The life and loves of Carla Bruni

Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Donald Trump were bewitched by the model-turned-singer. And now it seems the French president has fallen under her spell. John Lichfield reports

You know you are getting old when the President of France is going out with Mick Jagger's ex-girlfriend. Carla Bruni, 39, the supermodel-turned-pop-singer and lover of, among others, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton and Donald Trump, is the new woman in the life of Nicolas Sarkozy.

For once, the world's media do not have to pussyfoot around the French law which prohibits invasion into people's private lives. The happy couple went to Disneyland Paris together at the weekend and posed radiantly for the paparazzi photographers who followed them to the theme park. If you want to hide your love away, you don't go to Disneyland on the weekend before Christmas. Among the "people" magazines which will publish the photographs this week is Paris Match, owned by M. Sarkozy's friend Arnaud Lagardre. In other words, this is an official, prince-meets-princess fairy tale, even if the Elyse Palace refused to comment yesterday.

Since he and his wife, Ccilia, divorced in October, M. Sarkozy has been linked by internet and tabloid gossip to a string of beautiful women in the worlds of media or showbusiness. Most of those stories appeared to have been exaggerated but this one is different. The 52-year-old President is said to have met the Italian-born, French-raised Mme Bruni at a semi-political gathering three weeks ago. They were seen together in the grounds of the Palais de Versailles the weekend before last. On Saturday, like scores of other divorcees, they took their respective children to Disneyland. According to the news agency Agence France Presse, the couple and the children spent the night at the Disneyland Hotel, 10 miles east of Paris.

Christophe Barbier, editor of the respected news magazine L'Express, is a friend of Mme Bruni. He said yesterday that he telephoned the former model before breaking the news of her romance with M. Sarkozy. "She confirmed the relationship," he said. "She said publicity did not bother her because this was now going to be a public love affair."

Colombe Pringle, the editor of Point de Vue magazine, which will publish photographs of the couple today, said: "Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni wanted people to know. Otherwise, I don't know why they would have gone to Disneyland to look at the Mickey Mouse parade."

Mme Bruni has long been listed among the world's most beautiful women. With what she once called her "kitty eyes" and her high, wide cheekbones, she bears a startling resemblance to... Ccilia Sarkozy. Like the woman who decided, after five months, that she did not want to be the Premire Dame of France, Mme Bruni is also celebrated for her emotional hand-brake turns. She had an on-off affair with Mick Jagger in her 20s and became famous as part of the first generation of supermodels, which also included Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss. She abandoned modelling in her early 30s to re-invent herself with some success as an international pop star. Along the way, she dated an unlikely crowd of rich and famous men, including the US billionaire Donald Trump, film star Kevin Costner and British rock musician Eric Clapton.

Seven years ago, while living with the French publisher, Jean-Paul Enthoven, she fell in love with his son, the philosopher Raphael Enthoven, who was 10 years her junior. They married after he divorced his wife, Justine Lvy, the daughter of a better known French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lvy. Mme Lvy took her revenge in 2004 by writing a successful novel loosely based on the stealing of her husband, called Nothing Important.

Mme Bruni did not appear to care. She had a success of her own to celebrate. Her first album of songs, Someone Told Me, appeared in the same year to cackles of amusement from the French music press. Too insubstantial, they said. Too folk. Too old-fashioned. But the disc gained a word-of-mouth following and became a cult hit with more than two million sales in Europe. One British critic hailed it as "deliciously languorous".

Mme Bruni's second record, featuring her musical arrangements of the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, W H Auden and W B Yeats, appeared earlier this year. She attributes her love of English poetry to the "lessons" from her friend and "professor", the English singer Marianne Faithfull.

In an interview with The Independent in May, Mme Bruni was at pains to point out that she never fitted the public prejudice that supermodels are thick as well as thin. "Even when I was having my hair and make-up done backstage at a fashion show, I would sneak in a copy of Dostoevsky and read it inside a copy of Elle or Vogue," she said. "But it would be pretentious of me to say I was more intelligent than the other supermodels of that era. I was always just curious about everything." She also revealed that, as a child, she took part in "sing-a-longs" at her parents' home with family friends such as Maria Callas and Herbert von Karajan. As a young woman, however, her musical hero was Joe Strummer of The Clash.

