Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Decline of France as Seen Through the Increasingly Odd Marital Lives of its Presidents

Emmanuel Macron, 39 and his wife, Brigitte, 64

Note: I'm defining "odd" from a traditional or traditionalist Catholic perspective. On that definition, a "normal" family is one husband, one wife, multiple kids, and one van. If your situation is not "normal" or is "odd" by that standard, that's okay. I don't own a van either.

When former French President François Mitterrand died in 1996, his funeral was attended by both his wife and his long-term mistress. "How French," it was said, at the time.

That's an interesting and perhaps funny anecdote. But it doesn't tell the whole story . . .

I want to take a closer look at the marital lives of the modern French presidents. And for good measure, I'll throw in the four major candidates for the current election. If you follow me to the end, I think you'll see why I did it.

Modern France has a five-year presidential term. And you are allowed to run again. Hence, in the almost sixty years since the founding of the Fifth Republic, there have been only seven presidents - eight, counting whoever wins in two weeks.


Charles de Gaulle (1959-1969): 1 wife, 3 children.

The De Gaulles were staunch Catholics. His wife, Yvonne Vendroux, reportedly wanted to ban the mini-skirt.

Georges Pompidou (1969-74): 1 wife, 1 child.

Pompidou was a close friend and aide to De Gaulle. Before becoming president, he managed the Anne de Gaulle Foundation for Down syndrome (de Gaulle's daughter Anne had Down's syndrome).

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (1974-81): 1 wife, 4 children.

Giscard d'Estang is tied with Mitterand for having the most kids on the list. In fairness, I should point out that he is probably also tied with Mitterand for extra-marital womanizing.

François Mitterrand (1981-95): 1 wife, 4 children, 1 mistress.

Jacques Chirac (1995-2007): 1 wife, 2 children.

Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-12): 3 wives, 1.33 children per wife.

As everyone knows. For his third wife, Sarkozy married a former model. This, of course, is a French thing. We would never do that here.

François Hollande (2012-17): 0 wives, 3 domestic partners, 1.33 children per domestic partner (all of them were from his first one).

Hollande's first partner, Ségolène Royal, was a successful politician in her own right, making it into the second round of the 2007 presidential election. The Hollande-Royales would often domestically pose around their domestic breakfast table with their four domestic kids, before Hollande would kick Royale out of his domicile in favor of domestic partner # 2, Valérie Trierweiler, a talk-show host. Hollande and Royale are on record as saying that they never married because it was "too bourgeois."

THE 2017 CANDIDATES (obviously, we know now that the bottom two won't win)

Emmanuel Macron: 1 wife (25 years his senior), 0 children.

Macron started "dating" his future wife when he was 15 and she was 40 (Brigitte Trogneux was his high-school teacher). But they didn't actually marry until he was 30 and she was 55. He is now 39 and she is . . . you get the picture. In fairness, she doesn't look a day over 61.

Marine Le Pen: 2 husbands, 1 current domestic partner, 1 child per husband/partner.

Given the other examples, one wouldn't think that Le Pen's non-traditional marital life would hurt her politically. Then, again, unlike, say Hollande, some of Le Pen's potential supporters are conservative Catholics. I suspect it doesn't do her any good.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: 1 wife (divorced), 1 child.

Mélenchon is sort of the odd-man out. He has intentionally tried very hard to keep his private life private, and thus there is nothing on it in Wikipedia or similar sources. In fact, the rumpled Maoist was married and divorced many years ago. His one daughter is apparently devoted to him, as well as to his socialist causes.

François Fillon: 1 wife, 5 children, 1 castle.

Fillon wins the title for having the most traditional family. And, yes, he is a Catholic, and, yes, they do live in a castle (which is even better than a van). However, he is, arguably, too pro-family, or at least, too pro-his family. A few months ago, his campaign suffered a huge setback when it was revealed that he had put his wife on the public payroll with alleged little-work jobs - netting the Fillons at least a million dollars over the years. There were also similar allegations involving two of his children and smaller sums. This scandal almost certainly cost him the chance to advance into the second round of the election.

What does it all mean?

I've had a bit of fun with the public private lives of French politicians. But my purpose was not to criticize them per se, rather, it was to point out the change in, shall we say, standards for what the French find acceptable, or at least acceptable for their presidents and politicians. Or even more to the point, what those presidents and politicians themselves find acceptable.

There's also the question of French identity and how demographic trends are affecting it. France is becoming more Muslim, not merely because of current immigration or the current "migrant" wave (although that's obviously a part of it), but because non-Muslim French are having far-fewer children than their Muslim counterparts. For example, by some estimates, more than half of all babies now born in greater Paris are born to Muslim parents. So, to put it bluntly, if the French wish to protect their non-Muslim Frenchness, then unless they want to kick all Muslims (including those who are French citizens) out of the country, they need to have more babies. Yet their presidents and politicians are not setting the greatest example. (True, the question becomes more complicated when you look at divorce - babies are babies, whether they come from one spouse or three - or, one or three domestic partners. But I think it's true that, on a general level, at least, it's all of a piece. "Instability" tends to lead to fewer children, and/or is a symptom of preferences not being fully ordered to the having or raising of children.)

Seen in the light of the past two decades, the funny comments about Mitterand's mistress are almost ironic. How French, indeed. Or, rather, how French it used to be. Compared to the current average, the one wife plus one mistress of that old socialist Mitterrand, looks positively bourgeois.

Hey, don't blame me, man. I voted for . . .

Okay, never mind.


  1. France is demonstrating what happens to a Christian nation that pushes away the warm hand of God. She is diabolically disoriented and can no longer see things clearly.
    This election may well be France's last opportunity. I'm praying the people do what was done in Great Britain and in America, vote to survive.
    Poor France, please choose to be more than a cautionary tale.

  2. You're right . . . she doesn't look a day over sixty-one.


  4. Michael Houellebecq's novels give us a glimpse of the degree of decay in French society. And I'm not just referring to his latest novel - Submission. The novels, Elementary Particles and The Map and the Territory are truly frightening because the same trends are at play here.

  5. You forgot the Islamic candidate who is planning to run in 2022:

    Sheik Yerbouty: 4 wives (simultaneously), 25 children, an arsenal of assault weapons.

  6. I'll bet Macron got all "A"s.