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The messy Hollande triangle reinforces the case for marriage

20 January 2014

11:13 AM

20 January 2014

11:13 AM

Well, whatever about the French press, for British papers, the Hollande affair is the gift that keeps on giving. Apparently shored up in the presidential residence in Versailles, Valerie Trierweiler was, it seems, visited by the president on Thursday night, though the visit does not seem to have clarified her situation. It is said that the pair will meet again today. In the blizzard of briefing and counter-briefing that both sides are engaged in, you can either take it that Francois Hollande needs more time to decide what to do about his relationships or that it’s curtains for Valerie. Meanwhile, her uncle Florent Massonneau has said: ‘I think the fact my niece is being cuckolded is disgraceful. Her situation gives us a lot of pain.’ Which is all very understandable until you reflect that since the president and Ms Trierweiler are not in fact married she can’t, technically, be cuckolded. What she can be is humiliated.

There’s been a lot written about the quasi royal status of the French presidency: compare and contrast with Britain, an actual kingdom whose press have a far less deferential attitude either to their head of state or their head of government. Certainly what comes to mind here is the old monarchical concept of the king’s favourite; the mistress who is in favour at any one time. And that’s pretty well the status of the president’s women just now; Ms Trierweiler is not married to the president and her situation, not to mention her perks, is contingent on how the president feels about her. But in the ancien regime, the king also had a wife whose position was anything but ambiguous: the current confusion over this situation is partly to do with the modern concept of partner, which is our attempt to blur the distinction between a girlfriend/wife; lover/spouse.

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This is a mess, not merely because of Mr Hollande’s alleged libidinousness, but because of his eschewing marriage, or marital commitment, in the first place. Segolene Royal, mother of his four children, was plainly what we used to call his common law wife. If Mr Hollande had managed to contain his affair with Valerie Trierweiler within the limits that French politicians normally manage, she would be First Lady now, and the situation in respect of other women would be a good deal clearer.

The title of First Lady confers on the president’s companion a status which is intelligible if the woman in question is the president’s wife, but becomes meaningless if it is a lover who may at any time be replaced. Mr Hollande may have been correct if ungallant in saying in his press conference that the position of First Lady is fluid (though the state funded perks that go with it are concrete); all that means is that the First Lady should be whichever woman he happens to want to be with at any one time. Dunno what feminists make of this, but it’s an odd position for a modern woman to be in.

In this week’s Spectator, I suggested that the Hollande affair made the case for mistresses, a situation without the privileges of marriage but with the charm of non-commitment. What I could equally and more sincerely have said is that the affair reinforces the case for marriage: a legal status in which everyone knows where they are, and which the machinery of the presidency is equipped to handle. Investing Valerie Trierweiler with the title of First Lady wasn’t enough to make a partner into a wife. And this wretched business – which shows our uxorious politicians in rather a good light – makes a mockery of our willingness to pretend there’s no real difference between the two roles.

PS: President Hollande’s disapproval ratings now stand at 77 per cent. Yet, quite undaunted by his unpopularity, he is proposing to legalise medically assisted suicide. Which means that this divisive president is going to be responsible for the two of the biggest revolutions in social legislation – the other being gay marriage – in recent decades. Pity the French parliamentary elections don’t take place mid-term; the electorate’s verdict on his performance just now would have interesting results.

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Show comments
  • Terry Field

    It is fun to watch the very very nasty Hollande humiliate the equally unpleasant trierwilly.
    These actions fully describe the foul character he displays to the world; he has no shame. It appears he has entirely given up on self-respect.
    Her reported behaviour re the Royale at the start of her Firstladydom gives satisfaction that this nasty bunch of socialists are mutually humiliated within the context of their ‘Immaculate Republic’ a la Royale.

  • Kate Hanni

    Europeans don’t have the same view of marriage or monogamy as American’s, in general. Honestly I find their point of view and lack of concern about his latest exploits…refreshing. I think we focus way to much on things that don’t impact the majority of real people.

    • Terry Field

      Bullshit. Many Europeans have just as profound a love of monogamy and marriage – Hollande is simply a repulsive example of the other kind.
      There is nothing refreshing about his dreadful behaviour. Nothing at all.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    The title of First Lady confers on any poor woman the likelihood of there being some other poor woman playing the role of Second Lady, and/or Third Lady – even all such silly roles being played simultaneously..

