Recently during Emmanuel Macron’s race in the French Presidential elections that he won, everyone was agog with curiosity about his teenage romance with his high school teacher, a married mother of three, nearly 25 years his senior, and their subsequent marriage decades later. Instead of keeping Brigitte in the background, the youthful 39 year old French President confidently flaunts his youthful looking 65 year old wife everywhere and has proclaimed that anyone who doesn’t understand their union is a “misogynist and homophobe.” Let’s take a closer look at this unusual marriage
By Mahlia Lone
Emmanuel Jean-Michel FrÃ©dÃ©ric MacronÂ was born in the northern French town of Amiens in 1977. At that time, his future wife Brigitte was already a married woman with a two year old toddler son and a baby daughter born the same year. The son of a physician, FranÃ§oise NoguÃ¨s andÂ Jean-Michel Macron, professor ofÂ neurologyÂ at theÂ University of Picardy, Emmanuel was a bright and precocious boy.Â Raised in a liberal, non-religious family, Macron insisted to his parents on being baptized a Roman Catholic at the age of 12 since he attended a French privateÂ Jesuit school, the JesuitÂ LycÃ©e la Providence. At the tender age of 15, he met the love of his life, his drama teacher, Brigitte who was also the mother of his friend and fellow pupil Laurence Azuiere..
Brigitte Marie-Claude Trogneux came from a well off family of generational chocolatiers. Their multi million dollar successful enterprise Chocolaterie Trogneux with a turnover of â‚¬4 million wasÂ founded in 1872 in Amiens is famous for its delicious macaroons.. The family business is now run by Brigitteâ€™s nephew and has been renamed Jean Trogneux.
Emmanuel as a precocious boy in Amiens
“Here is my Brigitte at the school (the private Jesuit LycÃ©e la Providence in Amiens) where we met. She was my acting teacher”â€”Emmanuel Macron
The kiss at the end of the
theatre production that sparked their physical relationship
Brigitte was the youngest of her parentsâ€™ six children. In 1974, she married a banker AndrÃ©-Louis AuziÃ¨re with whom she had three children: SÃ©bastien, an engineer, cardiologistÂ Laurence and Typhaine AuziÃ¨re, a lawyer who now works for Macron. In the â€˜80s, Brigitte AuziÃ¨re taught literature at the CollÃ¨ge Lucie-Berger inÂ Strasbourg. At the end of the decade, she unsuccessfully ran for the city council ofÂ Truchtersheim, before moving back to her hometown in northern France with her familyÂ in theÂ â€˜90s. There she joined the LycÃ©e la Providence as a teacher for French literature, Latin and drama. Young Macron was also her student in her drama classes.
Emmanuel Macron at the Lycee de La Providence
â€œA perfect young manâ€
Macron was an unusual teenage boy with dishevelled hair and an innocent, penetrating look who enjoyed reading and was wise beyond his years. He lived in his own world of â€œtexts and words.â€ Emmanuel was breezing through â€œLa Proâ€ (as the school is known) and did not seem interested in girls. His parents remembered only one girlfriend who visited their home just once.Â â€œShe was the same age, she was sweet; she was the daughter of a local doctor and a friend of ours. It lasted a few months,â€ his father said.
Trogneaux family chocolaterie in Amiens
The French joke that theyâ€™ve had the macarons dâ€™Amiens for generations, and now they have the Macron dâ€™Amiens
Macron admitted in his autobiographyÂ RÃ©volution that the only two high points in his life were piano, which he plays very well but is largely self taught, and drama club. â€œIt was at secondary school, through drama, that I met Brigitte. It was surreptitiously that things happened and that I fell in love. Through an intellectual bond, which day after day became ever closer.Â Then emerged a lasting passion,â€Â he recounted in the book.
At her daughter Tiphaineâ€™s wedding
Brigitte added that when she arrived at La Providence, â€œall the teachers were buzzing aboutÂ Emmanuel.â€ Her daughter, Laurence, also told her that Macron, her classmate, was â€œthat amazing guyâ€ who â€œknows everything about everything.â€ When he joined her drama club, Brigitte found herself drawn to his â€œexceptional intelligence, a way of thinking that I had never ever seen before.â€ She was 40 and having a mid life crisis of sorts married to a banker specializing in international finance who often travelled away for work. Theirs was an average, comfortable, middle-class life and she must have been yearning for attention, even from a nubile young boy. Itâ€™s interesting to note that Brigitte hardly mentions her ex-husband and brushes that part of her life under the carpet. Known for her quick wit and sharp tongue, she is ready to retort if anyone hints at any impropriety on her part.
