Emmanuel Macron: He’s 39, she’s 64: the odd couple who could be running France
Independent candidate Emmanuel Macron is one of the favourites to win the presidential election as he is likely to face off against either Francois Fillon or Marine Le Pen, in the runoff stage of the vote.
But the 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, who is running as an independent despite having served as minister of the economy in the socialist government between 2014 and 2016, has made headlines for reasons other than his political acumen.
His wife Brigitte was in fact his high school teacher and the story of their unusual romance has become a well-publicised story during the campaign.
But the man who could become the frontrunner for the biggest job in the country if he wins the first round of the presidential election this Sunday is also known by another name: “chouchou”. It translates as “teacher’s pet”.
The beautiful love story
Aged 39 Emmanuel Macron is handsome and intelligent and as well as making political headlines is also, along with his glamorous, chic wife Brigitte Trogneux, a frequent cover star of France’s most stylish magazines.
So why the nickname? It comes from the fact that wife Brigitte is not only 25 years older than Macron – but that she used to be his high-school teacher.
The pair met when Macron was 15 and a pupil at the Jésuites de la Providence school in Amiens, northern France. Madame Trogneux – then known as Brigitte Auzière – was his literature teacher and ran the theatre club. She was also a 40-year-old married mother of three – one of her daughters was even in his class.
Macron quickly made an impression on his teacher. “In class she always used him as an example,” recalled a former pupil. “He wrote poems all the time and she read them out.”
Romance blossomed the following year when the pair worked on a school play. “Writing brought us together,” Brigitte later said.
“It unleashed an incredible closeness. We wrote and little by little I was totally charmed by his intelligence. He wasn’t like the others. “Nobody will ever know at what moment our story became a love story. That belongs to us. That is our secret.”
Macron’s parents, however, were not so enthralled – when he confided that he had feelings for a member of the Auzière family naturally they assumed he meant Brigitte’s daughter.
When the truth emerged – that he was in love with her mother – they promptly sent him to finish his studies in Paris. Before he left, he told his teacher: “You won’t get rid of me. Whatever you do, I will marry you.”
He was right. The pair spoke every day on the phone and by the time he was 18, Brigitte had left her husband and took a teaching job in Paris to be with Macron. They have been together ever since and in 2007 tied the knot. At their wedding, Macron thanked her children for accepting their relationship, adding that they were “not a normal couple – but a couple that exists”.
With Brigitte by his side Macron’s political star has risen spectacularly: after making a fortune as an investment banker he joined the Socialist Party and was appointed minister of economy in 2014, before resigning last year to found En Marche! – calling for a youth-driven “democratic revolution”. But this increased profile has piqued public interest in his marriage.
At 64 Brigitte has become something of a style icon. She is regularly spotted on the front row at fashion shows and with her blonde hair, deep tan, skinny leather trousers and above-the-knee dresses, she looks more like a model than a schoolteacher.
French newspaper L’Express described her as “rock’n’roll”, adding: “Not for a second does she say, I cannot wear short skirts. Ultra-high heels, sleeveless dresses, leather trousers, she dares everything.”
And earlier this month Vogue magazine gushed about her “deep tan, peroxide-to-honey hairdo, expensive designer handbag and car-to-carpet heels”.
But there is more to Brigitte than style. The couple have never hidden the fact that she is deeply involved in his career: Macron’s former chief of staff has recalled how during his time as a minister she would attend meetings and a recent France 3 TV documentary showed her helping him prepare key campaign speeches.
Paris Match magazine declared recently: “She spends all her time beside him, she reads and listens to everything that is said about him. He asks her questions and takes her advice.” Some even say he behaves in her presence like “un petit garçon”.
Macron has also insisted that if he is elected president his wife will have an official role to play in his government.