Mme Sarkozy blames 'inexplicable' collapse of love

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The Independent Online

Cécilia Sarkozy yesterday blamed her divorce from the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, on her hatred of the public spotlight and the "inexplicable" collapse of her love for her husband.

"What happened to me has happened to millions of people," she said. "Your relationship with your partner is no longer the essential thing in your life. It no longer works. The reasons are inexplicable, it happens to lots of people. It just happens."

Mme Sarkozy, 49, was talking in an interview with the regional newspaper L'Est Republicain on the day after the Elysée Palace announced that the President and his wife had divorced.

In an emotional and wide-ranging interview, Mme Sarkozy said that she and her husband had tried "everything possible" to avoid the split but she had been unable to tolerate life in the public eye since his election five months ago.

"For him it's like a violinist who has been given a Stradivarius, suddenly he has the chance to practise his art," she said. "It's not the same thing for me."

Mme Sarkozy praised her husband as a "great statesman" who would do "many things for France". But she said that she was someone who "likes the shadows, who likes serenity and tranquillity". She hoped that she would be allowed to "turn the page" or "get out a new box of paints" and start a new life.

The interview answered some questions, although it left many others hanging in the air. Mme Sarkozy had hardly been a shy and retiring wife before her husband's election last May. She had, for many years, been his closest political adviser and strategist.

In yesterday's interview, Mme Sarkozy admitted that the problems had begun when she fell in love with another man two years ago. She had left home but agreed to return "because of the values that were instilled in me". She had done her best to make her marriage work for the sake of her husband and their 10-year-old son (and four grown-up children from previous marriages). The more she felt herself in the public limelight, the more she could not tolerate it. "I felt I was not in the right place, I was no longer in the right place," she said. "The country elected a man, not a couple."

M. and Mme Sarkozy divorced on Monday. This implies, under French law, that they had been formally separated since early September.

In opinion polls yesterday, French people stated that the divorce will not influence their view of President Sarkozy. Press commentary and political analysts suggested, all the same, that Mme Sarkozy's decision to leave her husband only five months after his election would damage his all-conquering image.