The tangled private lives of three of France’s household names, including the wife of the man tipped to become president, were exposed yesterday as the French media finally abandoned their tradition of treating public figures with high-minded discretion.
Six pages were devoted by the glossy weekly magazine Paris Match to the friendship of Cécilia Sarkozy, 47, the wife of the ambitious interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, with a Moroccan-born businessman, Richard Attias, 45.
Paris Match and two national newspapers also gave prominent coverage to revelations in a new book that two of France’s best-known newsreaders are secretly the parents of a 10-year-old son.
In Britain such intimate details would long since have been plastered over the newspapers. But in France coyness about the lives of public figures, backed up by fierce privacy laws, has ensured that the secrets of the rich and powerful remain hidden from the masses.
In the case of the Sarkozys, French journalists have come to regard the problems of “France’s political golden couple” as fair game since the minister admitted on television during the European Union referendum campaign that his marriage was in trouble.
Chirac’s rising star of an opposition, eh? Hmm.
France has a long history of lecturing the British and Americans on the merits of its supposed lack of interest in intimate details of the lives of the rich and powerful.
The late socialist president François Mitterrand even managed to keep quiet a parallel family life with his mistress, Anne Pingeot, an art historian, and their daughter, Mazarine. Although the affair was common knowledge at Parisian dinner tables, Mazarine’s existence was not publicly revealed until the year before her father stepped down as president in 1995.
And we think our political class is insular.