  • roger

    So Hollande keeps his brain in his trousers? economists suspected as much.
    Can’t the French senate impeach a president? get rid of him.

  • ClausewitzTheMunificent

    A jolly good point too. Too many people nowadays seem to think that they oughtn’t bother to construct a stable relationship, and the certainties, which it brings, at least in measure. Though it is ultimately true that humans look after number one, and will leave spouses if things get out of hand, the stability buffer which helps us not to make ill-thought out or rash decisions is almost wholly absent from a non-traditional relationship.

  • bbeatrix

    i agree with the article point of view since this is a clear that if both status (marriage and partnership) have pros and cons. well, the cons of not being married is that at any moment your partner looses interest and you have no right to claim.. but it is a commitment between two persons. very private. You just have some rights.
    On the other hand if M. Hollande never was married. who are we to judged his morals? He decided he would not get married for whatever reason. He simply is honest enough as to not making promises he is not ready to keep. so it is a very private matter if he wants to be faithful or not to his ladies. And for people with a catholic tradition marriage its a very serious institution. You are supposed to be responsible of the commitment you make. That might be the reason that french men keep married and also keep a misstress. Regarding his charms, he must have some since he was able to build a outstanding position with power and money ,, and also his seduced ladies do not look common at all!

  • First L

    Hollande is about as attractive as a pug dog. He’s just using his position of power to trade up on beautiful women. That makes him an absolute rat as far as anyone else is concerned.

  • Airey Belvoir

    France is a nuclear power . If the dithering Hollande is taking so long to pick which woman from a list of two, I wonder how he would deal with the nuclear red button if it came to it?

  • Airey Belvoir

    France is a nuclear power . If the dithering Hollande is taking so long to pick which woman from a list of two, I wonder how he would deal with the nuclear red button if it came to it?

  • MirthaTidville

    Hollande is a good old fashioned commitment phobe..He brings the same flippancy to his politics, as the French are realising every day. They voted for him because he wasn`t Sarkozy, which indicates the appalling state of current French Politics. The worrying thing thing for us, is that as France tries to act like it is one of the top dogs in Europe, its being run by the village idiot…..

  • judyk113

    Ah, the Spectator, or at least Melanie McDonagh, prefers the French President to be married to the woman he’s unfaithful to. Like all the previous French Presidents– Giscard d’Estaing, Chirac, Mitterand– who were married and had no shortage of mistresses. If you think women married to powerful men with an eye for the ladies know where they are, good luck to you.

    • bbeatrix

      yes because to the french, marriage its something important. For that reason the presidents keep their families and wives. and the wives are wise enough to understand that that is part of power game.. it is fair play, it is loyalty…

      • notsoweaklyreader

        It is the old double standard, in fact. It is why many young women today don’t bother with marriage at all, children or not.

    • HJ777

      Is it not because spouses have legal rights and therefore a legal position when married to a president. Without marriage, what is their legal position in relation to the president (and through them the presidential office rather than just to the person who just happens to be president)?

      The same would/should surely apply were the president female, by the way.

      You may feel that the presidential spouse should have no legal position but that is a different (constitutional) matter.

  • CharlietheChump

    Socialists endeavour to destroy marriage in there need for the state to enter into and control all aspects of the lives of the population.
    This bedroom farce is just a spin off from the more grisly process of undermining society and gaining addictive control by the state.

  • zanzamander

    Simple, he should convert to Islam and could have all three plus one more.
    OTOH, France being an Islamic country, the Nikah mut’ah is a possible solution for “irresistible” men (to women) like him.

  • HJ777

    I’m trying to fathom out what all these women find so attractive about him.

    He’s obviously a complete bumbling incompetent and hardly good looking. It’s as if Mr Bean had women falling all over him.

    Can anyone enlighten me?

    • HookesLaw

      Not in a family newspaper.

    • judyk113

      You’re wondering what attracted these women to the rich and powerful Francois Hollande with his powers to whisk them off to palaces and indulge in the very best of French cuisine? If Mr Hollande were a grocer, do you think they’d still be after him, whatever the nature of his equipment and shelf stocking technique?

      • HJ777

        You may have a point as, had he been a grocer, he probably would have gone out of business very quickly such is his understanding of business.

        It’s a strange one though, being attracted to someone because of wealth and/or power. Never understood that myself. It seems like they’re just setting themselves up for a disastrous relationship.

