New French president Emmanuel Macron's life story a 'night-time soap'

French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux pose for photos in Le Touquet, northern France on April 22, 2017.
French presidential election candidate Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux pose for photos in Le Touquet, northern France on April 22, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

This article was first published on April 30, 2017, and updated on May 8, 2017

The first thing that almost always comes up about the woman likely to become the next First Lady of France is that, at age 63, Ms Brigitte Marie-Claude Trogneux is 24 years older than her husband Emmanuel Macron.

The fact that the same age gap exists between US First Lady Melania Trump, 47, and her 70-year- old husband, rarely raises a mention, let alone an eyebrow.

But there is a more controversial difference. Ms Trogneux struck up a relationship with the man, whom polls predict will be the next French president, when he was only 15 years old.

Adding even juicier bits to such a made-for-tabloids recipe is the fact that Ms Trogneux, who has kept the name of her wealthy family of chocolate makers, was a drama and Latin teacher at a private Jesuit school. Mr Macron was one of her students when he caught her attention in 1992.

Coincidentally, her family in Amiens in northern France was famous for their macaroons, known as Macrons d'Amiens.

As Heavy.com reported, one resident, in a quip to Le Parisien in 2014, said: "We already had the macaroon from Amiens. Now we also have the Macron d'Amiens!"

 

When he was her student, the young Macron had reportedly told Ms Trogneux: "Whatever you do, I'll marry you." The Daily Mail last week published screengrabs from a video of him giving his teacher a peck on the cheek after a theatrical performance in 1993.

There was a slight problem though - his drama teacher was already married to banker Andre Louis Auziere since 1974 and was a mother of three.

The oldest child, Sebastien, is two years older than his stepfather. Ms Trogneux's daughter and middle child, Laurence, is not only the same age as Mr Macron, but they were in the same class.

A writer for Elle magazine summed it up last week under the headline: "Emmanuel Macron's life is a night-time soap and I'm obsessed."

It noted that Mr Macron's parents disapproved of the relationship and insisted that the couple not date until he was at least 18.

"His parents sent him to Paris to keep them apart, like he was Catherine in Wuthering Heights. But, like the Phantom and Christine in Love Never Dies, they found their way back to each other... is this super French or is this just a night-time soap opera coming to Freeform this fall?" the Elle columnist wrote.

His parents refrained from making a police report, however, "against Brigitte Auziere for corruption of a minor", Reuters reported Mr Macron's spokesman as saying.

Ms Trogneux said the relationship turned romantic when he was in 11th grade and persuaded her to write a play with him, the New York Times reported.

"Writing brought us together every Friday and it unleashed an incredible closeness," it reported her telling Paris Match magazine.

In Paris, he studied at the esteemed Lycee Henri-IV but kept in touch with her through long phone calls. "Little by little, I was won over by his intelligence. I still haven't measured all its depths," said Ms Trogneux.

There was an electricity between them. "I felt myself falling," she told Paris Match. "Him too."

According to The New York Times, she eventually moved to Paris, telling herself: "I'm going to miss out on my life if I don't do this."

In October 2007, 21 months after she divorced Mr Auziere, the couple tied the knot in the upmarket town of Le Touquet, where they have a home. She was 54 and he was 29.

"Emmanuel said, 'We're going to shut people up,'" the smiling bride is reported to have recalled, according to The Independent.

In his wedding speech, Mr Macron thanked his new wife's children "for loving us as we are".

Although a radio comic has called her a "menopausal Barbie", much of the European press appears to have excused the questionable nature of their romance and her divorce, and embraced Ms Trogneux.

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung called her "an embodiment of the modern and confident France that she experienced in her youth in the 1960s and 1970s".

Ms Trogneux's children, who have given her seven grandchildren, have accepted her choices and their stepfather.

Her youngest child, 30-year-old lawyer Tiphaine Auziere, works on Mr Macron's campaign. Closer magazine reported that Ms Auziere started appearing at events last November when she organised a meeting for his En Marche! movement. There, she called her stepfather an "exceptional personality" and an "intelligent man".

Mr Macron credits his wife for his success. After winning the first round of the elections last weekend, he thanked her and said: "Always there, and what's more, without whom I wouldn't be me."

The crowd seemed to agree and approve. As the New York Post reported, the name that everyone shouted was not his but hers: "Brigitte! Brigitte! Brigitte!"

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 30, 2017, with the headline 'Front runner Macron's life story a 'night-time soap''. Print Edition | Subscribe