PARIS (AFP) - Brigitte Macron, the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, will represent the country and carry out charity work but not have the official status of First Lady, following opposition to giving her this title, the presidency announced on Monday (Aug 21).
A proposal by Macron during campaigning earlier this year to create a new First Lady status has been shelved, but the presidency had promised to clarify her position and the resources at her disposal.
The former school teacher will have two presidential advisors and her own Cabinet, paid for from Macron’s budget, and will focus on working with charities helping children and handicapped people. She will also “represent France at her husband’s side during international summits and meetings” and work with the partners of other global leaders to highlight work to combat climate change or domestic violence.
An online petition against creating an official First Lady role – which would have required a change in the law or constitution – garnered more than 300,000 signatures in August. An opinion poll in early August showed a majority of French people were also opposed, even though Brigitte Macron is a popular figure.
Brigitte Macron, who has taken to public life with aplomb, said in an interview with Elle magazine last week that she would be an unofficial First Lady in the mould of previous presidential spouses.
“Like all of those before me, I will take on my public role, but the French people will know the resources at my disposal,” said the 64-year-old. She accompanied the president to a G7 summit in Italy and was also by his side when he welcomed US President Donald Trump to Paris in July.
Macron’s office had promised a “transparency charter” which would make clear how much her role would cost.
The statement on Monday confirmed that she would not be paid but did not reveal the overall bill or the number of staff at her disposal.
“In legal terms, the first lady still does not have any status,” Jean-Joel Governatori, a constitutional lawyer, told AFP. “In the end, it doesn’t change anything, other than giving the illusion of transparency.”
President Macron has made a mixed start to his five-year term, which has seen his approval ratings topple to the mid-30s per cent after 100 days in office, according to recent polls.
In her interview last week, Brigitte Macron also spoke about her marriage with Macron, who is 25 years younger than her and a former pupil in her drama classes at a Catholic high school in the northern city of Amiens.
“When I read about us, I always have the impression I’m reading someone else’s story,” she said. “Our story is so simple.”
Despite the difficulties their relationship caused – the mother-of-three divorced her first husband in 2006 – she said she had no regrets.
“If I hadn’t made this choice, I would have missed out on my life,” she said.