The fabulous first lady: Leggy rottweiler who saw off her love rival – and Carla
14:21 GMT, 17 May 2012
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Dolled up in a black chiffon dress, nude tights, high heels and white coat, France’s new First Lady needed no lessons in elegance.
As Valerie Trierweiler appeared at the Elysee Palace to see her partner Francois ‘Mr Normal’ Hollande sworn in as the country’s new President, the wind caught her split skirt to reveal an eye-catching glimpse of thigh.
It was a performance that made her predecessor, Carla Bruni, who had a baby six months ago and was dressed in a shapeless trouser suit, look decidedly dowdy.
Thigh high: Valerie Trierweiler's dress falls open to reveal her slender legs as she walks in the Tuileries gardens after her partner's inauguration as president
Tribute: President Francois Hollande Valerie Trierweiler arrive at a ceremony to pay tribute to the 19th century education reformer Jules Ferry at the Tuileries Garden
Trierweiler is a one-woman French revolution. She is the first First Lady in the Elysee Palace to be unmarried and to have a job.
French polls have shown voters approve of her working status. It seems so much more grown-up than Carla Bruni’s failing pop career and former flings with Mick Jagger.
Mr Normal’s girlfriend tries to present herself as normal, but is she really quite as down-to-earth as she seems
The Paris Match journalist who has been credited with revitalising Mr Hollande’s career — putting him on a diet, modernising his suits and sending angry texts to his detractors — has proved herself to be as determined as the new President.
Some call her the ‘Tweetweiler’ because of her frequent tweets ticking off the media; others, Premiere Dame de Fer — First Iron Lady.
At least these nicknames are better than ‘The Rottweiler’, the moniker applied by those who have seen her steely manner in action. When Lionnel Luca, a Right-wing MP, said that name was ‘unfair to the dog’, she upbraided him.
Even before yesterday, two things at least belied Valerie’s ‘normality’: her rise from humble origins and her toxic triangular relationship with Hollande and Segolene Royal, his lover for 30 years and the mother of his four children.
President and the pout: Standing alongside her boyfriend, Valerie out-glamoured outgoing First Lady Carla Bruni
Royal and Hollande split up only after she learned he was having an affair with Valerie.
To complicate matters further, Royal, a former presidential candidate herself, is poised to become President of the National Assembly — making her France’s third most powerful politician.
Hollande has promised to ensure 50 per cent of his cabinet are women, even though 81.5 per cent of his MPs are men. Of all the Hollandettes, Royal will be the most senior.
Officially, that is — for it is Valerie who wields the pillow.
On the campaign, it was noted not only that Hollande and Trierweiler were all over each other, but also that at the party’s HQ she had her own office with her name on the door.
Some called her ‘the Duchess’ because of her power at court, though a former colleague at Paris Match defends her as ‘very reserved . . . [but] someone who laughs a lot’.
However she comes across, the couple are extremely close. ‘My love’ flashes up on his telephone when she calls.
Born in 1965, the fifth of six children, to Jean-Paul Massonneau and his wife in the town of Angers in the Loire Valley, Trierweiler was raised in a council house.
Her father, a clerk, had lost a leg after standing on a landmine in 1944 when he was 12.
Valerie was ‘a breathtaking beauty, fresh and lively’, according to a schoolfriend. Others recalled her as gifted and quiet.
Her father died when he was 53, and her mother worked at the local ice rink as a cashier.
Though Valerie, 47, has referred to her family as ‘impoverished bourgeoisie’, they had been considerably better off a generation before.
Her grandfather and great-grandfather owned a bank in Angers, which occupied a grand house in the town, but it was swallowed up by a rival in 1950 and the family’s finances seem never to have recovered.
Trierweiler read political science at the Sorbonne in Paris. Around then, she married a young man called Franck, about whom almost nothing is known. But the union yielded no children and seems to have collapsed quickly.
'First companion': Valerie Trierweiler arrives at her boyfriend Francois Hollande's investiture
'First lady': Valerie Trierweiler, companion of France's president-elect Francois Hollande arrives at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris
With a little adjustment, Valerie quickly settled into her new role as companion to the president with panache
Security teams had to shield Valerie Trierweiler from supporters eager for a glimpse of France's new First Lady
In 1988, she met Francois Hollande through her set of liberal Left Bank friends — journalists, politicians and academics.
He was then teaching economics at Paris University. She was an aspiring political reporter, shortly to join Paris Match, the weekly glossy magazine
Quite what passed between the pair we can only guess at, though at that time Hollande was settled in his relationship with Segolene Royal.
Through Paris Match, Valerie met the intellectual, rakishly handsome Denis Trierweiler, who became her second husband and father of her three sons. She still works with him at Paris Match.
In the small, macho world of French journalism and politics, where everyone was married or sleeping with each other, feisty Trierweiler thrived. She branched out into TV.
