If not for this weekend’s French presidential election, you might not have heard of presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron who is running against Marine Le Pen. But you don’t need to follow or be interested in politics to be fascinated by the Macron love story that has captured the imagination of people around the world, especially women.
- At 17, he told his 42-year-old married teacher: “Whatever you do, I will marry you!’
- At 39, he has a step-son two years older, seven step-grandchildren
- He’s been mocked as “teacher’s pet”, she as a “menopausal Barbie”
You see, he is 39 and she, 64. She was also his French and drama teacher in high school.
While still married to a banker, 40-year-old Brigitte Trogneux first met 15-year-old Macron in her drama class. Her daughter, Laurence, was his classmate. She also has a son, 41, another daughter, 30, and seven grandchildren.
“He came to audition for a part in the play and I watched him. I just found him incredible. He had such presence. Without doubt, he wasn’t like the others. He was always with the teachers. He simply wasn’t an adolescent,” Trogneux said.
After the play, in which Macron played the lead role, they exchanged their first public kiss – on the cheek. They later spent time together every Friday reworking another play.
Trogneux admitted: “Little by little, I was won over by his intelligence. I still haven’t measured all its depths.”
There was an electricity between them, and long walks along the canals. “I felt myself falling,” she told Paris Match magazine, “Him too.”
Macron’s shocked parents told the teacher to stay away from their son. She replied: “I can’t promise you anything”.
Attempting to end the illicit liaison, Macron’s parents sent him off to school in Paris, 90 miles away, but that didn’t stop their relationship.
Trogneux is quoted as saying: “Nobody will ever know at what moment our story became a love story. That belongs to us. That is our secret.”
“He wasn’t like the others. He wasn’t a teenager. He had a relationship of equals with other adults.
“We’d call each other all the time and spend hours on the phone. Bit by bit, he defeated all my resistance, in an amazing way, with patience.”
A widely known romantic quote of Macron’s is what he said to Trogneux when he was 17: “Whatever you do, I will marry you!'”
Eighteen months after her divorce, Trogneux and Macron got married in 2007. According to Trogneux: “Emmanuel said, ‘We’re going to shut people up.'”
Macron made sure to thank his new wife’s children – the eldest being two years older than him – in his wedding speech for “loving us as we are”.
In his book Revolution, published last November, he described the wedding as “official consecration of a love that was at first clandestine, often hidden and misunderstood by many”.
By Macron’s own admission, they are “not a normal couple – but a couple that exists”.
If Macron wins the election this weekend, his wife will become the second oldest First Lady after Bernadette Chirac while he will become the youngest President in France’s history.
The 25-year age gap has caused much talk, including jibes. Sniggers like he pulling along his mum when she is seen with him have made the rounds on social media chats. Then there is the unkind drawing of parallels: young and handsome Macron as Beauty, old and wrinkled Trogneux as the Beast. And the derogatory terms: he a “teacher’s pet” and her “toy boy”, she a “cradle snatcher” and “menopausal Barbie”.
Well, Donald and Melania Trump suffered similar gossip over their 23-year age difference, albeit in reverse. She was a “gold digger” and his “trophy wife”, while he was a “dirty old philanderer” and her “sugar daddy”.
Neither the Trumps nor the Macrons lose much sleep over such malicious talk. Perhaps the ladies are envious of Trogneux and the guys of Donald.
The generation gap is more talked about elsewhere than in the Macrons’ own country, even though not every French is enamoured of the couple. Apparently, the trend now is for French women to take young lovers – so who cares?