Haggerston Times identifies the main players and unravels the complex web of relationships which have led to the scandal at the Elysee Palace:
Segolene Royal is current president of the Poitou-Charentes Regional Council, a former member of the National Assembly, a former government minister, and a long-time member of the French Socialist Party. She was the Socialist candidate in the 2007 French presidential election, making her the first female to have contested the National Elections, losing to Nicolas Sarkozy in May 2007. Royal again sought the PS (Socialist Party) nomination for President in 2012 but was beaten again, only managing to secure 7% of the vote this time.
Born in Dakar, Senegal, the third daughter and fourth of 8 children born to Hélène Dehaye and Jacques Royal, a domineering former artillery officer and aide to the mayor of Chamagne, Royal grew up near Epinal in the Vosges. Against her father’s wishes, Royal pursued further education, winning a scholarship to the Paris institute of political studies, popularly known as Sciences Po, and subsequently studying at the elite École Nationale d’Administration (ENA). It was here that she first met her ex-partner of 30 years, Francois Hollande, at a party. They were in the same class.
Although they never married, some say because they felt the institution to be too bourgeois, Hollande and Royal were an item for more than 30 years, and have 4 children together
Francois Hollande was born in Rouen on the 12th August 1954 to Nicole Frédérique Marguerite Tribert, a social worker, and Georges Gustave Hollande, an ear, nose, and throat doctor and one time far right local politician. In the mid-sixties the family moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine, an exclusive suburb of Paris. Having studied at Institut d’études politiques de Paris, Hollande graduated from ENA in 1980, beginning his career as a councillor in the court of audit.
Royal also graduated in 1980, intending to serve as a judge, but was instead recruited to then President Francois Mitterand’s staff in 1982 by his special advisor Jaques Attali, holding the junior rank of chargee de mission until 1988.
Royal and Hollande elected to the National Assembly
5 years after campaigning on behalf of Mitterand’s unsuccessful campaign in the 1974 French Presidential election, Hollande joined the Socialist party, and was also recruited by Jaques Attali, who made Hollande the electoral candidate for the French National Assembly in Corrèze, where he lost in the first round to Jacques Chirac. Hollande was elected at the second time of asking in 1988, the same year as his partner Segolene Royal, before losing his seat in the 1993 election, which became known as the “blue wave” due to a large voter swing to the right at the expense of the socialists. Hollande, whose efforts to unite the Socialists behind Jacques Delors had foundered when Delors decided not to run for President in the 1995 national elections, was re-elected in Correze in 1997, and was also made party spokesman by Lionel Jospin, who had replaced Delors as the leader of the party.
Delors, incidentally, is the father of Martine Aubry, who would later defeat Segolene Royal in the 2007 Socialist party leadership contest. Another coincidence of interest: as well as being the year that both Hollande and Royal were elected to the national assembly, 1988 was also the year that Hollande first met and befriended his future girlfriend Valerie Trierweller, later to become France’s first lady.
In 1988 Segolene Royal surprised Francois Mitterand, who thought she would lose, by being elected to the National Assembly of France, after deciding to stand in the traditionally conservative and religiously devout region of Deux-Sevres 2nd. She was re-elected in 1993, 1997 and 2002.
Royal runs for Presidency of France
Royal was elected President of the Poitou Charentes region in March 2004, and kept her National Assembly seat until 2007, when she did not run for re-election in order to honour a promise made in her presidential election campaign manifesto, “Desirs D’Avenir”.
Having first announced her decision to run for the 2007 presidency in a magazine interview in 2005, Royal strengthened her position in the PS and won many admirers by defeating the government’s proposals to introduce new employment contract laws in 2006. Declining to join the large scale protests, she acted decisively by passing a law in the Poitou Charente region which declined to pay regional subsidies to any company that choosing to implement the contracts. Although the law was added to the statute book, it was never implemented by the government.
Hollande becomes first secretary of the Socialist party, party leader
When Lionel Jospin became the Prime Minister of France in 1997, Hollande won the election to be his successor as first secretary of the French socialist party, at a time when the socialists wielded considerable power due to their large majority. Hollande also became Mayor of Tulle in 2001; and it was here that he attended a pop concert with actress Julie Gayet in December 2013, whilst his girlfriend, and First Lady, Valerie Trierweiler, holidayed in Greece.
Hollande as party leader
Francois Hollande was thrust into the role of party leader after the surprise resignation of Lionel Jospinin 2002, who had lost the first round of the presidential election to Jean Marie Le Pen, the far right candidate. Hollande inherited a poorly performing party, but did as best he could and was himself re-elected in Correze; unable to prevent the Socialist party losing the national elections, he oversaw a strong performance in the 2004 regional elections. An obvious choice therefore, for the next presidential candidacy, Hollande rather quickly lost face due to his inability to unite the party behind the yes campaign for the French referendum on the European constitution, and his partner, Segolene Royal was eventually chosen as the socialist party Presidential candidate instead.