    • Airey Belvoir

      Wealth and power act on women like beer goggles on men. It’s all Darwinian.

    • overmind

      Even today, few will ever forget Mrs Merton’s question to “the lovely” Debbie McGee, “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

    • overmind

      Even today, few will ever forget Mrs Merton’s question to “the lovely” Debbie McGee, “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

    • bbeatrix

      your comment is utterly shallow. you cannot judge a president of a country like france, just for his looks….

      • HJ777

        Had you actually read what I wrote, you will see that I didn’t judge him by his looks. I was asking what attracted all these women to him, pointing out that it can’t have been his looks that was a factor nor his level of competence.

      • notsoweaklyreader

        But everyone is judging the women in this story by their looks.

      • Terry Field

        Indeed – judge him on his election statements re economics and the avoidance of change – he avoided the truth and distorted reality then for personal advantage – a moral vacuum or a stupid and ignorant man – or both. His degrading personal life is simply a signpost to his nature. There for all to see.

    • roger

      Only his doctor or his tailor could tell you.

  • James Strong

    The position of First Lady with any taxpayer funding is open to serious question.
    But Hollande’s decisions not to marry his lovers is, quite frankly, none of your business.

    • StephanieJCW

      Hear hear.

    • la catholic state

      Not really. He is a politician….and people must make judgements about him….especially if they are voters. Anyhow….people are entitled to their views on other people’s behaviour.
      Let’s not all be so prim.

  • Dan Grover

    I’d argue that, moreover, the whole idea of a “first lady” (or, I should imagine, a First Husband should a female be elected President any time soon) to be a rather outdated and frankly irrelevant concept in today’s dual-income society. Obviously protection and whatnot is one thing, but I don’t understand what, whether Hollande was married or not, his would-be wife has done to deserve money from the French tax payer. She’s won no election nor does she represent anyone. With this official designation out of the way, whether Hollande is married, has multiple concubines or is as single as a spinster becomes a complete irrelevancy (though, I daresay, no less interesting to the press).

    Arguing that this is a case for marriage on the grounds that it makes the completely irrelevant and ceremonial title of “First Lady” easier to assign seems a fairly weak one.

    As you’ve acknowledged, this is a trend (in France particularly) that occurs, irrespective of the existence of marriage (or non-existence, in this case). All it seems is that Hollande’s incompetence extends beyond politics and into his surreptitious private life.

  • telemachus

    He should have stuck with Segolene, a true Socialist

    • James Strong

      If it was me I’d have stuck with Segolene despite her being a Socialist, because, for me anyway, she is breathtakingly attractive.
      But I doubt you lefties can say that because the wimmin would be rotten to you if you did.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Apart from the fact that she works out too much or has thyroid trouble which has given her a man’s neck. The male neck is a feature of many modern “work out” women.

        • HookesLaw

          My first response was – Are you sure you have not been watching too many episodes of ‘Sherlock’?

          My second thought though (man’s neck or not) is, eat your heart out Caroline Flint.

    • notsoweaklyreader

      Segolene is the only one with any class at all in this entire fiasco.

  • HookesLaw

    I have never read so much rubbish in my life – and bearing in mind this is The Spectator, thats saying something.
    Uncle Florent did not seem too worried when Mlle Trierweiler was ‘cuckolding’ the mother of Holland’s children.

  • swatnan

    Well said. Hollande is a disgrace, and so are the French for putting up with such lax morals. Valerie Rorweiler wasn’t even elected. Perhaps even Obama will rethink about continuing with the title First Lady. Even the Brits didn’t call Cherie Blair First amongst Equals, though they did call call her many other things.

    • la catholic state

      Being a First Lady is an honour….for the wife of a Christian king, leader, whatever. Non Christian leaders kept their wives out of sight in a harem, but Christian wives were the close companions at the Kings side in public.

      • swatnan

        I think you’ll find most of them were locked up, in The Tower.

    • StephanieJCW

      Lax Morals’? Maybe they just don’t see his private life as their business.

      • swatnan

        If you are a 2 faced double dealing hypocrite in your private life, then surely you are not to be trusted in a public role. About time Standards in Public Life were raised. There really is not much difference in the way you approach issues in both.

        • Graeme Harrison

          ‘Back to basics’ – worked for John Major I believe.

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