Le Figaro journalist Anne Fulda meticulously researched and chronicled the love affair in her new book Emmanuel Macron: a Perfect Young Man, The teacher and her pet student would have long discussions and, impressed by his writing, she would read out his work to the class. â€œShe used to recite his work all the time. She was totally captivated by his writing skills,â€ a former classmate told Le Parisien newspaper.
They became even closer when they co-authored a play. Brigitte confided in a friend years later: â€œThe writing became an excuse. I felt that we had always known each other.â€The night the play was staged, the teacher gave her pupil a kiss on the cheek, sparking the love affair.Â Macron has described it as â€œa love often clandestine, often hidden, misunderstood by many before imposing itself.â€
Madame Auziere reportedly started meeting her star pupil for trysts at homes belonging to her family, though they both deny that the relationship became physical till he was 18, the legal consensual age between teacher and student in France. Mr. Macronâ€™s parents became troubled by the rumors flying around about their sonâ€™s infatuation with a woman twice his age. The Macrons had been under the impression that their son was dating Mme Auziereâ€™s daughter, until a family friend let the cat out of the bag. When one of Emmanuelâ€™s friends, at whose grandmotherâ€™s home near Chantilly where he was supposedly studying for his baccalaureate exams, called to organise the coming weekend, Francoise realised that â€œManuâ€ who called her every day to tell her about her sonâ€™s day was not actually in Chantilly.Â She smelled something fishy.
Dinner with the King of Spain, summer of 2015
Jean-Michel said he â€œalmost fell off his chairâ€ when he discovered their son was instead in a relationship with the mother not the daughter. â€œWhen Emmanuel met Brigitte, we certainly did not say â€˜How wonderful!â€™â€At the end of the week, his father went to the station to collect his son on his supposed return from a weekâ€™s revision with friends. At home, his parent confronted him.
â€œWhat mattered to me was not the fact he was having a relationship with Brigitte but that he was alive and that there werenâ€™t any problems,â€ his mother said later.
But that is not how Emmanuelâ€™s father remembered it. He said it was mainly his now ex-wife who was â€œwound-upâ€¦ I figured, â€˜he would get over it.â€™ I wasnâ€™t worried, but Emmanuel still had to finish his schooling and not let it all go to waste.â€
FranÃ§oise told Fulda: â€œWe just couldnâ€™t believe it. What is clear is that when Emmanuel met Brigitte, we couldnâ€™t just say â€˜Thatâ€™s great.â€™â€
Quick witted and sharp tongued, Brigitte handles the jokes and satire on their age difference with humour, â€œHe (Emmanuel) needs to go for it (the Presidential race) in 2017 because by 2022, his problem will be my face,â€ she was quoted in Nicolas Prissetteâ€™s book Emmanuel Macron en marche vers lâ€™Ã‰lysÃ©e. Though she has not admitted to it, cosmetic surgeons speculate that she has had hair extensions, teeth veneers, botox and a mini facelift.
Their three story villa in Touquet, northern France
So they staged an intervention to ask Mme Auziere to back off from the affair. Francoise pleaded with her, â€œDonâ€™t you see? Youâ€™ve had your life. But he wonâ€™t have children with you.â€ In response, the errant teacher started to cry. Even when they asked her not to see their son until he had become an adult, she replied that she could not â€œpromise anythingâ€.
Not knowing what to do, they tried to match-make him with a girl his own age, but their son too refused to comply. The illicit affair had tongues waggingÂ in the quiet, middle-class neighbourhood of Amiens where the respectable Jesuit school was located. Francoise recalled the reaction to the relationship from a woman at the reception desk of the hospital where she worked: â€œAh, but whatâ€™s going on! Iâ€™ve been thinking of you, itâ€™s terrible!â€ Left with no choice, the parents decided to send their son to one of the most demandingÂ sixth-form colleges in France, LycÃ©e Henri-IV in Paris, 90 miles (145km) away to get him away and make him focus on his work instead, hoping that he would forget.
Macron believes in a secular state and defended the right of French Muslim women to wear the veil. Hence, the Grand Mosque of Paris urged the countryâ€™s Muslims to vote en masse for Macron as President
Macron promised Brigitte that he would come back to find her, â€œI will come back and marry you.â€ Â She took him at his word. He continued to make clandestine trips back to his hometown to visit her in secret and when he was 18 and graduated from school, she followed him to Paris. According to what they have said to the press leading up to the election, Macron had only been in touch with Brigitte through letters and proposed marriage when her turned 18, the legal age when she could no longer be jailed for being in a sexual relationship with her minor student.
