France’s First Lady Brigitte Macron has spoken openly for the first time about her marriage to President Emmanuel Macron, talking of the controversy that has surrounded their relationship and the struggles of their 24-year age gap.
“Emmanuel’s only fault is being younger than me,” she joked to Elle France magazine in an interview for the cover of its August issue.
“We have breakfast, me with my wrinkles, him with freshness, but that’s how it is.”
The 64-year-old spoke candidly about her romance with 39-year-old Macron, whom she met while teaching at a high school where he was a student.
She was 39 and married at the time and he was 15, but there has never been a suggestion the pair broke any law with their interactions (the age of consent in France is 18 when authority is involved).
Once Macron finished his schooling, Mrs Macron (nee Brigitte Trogneux) divorced her then-husband and the pair married in 2007.
“I know that I have harmed my children, and that is the thing for which that I reproach myself the most,” Mrs Macron, who has three adult children and seven grandchildren, told the magazine.
“But I could not help it. There are times in your life when you make vital choices. And for me, that was one.”
While Mrs Macron regrets the emotional hurt her divorce inflicted on her son Sébastien and her daughters Laurence and Tiphaine, she does not regret marrying the now-President.
“If I had not made that choice, I would have missed out on my life,” she said.
The former drama teacher said seeing the media’s fascination with her marriage was an out-of-body experience.
“When I read about us, I always get the impression that I’m reading someone else’s story,” she admitted.
She also spoke about the kind of First Lady she intends to be, after a petition by the French public this week prevented Mr Macron from fulfilling his election promise of giving his wife ‘official first lady status’.
“I don’t feel like a First Lady,” Mrs Macron said of the public backlash surrounding her role. “That’s the translation of an American expression, and I don’t like anything about it.”
“Like all of those before me, I will take on my public role, but the French people will know the resources at my disposal.
“We’ll post my meetings and my commitments on the presidential website so that the French people know exactly what I’m doing.
“What’s important is that it’s clear.”