On Sunday, the airwaves in France were alive and buzzing with the news that people had been waiting to be confirmed in one form or another: the end of the relationship between President François Hollande (pictured above in 1991) and his companion Valérie Trierweiler.
On Friday night, François Hollande apparently tried to make contact with his companion of nine years Valérie Trierweiler to discuss the wording of the communiqué that would officially announce the separation of the couple but only got as far as her voicemail.
The former First Lady of the French Republic had seemingly been in no mood to take calls from the the president since the scandal broke as an unconfirmed rumour with head, arms and legs in the gossip magazine “Closer” the Friday before. Ms Trierweiler had spent a week in hospital followed by a couple of days’ rest at La Lanterne. It’s likely to be the last time that the president’s former companion will get to savour the luxury of the state-owned residence in Versailles.
“Their relationship fizzled out. She admitted it to me sadly that the story was over, but that she didn’t want to be a co-signatory to the statement; she wanted him to take on the decision alone,” said a friend of Ms Trierweiler.
The press statement was duly issued on Saturday night via AFP. Yesterday afternoon, Valérie Trierweiler left La Lanterne and moved back to the apartment that the former presidential couple rent on Rue Cauchy in the 15th arrondissement. Thus ended her reign as First Lady; an unofficial role that President Hollande never seemed to think of as any more than First Girlfriend. By all accounts, the separation was reached in a relatively amicable manner, with the financial aspects of the break-up having come to a swift conclusion.According to Le Parisien, Valérie Trierweiler went to the Elysée on Sunday afternoon for a discreet meeting with the President before his telephone call to Agence France Presse.
“The painful thing for her is not having to leave the Elysée Palace and all its luxury, but that she’s losing the man that she loves. If only they had had a bit more time… But the media pressure was such that she quickly understood that the situation would be untenable,” said a close friend.
The communiqué was scheduled for midday but it appears that Hollande hesitated before putting the final touch to the job at hand, causing some frayed nerves amongst those close to him. Up to this point, the French president appeared to have been galvanised by the challenge of his press conferences, where he stuck to the Responsibility Pact and his govnerments policy that promises to reverse the unemployment trends, and made no substantive mention of his personal situation.
On Sunday, those close to Hollande describe a man “emotionally rattled”.
“It has stirred up a lot of things,” confided one close aide. “It’s difficult. The fact of pressing the button, making it all go past the point of no return… François hates that.”
“The only woman who believed in this little guy who was only at 3% in the polls was her,” says another member of the presidential entourage, adding: “It was probably because of her that he got to become Head of State.”
In the last few days, all those close to Hollande were urging him to put full stop to this story as soon as possible, worrying about the damage that the entire affair was doing to his public image. The decision was taken, therefore, to make official the separation before the departure of Ms Trierweiler to India yesterday, as well as the departure of the President himself to Turkey today. At the heart of the storm, the friends of the President – his faithful gang – were ever-present, taking the punches with their boss: the likes of Stéphane Le Foll, Michel Sapin, Jean-Yves Le Drian, François Rebsamen, and his solicitor Jean-Pierre Mignard who spent the day with President Hollande at the Vatican on Friday.
Valérie Trierweiler, meanwhile, received an assurance from her employer – the magazine Paris Match – that she would be able to continue to write her literary chronicles. She will stay on at the apartment in Rue Cauchy and will answer all calls from charity organisations on a case-by-case basis, following her continuing work with the Danielle Mitterand Foundation.