The French first lady Valérie Trierweiler will make her first public appearances this weekend since she was plunged into a depression by the exposure of President François Hollande’s affair with a 41-year-old actress.
Ms Trierweiler has dismissed advice from the Elysée Palace and will fly to India to fulfill two humanitarian engagements in Mumbai, according to the newspaper Le Parisien.
The trip – including a visit to a shantytown and charity gala dinner – will be interpreted as an attempt by Ms Trierweiler to stake her claim to remain Première Dame and accompany Mr Hollande on an official visit to Washington next month.
Two weeks after the revelation of the President’s love affair with the actress Julie Gayet, the future of his eight years old unmarried partnership with Ms Trierweiler remains opaque. On Thursday night, Ms Trerweiler’s lawyer told the newspaper Le Figaro that she was “negotiating” with Mr Hollande “the most dignified possible conclusion” to their quarrel.
Within a couple of hours Ms Trierweiler, still “resting” at La Lanterne, the presidential retreat in Versailles, issued a statement firing her lawyer and distancing herself from the statement. Did that mean she was NOT looking for a dignified end to the two weeks old stand-off with Mr Hollande?
The French President has an opportunity to seek high-level spiritual advice on his private life this morning but is unlikely to do so. He was meeting his namesake, Pope Francis in the Vatican to discuss international affairs and the protests of French Catholics against his policies on gay marriage and abortion.
Ms Trierweiler’s visit to India is a long-standing engagement as part of her work for a charity which combats hunger in the world. “ It is a way of showing that she is attached to humanitarian causes and will remain so whatever happens in the coming days,” an unnamed friend of Ms Trierweiler told Le Parisien.
The charity, “Action contre la Faim” (action against hunger) confirmed that Ms Trierweiler, 49, intended to make the trip. “We are delighted she is coming. Everything is ready to welcome her,” the organisation said.
Sources in the Elysee Palace made it clear that Mr Hollande had not wanted her to go to India while her status as his romantic partner – and First Lady – remained unclear. “It’s crazy,” a source close to the President said. “She has only just come out of hospital. She should be resting.”
At a press conference last week, Mr Hollande said that he would make a statement to “clarify” his relationship with Ms Trierweiler before their planned visit to the Obamas in Washington from 9-11 February. Comments from within the Elysee suggest that the couple are moving towards a separation. Ms Trierweiler has let it be known through friends that she still hopes to repair and continue their unmarried partnership.
Both the French government and the head of the First Lady’s private office have angrily dismissed Internet rumours that Ms Trierweiler went on a Euros 3m wrecking spree in the Elysee Palace when she learned of Mr Hollande’s affair. The rumour first appeared on a right-wing anti-Hollande website and has been repeated by some British and foreign newspapers.
Mobilier National, the French government’s property management agency, said the reports were “totally mendacious”. Patrice Biancone, the head of Ms Trierweiler’s office, spoke of “abject calumnies”.
Even without baseless accusations of this kind, Ms Trierweiler’s fund of popularity with the French people is low. In a poll for Le Parisien today, she emerged as the least liked First Lady since France shifted to a presidential system 50 years ago. She won 8 per cent of the vote. The “winner” was Bernadettte Chirac (First Lady from 1995 to 2007) with 46 per cent.