, he married Ms Bruni, a singer-songwriter and socialite. They had met at a dinner party after his divorce.

Rumour has it that before she married Mr Sarkozy, Ms Bruni had been involved with Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.

Valerie Trierweiler: She was still married to her second husband when she began a relationship in 2007 with outgoing President Francois Hollande. Ms Trierweiler revealed in a book that she tried to take an overdose of sleeping pills in 2014, after a magazine published photos and details of Mr Hollande's affair with his current partner, actress Julie Gayet.

Paul Zach

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'French First Ladies who were in the spotlight'. Print Edition | Subscribe