‘Valerie loved the attention in what was always a sexually charged atmosphere,’ says a socialist who worked in Parliament at the time.
‘Her working face was one of indifference, but out on the town she was hugely affable — especially to older men who shared her politics.’
Three sons (aged 15, 17 and 19) didn’t stop her having an active social life. In these circles in France, fidelity is for wimps.
Exactly when Valerie and Hollande got together is not clear. Certainly, the enmity between her and Segolene Royal goes back a very long way, at least to an intriguing incident in 1992.
It involved the birth of Hollande and Royal’s fourth child, Flora, after which he secured a scoop for his young journalist friend Valerie: a controversial TV interview in hospital with Royal, who was tired and drugged-up. Pictures appeared on two TV stations and in Paris Match.
At the time, Royal was environment minister, and the official line was that she wanted to prove motherhood and offices of state could co-exist. In reality, she was annoyed.
‘Segolene was happy enough about the interview, but not with one of the two journalists conducting it,’ a confidante explained. ‘Even then she had her suspicions about Valerie, who was close to Francois from day one.’
Style fail: Carla Bruni wore an unflattering trouser suit for the Presidential handover today
Ladies in black and white: Carla Bruni with new French Premiere Dame Valerie Trierweiler, who has already got the tongues of France's fashion elite wagging
Warm welcome: Carla greeted her successor outside the Elysee today, and the two looked at ease as they posed for photographs together
Carla and Valerie supported their husbands at the Elysee today
It is openly acknowledged by the couple that they have been together since 2005, though many believe the affair could have started long before then.
Valerie commented that when she and Hollande got together, he ‘had arrived at a stage in his life when he needed another life, something else. From that moment, I think he has been fulfilled’.
This was clearly a dig at Segolene, who is 11 years older than her and in 2006 was still trying to hold together her relationship with Hollande when she was running for office.
At a press conference that summer, Royal curiously announced that she might get married to Hollande on a beach somewhere, perhaps because she thought it would help her election chances.
‘It showed how needy Segolene was,’ says a party source. ‘She knew about Valerie, but viewed the affair as a fling.’
At the height of her presidential election campaign against Sarkozy in 2007, by which time Hollande had left her for Trierweiler, Royal was said to be heartbroken. Sarkozy won, and the couple’s separation was finally announced after the election.
Out with the old: President Francois Hollande and Valerie Trierweiler watch as President Nicolas Sarkozy and former First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy leave the Elysee Palace
Royal has since blamed her loss on a lack of support from Hollande, and there is little doubt she was furious with the man who walked away from her and their four children.
Even recently, she asked publicly: ‘Can anyone recall anything Francois Hollande has done in 30 years’ — though the froideur between the two of them seems to have been papered over now that they are back in politics together.
So WHAT do their children make of it all The eldest, Thomas, 28 and a lawyer, recently gave an interview about his father and he didn’t mention Trierweiler once.
He almost talked about his parents as though they were still together, even though Royal has a boyfriend, businessman Andre Hadjez, 61.
Royal did at least support Hollande in his campaign, and she and Trierweiler finally shook hands for the cameras at a rally in Rennes.
If there is rancour surrounding the genesis of her relationship with the new President, Valerie will have plenty to think about in her new public role. Though fiery, she is hardly a mountain of self-confidence.
Phillippe Labro, her mentor in TV, recalled advising her to have a glass of wine before she went on screen because she was so nervous. Despite this, she did present a political programme successfully for six years on cable channel Direct 8.
She will not, however, relish the examination of all aspects of her life.
For now, she is living with her sons and Hollande in a rented apartment full of Ikea furniture in the 15th arrondissement on the Left Bank.
But the security has become a nightmare for her neighbours, so, unlike the Sarkozys, they will probably move into the Elysee Palace.
The girl from a council house will then have completed her journey to the summit of French society.
But other issues remain. Will she marry Hollande
It is potentially awkward if she doesn’t, particularly if the couple have to make an official visit to
somewhere like the Vatican, where a dim view is taken of couples who ‘live in sin’.
And what exactly will she do at Paris Match now, where she used to write about politics
It is said the French elect candidates, not families.
But anyone who thinks France won’t feel the force of Valerie Trierweiler is bound to be much mistaken.
FIRST LADY OF FASHION: CARLA'S FINEST STYLE MOMENTS AS PREMIERE DAME
First Lady of fashion: Carla in the Roland Mouret Lombard dress, the same style worn by the Duchess of Cambridge last week
Pregnant and glowing in September last year
In stylish shift dress and figure-skimming coat, May 2011
An official engagement with the Camerons in June 2010
A neat dress with kitten heels in September 2009
April 2009 wearing pretty purple dress in Madrid
A ball at the Elysee palace, June 2009
Looking sprightly in a summery dress in 2009
Proof that trousers can be flattering – if they fit well
A pretty lilac skirt suit in 2009 – before Carla gave up heels