Royal chosen as Socialist party presidential candidate
Royal had largely managed to stay clear of the political shenanigans that characterised the internal power struggles within the Socialist party, a stance that she was later to claim was down to the chauvinistic attitude of several of the party’s powerbrokers, likely to have been her own boyfriend, Dominique Strauss Kahn, Jack Lang and others.
Royal’s luck held, however, as first Lionel Jospin, the former Prime Minister, and then Jack Lang, a party stalwart, pulled out of the race. In November 2006 Royal won the party primary convincingly, garnering 61% of the vote and beating Dominique Strauss Kahn and Laurent Fabius to become the Socialist party candidate for the 2007 election.
Despite the resignation of one of her closest allies, Eric Besson, who baulked at the expected 35bn cost of the electoral campaign, and later wrote a book, “Qui Connait Madame Royal”, decrying his former boss as a philistine and declaring that he would not vote for her (he later joined the Sarkozy campaign), Royal faced Nicolas Sarkozy in the second round of voting on 6th May 2007, but conceded defeat after Sarkozy garnered 53% of the vote. Again, Royal attributed her failure to the inherently sexist attitudes of many of her fellow party members, although her partner Hollande was also blamed for his mismanagement of the campaign, and declined to seek re-election as the party’s first secretary.
Seperation and revelations of an affair
The beleaguered couple separated (having never married) in June 2007, just one month after Royal’s defeat to Sarkozy. It was Royal who broke the news publicly, stating: “”I have asked Francois Hollande to leave our home to pursue his love interest, which is now laid out in books and newspapers, and I wish him happiness”, an oblique reference to his relationship with Paris Match correspondent Valerie Trierweiler, dating back to 2005, on a French website; the rumours were confirmed by Trierweller in Novemebr 2007, in an interview on French television.
Ultimately, it is likely that the break up marked the beginning of the end of Royal’s presidential aspirations; her attempt to take over the leadership of the Socialist party in 2008 (to replace Hollande) failed after she narrowly lost to rival Martine Aubry, insisting on a recount, which showed Aubry to be the winner by a small margin of 102 votes (Hollande backed Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris). Aubry subsequently ran for Socialist presidential candidate, only to lose to Hollande, her predecessor as first secretary, in 2012.
Royal did run again, surprisingly, in 2011, for the French Socialist Party Presidential Primary Election, but lost after securing only 7% of the vote. Finally, in 2012, Royal ran for office representing Charente-Maritime’s 1st constituency, losing to renegade Socialist, Olivier Falorni. This did Hollande gave Royal his full support. Hi spartner Trierweiler, famously, did not.
Valerie Trierweiler, nee Massonneau, born in Angers, the fifth of six children, whose grandfather and great grandfather had owned the bank Massoneau and Co until they sold to Credit de l’Ouest in 1950, lost her father, who had been disabled by a landmine when he was 13, when she was aged just 21. Her mother worked as a cashier at the local ice rink.
After graduating from the Sorbonne with a degree in political science, Trierweiler worked in broadcasting, eventually hosting talk shows and conducting interviews on the Direct 8 television channel. It is rumoured that Triewieler was the first woman to interview Segolene Royal after the birth of her 4th child.
Trierwieler had been romantically linked to Hollande since 2005, whilst still married to her second husband, the journalist and academic Denis Trierweiler, with whom she has three teenage sons. The sensational revelations were initially frowned upon in France in line with the country’s notoriously strict privacy laws, enforced by the Gallic perception that private lives should remain private. Trierweiler herself threatened to bring an action against the internet site that had published the details of the affair, before a volte face saw her instead appearing on French weekly current affairs show Tele 7 Jours, to confirm that the rumours were true. Trierweiler has been outspoken in her ambition to conduct matters on her own terms, insisting on remaining a reporter for Paris Match. The couple officially declared their relationship after the Trierweiler’s divorce was finalised in 2010.
Trierweiler becomes French first lady, allegations persist
Mostly unintentionally, Trierweller has continued to court controversy since moving into the Elysee palace with President Hollande. Stating that “marriage is a right, not a duty”, Trierweiler’s refusal to follow the advice of Carla Bruni, the former first lady, and become a “legitimate wife”, has made her increasingly unpopular with the French public, although it should be noted that Hollande himself has never married, an institution he is believed to feel is bourgeouis. The irony of Hollande’s well publicised support of same sex marriages has not been lost on the French public, with one political commentator noting that he “appears to want everybody to get married apart from himself”.
Trierweiler has done little to dissuade persistent rumours that she harbours a bitter resentment towards Royal, who publicly suggested that Trieweiler suffers from a “Rebecca complex”, a reference to the Daphne du Maurier novel in which the protagonist is haunted by thoughts of her husband’s first wife. Defying her partner’s wishes that she tow the party line at all times, in May 2012 Trierweiler tweeted a message in support of discredited former socialist party politician Olivier Falorni, who was standing against Royal. The fallout went nuclear; Hollande and Royal’s children have sworn never to speak to Trierweiler again. Asked if the infamous tweet was to blame for her failure to gain election, Royal said: “It certainly did not help, to put it mildly.” She then quoted Victor Hugo: “Traitors always pay for their treachery in the end.” How prophetic those word seem now.
