France's First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, gave birth to a baby girl in a private clinic in Paris last night.
President Nicolas Sarkozy was not present for the birth. He visited his wife in the clinic yesterday afternoon before flying to Frankfurt for talks on the eurozone debt crisis with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
He flew back to Paris late last night and visited his wife and baby daughter at the exclusive Clinique de la Muette in western Paris.
The Elysée Palace made no official announcement but friends of Ms Bruni-Sarkozy told the French news agency AFP that she gave birth to a little girl at about 7pm Paris time.
"At present, we don't know what her first name will be," one friend told AFP. "All went very well."
Speculation on gossip websites on the French language internet last night focused on the name "Dahlia" or "Dalia".
The baby was the first to be born to the wife of a French president during his term of office. The last legitimate baby to be born to a French head of state was Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, son of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie, in March 1856.
Ms Bruni-Sarkozy, 43, has an 11-year-old son from a previous relationship. President Sarkozy has three sons, aged 26, 25 and 14, from two previous marriages.
Ms Bruni-Sarkozy checked in to the Clinique de la Muette, in the wealthy 16th arrondissement in western Paris, yesterday morning. An entire floor of the building had been cleared to ensure her privacy and security.
A crowd of photographers and television crews had been waiting behind crush barriers, erected 200 metres from the clinic, for more than a week.
President Sarkozy visited the clinic for 30 minutes at about 4pm yesterday afternoon. He then flew to Germany for emergency talks with Chancellor Merkel and other officials on the debt crisis facing the euro.
Earlier this week, the President told journalists travelling on his private aircraft that he hoped "Carla doesn't give birth on Sunday", when he is due to attend a make-or-break eurozone summit in Brussels.
The Elysée Palace, which has never officially confirmed the pregnancy, said that it would not be making any comment on the birth. Last month, in one of her few interviews on the subject, Ms Bruni-Sarkozy said that she would refuse to allow any photographs to be published.
It remains to be seen whether her wishes will be respected. Some of President Sarkozy's supporters have expressed the hope that he will benefit from a "baby dividend" in French public affections.