Upon his return to Amiens after finishing school, he told his mother: â€œI still love Brigitte, if you understand that then all the better, because if not I am going not going to stop.â€ With no choice in the matter, Macronâ€™s parents reluctantly accepted.
â€œI had to fight in order to live both my private and my professional life as I wish,â€ Macron says. â€œI had to fight, and it wasnâ€™t the easiest or the most obvious, or the most automatic thing to do, nor did it correspond to established norms.â€
â€œStrength of conviction was required,â€ he said. â€œThey thought on several occasions that it was going to stop and naturally did everything to encourage that. In fact, I donâ€™t know how I myself would have reacted. It is very hard. An experience like that makes you think…You have to learn to fight for things, to bear the burden and have a life, which does not in any way correspond to other peoplesâ€™ lives. That was what we went through for 15 years. We managed to achieve the situation weâ€™re in today, because we knewÂ it was what we wanted. It didnâ€™t just happen all by itself.â€
While Brigitte continued to teach in Paris, MacronÂ studied philosophy at theÂ University of Paris-Ouest Nanterre La DÃ©fense, obtaining aÂ DEAÂ degree (Master of Advanced Studies) and worked as an editorial assistant toÂ theÂ distinguished French ProtestantÂ philosopher, Paul Ricoeur. He obtained a masterâ€™s degree in public affairs atÂ Sciences Po, and trained for a senior civil service career at the Ã‰cole Nationale dâ€™AdministrationÂ (ENA), graduating in 2004.
InÂ 2006, Brigitte finally divorced her long suffering husband and married Macron 18 months later. She was 54 and he 29. They got married in Touquet, northern France, in their country home where the couple often escapes to when not on duty in Paris.Â His best man wasÂ Henry HermandÂ (1924â€“2016), the same businessman who loaned â‚¬550,000 to Macron to buy his first apartment in Paris when he was Inspector of Finances in the Ministry of Economy
During a BMFTV interview this April, Macron emphatically stated that he and his wife decided not to have any children. â€œWe have chosen not to have children. A choice that was not selfish for me. It is a choice that has been assumed, which I had to make very young given the age difference. I did not need my biological children and grandchildren to give them as much love as I gave them.â€ The couple has seven grandchildren from Brigitteâ€™s three offspring.
As Minister of Economy from 2004 to 2008, Macron focused on helping to improve French economic growth. In 2008, he paid â‚¬50,000 to buy himself out of his government contract and instead started to work as a highly paid investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque. In 2012, he was given a senior role inÂ President Hollandeâ€™s staff, and in 2014, he was appointed as theÂ Minister of Economy and FinanceÂ in the secondÂ Valls Cabinet, pushing through business-friendly reforms. At the Ministry, his wife remained a discreet presence during high level meetings. â€œShe spends a lot of time here because her view matters to me, because she brings a different atmosphere that is important. My life is here, you cannot work well if you are not happy,â€ Macron said after he resigned from the Hollande government in 2016.
The next year, Macron declared that he had quit the Socialist Party years ago and was an independent. He formally founded an independent, liberal and progressive political party,Â En Marche!, in Amiens in 2016 and resigned from the government. In his speech announcing his candidacy, Macron called for a â€œdemocratic revolutionâ€ and promised to â€œunblock France.â€ Pro EU and a safe alternative to the â€œneo Fascistâ€ Marie Le Pen, Macron gained many supporters from the Socialist Party, centrist and centre-right politicians. A New York TimesÂ article described Macron as â€œardently pro-Europe and who has proudly embraced an unpopular European Union.â€ Many foreign politicians such asÂ European CommissionÂ PresidentÂ Jean-Claude Juncker, German ChancellorÂ Angela Merkel and former US PresidentÂ Barack Obama publicly supported him as a Presidential hopeful, as did the French minorities.