Regarded as something of a maverick, Trierweiler has variously been described as “a cocktail of jealousy, vengeance and political calculation”, “not normal, snooty, infatuated, explosive, unpredictable and visibly dangerous”, and “a burden on the state”, although it has recently been revealed that Trierweiler costs the state just 20,000 Euros per month, compared to predecessor Carla Bruni’s 60,000 Euros per month.
Menage a trois
According to recent biography of the first lady, in the early stages of their relationship, and whilst he was still living with Segolene Royal, Hollande was forced to endure a “Jules et Jim” style menage a trois, as Trierweiler had, for some time, been conducting an affair with former economic recovery minister Patrick Devedjian, 68. Jules et Jim refers to the 1962 French film featuring Jeanne Moreau, who is trapped in a love triangle with two men even whilst all three protagonists are living under the same roof.
- Had it not been for Devedjian’s dithering, the book reveals, Hollande may have been unable to muscle in and eventually win the battle for the glamorous journalist’s affections. Devedjian was a senior figure in Nicolas Sarkoy’s government, and indeed Sarkozy himself is accused in the book of being yet another politician to have tried his luck with Trierweiler, exclaiming “who does she think she is”, after she responded with a “withering look” when he allegedly whispered “you are so beautiful”, despite holding the hand of his then wife Cecila. The relationship between these two further deteriorated when Trierweller accused Sarkozy’s allies of leaking a story to the press about Trierweiler’s son being stopped with a banger in the street, counter accusing Sarkozy’s son of having been caught throwing tomatoes at a policeman.
And finally we arrive most recent, but perhaps not the final, act in the drama:
Born in Suresenes, Hauts-de-Seine, Gayet was brought up in a liberal household by father Brice, a gastric surgeon, and her mother, an antiques dealer. As well as attending university to study art history and psychology, Gayet also learned circus skills and operatic singing and also attended acting schools in London and Barcelona.
Gayet has starred in a number of films and has also founded her own production company, in 2007, Rouge international. She married Santiago Amigorena in 2003 and had 2 children, but was divorced in 2006
In 2013 Gayet directed 20 other French female directors in perhaps her most well known work, Cineast(e)s.
Hollande and Gayet – the secret trysts
Although Gayet had been forced to intervene in March 2013 to prevent rumours of an affair spreading on the internet, filing a complaint with the Paris prosecuting office, it was only in January 2014 that some of the more lurid, (and indeed some of the more mundane) details of the affair apparently became known, after Closer magazine published a seven page spread featuring photos of the President of France arriving at a flat 150 yards from the Elysee Palace, on the back of a scooter driven by his most trusted bodyguard, and concealed underneath a helmet. Further photos showed the bodyguard returning the next morning with a sack of croissants which he delivered to the couple inside.
The story breaks – Trierwieler taken to hospital
Hollande’s immediate response to the publication of the photographs was to express his dissatisfaction at “this violation of my private life”, adding that he was “thinking about” pursuing a legal response, and Gayet for her part demanded that Closer remove the photographs form the internet, although the magazine itself remains on general sale.
Trierweiler’s reaction to the news was one of shock and disbelief; it is said Hollande himself broke the news to Trierwieler hours before the pictures were released, and it was not long before Trierweiler was being taken to hospital for “rest and some tests”, according to her aides. Stories have emerged suggesting that Trierweiler may have taken an overdose of pills. Although she has made no public comment so far, a journalist friend of hers, Frédéric Gerschel, has been conveying her sense of humiliation and betrayal, suggesting that the initial shock was akin to “”like a TGV hitting the buffers”. An official spokesman for her office described the hospitalisation as “a bad case of the blues”. Originally due to leave hospital on Monday, Trierweiler is now said to be staying on for “an indeterminate period of time”. Sources close to her have suggested that she favours a reconciliation, and is waiting for Hollande to “make his intentions clear”. Trierweiler and Hollande are due to travel to the US on 11 February, to meet Barack Obama.
On Thursday, Trierweiler broke her silence, telephoning a local radio station to make it clear that Hollande, who has been accused of neglecting his girlfriend, had sent her chocolates and flowers.
Gayet has also been in touch with local radio, to deny rumours that she is 4 months pregnant with Hollande’s child.
In a further twist, it has emerged that the flat at the centre of the allegations, lent to Gayet by her actress friend Emmanuelle Hauck, may have been owned by the Corsican mafia.
The flat is registered to writer and actor Michel Ferracci, who was recently given an 18 month suspended prison sentence for allegedly laundering money through a nearby casino. Ferracci, a friend and business associate of assassinated Corsican mafia boss Richard Casanova, is an ex-boyfriend of Hauck’s.
The final word on the matter goes to Segolene Royal, Hollande’s long suffering ex-partner: “we should turn the page and get back to work.”
A recent opinion poll has shown that 31% of French people find Hollande “competent”, although 56% say he is “likeable”. In a poll conducted by magazine Le Point,of 13,136 readers, 89% of those polled said they wished to see Trierweiler leave the Elysee Palace.
Another poll, published in the Journal du Dimanche, found that 77% of French respondents believed the affair was a personal matter.