Mme Bruni is a daughter of one of the wealthiest industrial families of northern Italy, the Bruni Tedeschis. Her sister, Valeria, is an actress and film director. Their grandfather founded Ceat, which became the second-most important Italian rubber company after Pirelli. Her mother, Marysa Borini, was a celebrated concert pianist. Her father, Alberto, sold the family business in the 1970s and moved to France to escape the wave of murders and kidnappings of politicians and industrialists by the Red Brigades terrorist group.

"Music was the most sentimental thing in my parents' lives," Mme Bruni said in another Independent interview in 2004. "Although I was rather indifferent to technique, I definitely absorbed their tremendous passion for it. My mother always said that she could love a man who wasn't handsome or physically strong, but that she could not love a man who didn't love music. I agree!"

Nicolas Sarkozy is known to be a great fan of the perpetual French rocker, Johnny Hallyday. Otherwise, music does not appear to feature greatly in his busy schedule. Explaining her choice of men, Mme Bruni once said: "Desire is not very precise in my case, so I never choose. The one thing all the men I've loved have in common is a strong feminine side. I find feminine men very virile and macho men very fragile. Machismo is a defence mechanism." Oddly enough, one of Ccilia Sarkozy's implied criticisms of her former husband is that he was too driven and lacked a feminine side to his character.

Mme Bruni's friendship with the centre-right President is unlikely in several other respects. She has previously been regarded as leftish in her politics and, before she met him, publicly criticised M. Sarkozy's attempts to crack down on illegal and family immigration to France and select "useful" migrants.

From the President's point of view, such a glitzy relationship has advantages and disadvantages. Mme Bruni's previous romances do not suggest she will be willing, any more than Ccilia was, to play the role of calm helpmate to his own highly-charged personality. After all the gossip surrounding the demise of his marriage, it might seem that the last partner President Sarkozy needed would be an entertainment celebrity with a string of past high-profile conquests.

On the other hand, President Sarkozy's opinion poll ratings are starting to melt. The collapse of his marriage tarnished his all-conquering reputation, especially among French men. A mediagenic love affair with one of the world's most beautiful women might seem to be not such a bad idea. The centre-right newspaper, Le Figaro, a loyal promoter of all the President's activities, published a rather beautiful front-page photograph of Mme Bruni yesterday and proudly announced her as the "President's girlfriend". The centre-left newspaper Libration said, more grumpily, that the President had evidently foresworn his previous promise to keep public and private lives separate, and had deliberately chosen to live a "paparazzi idyll".

It remains to be seen how long the idyll will last and whether Carla Bruni finds life with the perpetual motion President as interesting as life with the Rolling Stones. As Mick Jagger's girlfriend, she would sometimes tour with the band in the early 1990s.

"It was fun and emotional," she once told the Italian magazine, XL. "I learnt from all of them, or rather absorbed things. They are special people, these creative types, but they conquered me with the simplicity and discipline with which they work. If I had not learnt anything from them, I would have been no better than a groupie."

But will Mme Bruni remain France's First Girlfriend? Or will she become France's first, foreign-born First Lady? On the whole, that seems unlikely. Much will depend on how much M. Sarkozy listens to his mother. In an interview two weeks ago, Andre Sarkozy, 80, said: "In his position, he is spoiled for choice. But I hope no one will think of marriage. I've had enough of brides."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
John Terry puts Chelsea ahead
football
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David performs in his play ‘Fish in the Dark'
theatreFish in the Dark has already generated a record $14.5m in advance ticket sales
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Howard Mollison, as played by Michael Gambon
tvReview: Too often The Casual Vacancy resembled a jumble of deleted scenes from Hot Fuzz
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
news
Arts and Entertainment
Jemima West in Channel 4's Indian Summers (Joss Barratt/Channel 4)
tvReview: More questions and plot twists keep viewers guessing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003