With Brigitteâ€™s mother
said that she sees Brigitte “more as a
friend than a
Where religion is concerned, Macron staunchly supports secularism (laÃ¯citÃ©). He said that â€œwe have a duty to let everybody practice their religion with dignity.â€ At the first meeting ofÂ En Marche!, Macron expressed opposition to the ban on Muslim headscarves in universities, â€œPersonally, I do not believe we should be inventing new texts, new laws, new standards, in order to hunt down veils at universities and go after people who wear religious symbols during field trips.â€
In an interview with the French news magazineÂ Marianne, Macron said that â€œsecularism is not designed to promote a republican religion.â€ He responded to comments made by other popular politiciansÂ regarding the practice of Islam in French society by condemning the notion that citizens should be â€œdiscreetâ€ in their religious practice, stating that â€œhistorical precedents when we asked for discretion in matters of religion did not bring honor to the Republicâ€¦.I ask one thing (of French Muslims): absolutely respect the rules while in public. Religious relationships are about transcendence, and I am not asking people to be moderate â€“ thatâ€™s not what Iâ€™m arguing. My own deep conviction is that a practicing Catholic may believe that the laws of his religion go far beyond the laws of the Republic. I simply believe that when one enters the public realm, the laws of the Republic must prevail over religious law.â€ He also condemned â€œreligious schools that teach hatred towards the Republic, with instruction mainly in Arabic or, in other instances, which teach the Torah more than basic fundamentals.â€ The Fonds Social Juif UnifiÃ© (FSJU), an organization that runs Jewish religious schools in France vociferously criticized this statement but theÂ Grand Mosque of ParisÂ urgedÂ French MuslimsÂ to vote en masse for Macron.
Brigitte Macron was actively involved in her husbandâ€™s campaign as was her youngest daughter. A top adviser even told an interviewer that â€œher presence is essential for himâ€.
â€œShe spends all her time beside him, she reads and listens to everything that is said about him. He asks her questions and takes her advice,â€ the Paris Match magazine reported.
In an interview for Le Petit Journal, when asked why her husband was â€œso good at politics,â€Â she retorted, â€œHe is good at everything. Not just politics, youâ€™re being quite restrictive. Iâ€™m yet to find an area where he isnâ€™t good.â€
Macron boldly told supporters that upon his winning theÂ French presidency, â€œIf Iâ€™m elected â€” no, sorry, when we are elected â€” she will be there, with a role and place that she always had with me, she will not be hidden.â€
Macron formally became President on 14thÂ May 2017, the youngest person to ever be elected as President of France as well as the youngest French head of state sinceÂ Napoleon. That is not surprising because in France though a politician must not be financially corrupt, his sexual and personal life doesnâ€™t concern the public. In the past while in office, outgoing President Francois Hollande was caught having an affair with Julie Gayet, an actress nearly two decades his junior; former President Nicholas Sarkozy left his wife for the actress/musician/model Carla Bruni and even Jacques Chirac was nicknamed â€œfive minutes, shower includedâ€ for his matter of fact, business-like approach to extramarital dalliance.
In a country like the U.S. however, this would never have happened as the laws there are much strictly enforced where teacher student impropriety and underage sexual relations is concerned. Though the age difference between the Macron is about the same as that between Donald and Melania Trump, even the Donald would not have gotten away it had he seduced a fifteen year old Melania.
Brigitte Macron was till 2015 teaching literature at the Ã©liteÂ lycÃ©e Saint-Louis de GonzagueÂ in Paris and now is expected to concentrate on education reform as Franceâ€™s First Lady. â€œShe will have an existence, she will have a voice there, a view on things. She will be at my side, as she has always been, but she will also have a public role,â€ Macron said.
Not everyone bows down to them in deference. French cartoonists and comedians regularly mock the coupleâ€™s age difference, portraying Macron as a schoolboy being instructed by his teacher. Macron blames latent misogyny for their not understanding their relationship. Brigitte handles the satire well and has even joked that his president run better be while she still looks presentable. â€œHe needs to go for it in 2017 because by 2022, his problem will be my face,â€ she was quoted in Nicolas Prissetteâ€™s book Emmanuel Macron en marche vers lâ€™Ã‰lysÃ©e.
Macronâ€™s unconventional marriage has also led some to speculate that heâ€™s secretly gay. As recently as February, he lightly dismissed rumors that he was having an affair with Radio France CEO Mathieu Gallet: â€œIf youâ€™re told I lead a double life with Mr. Gallet itâ€™s because my hologram has escaped.
The Macronâ€™s unconventional marriage seems to work for them better than many more traditional set ups. The moral of the story to take away from this may be: donâ€™t judge a book by its cover; or get them while they are young and make them dependant on youâ€”it all depends on your perspective. Either way, taking up with an underage student regardless of the level of your connection is still morally reprehensible in my opinion.