She’s whip-smart, blonde, and more than two decades older than her husband, President-Elect Emmanuel Macron, who counts her as one of his most trusted advisors and may even hand her an official role in his fledgling government. France’s new first lady is an anti-Melania Trump, if you will.
Months before 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron’s final victory at the polls yesterday, the French media had already taken notice of Brigitte Trogneux, 64, his former high school teacher and wife of 10 years.
The French press gushed over her style, particularly her pin-thin frame, “California blondeness” (she has been compared to Jane Fonda) and chic ensembles, as well as her sharp mind. Old friends have described Trogneux as “very cultivated,” noting her ability to recite lengthy passages of Stendhal’s dense, two-volume tome, The Red and the Black.
Like Macron, Trogneux hails from the northern French city of Amiens. The youngest of six children, she was born into a wealthy family of chocolatiers and her pre-Macron years were fairly typical of the French bourgeoisie: She became a high school teacher, teaching literature, Latin, and drama at exclusive private schools. She married a banker and had three children.
Then she met Macron, a 15-year-old student at La Providence, a private Jesuit high school, where she was directing a play he appeared in. It is unclear as to when their relationship officially began, but the teenage Macron is rumored to have been smitten with Trogneux, who is 24 years his senior, almost from the get-go. Indeed, when he left La Providence to study at the elite Lycée Henri IV in Paris, he made a declaration fit for a romantic melodrama.
“You will not get rid of me,” the 17-year-old Macron told the married mother of three. I will come back and I will marry you.”
True to his word, Macron eventually married Trogneux in 2007, following a 10-year romance.
“Love took everything in its path and led me to divorce,” Trogneux told Paris Match last year. “It was impossible to resist him.”
Since Macron’s rapid political ascent, Trogneux has been a constant presence and source of support, attending agenda meetings when he was minister and advising him as he prepared for campaign speeches.
“It has been 20 years, and I am ready for anything with him!” she said last year shortly before Macron announced his official presidential bid.
“She is always present, and without her I wouldn’t be me,” Macron told a crowd of supporters in April after his victory in the first round of voting.
Much has also been made in the press over the couple’s age difference, roughly the same as the age gap between Donald and Melania Trump. Macron blames the fuss on misogyny.
“If I was 20 years older than my wife, no one would have questioned it being a legitimate relationship,” he told Le Parisien in April. “It’s only because my wife is 20 years older than me that people say it’s not tenable, it’s not possible.”
So what’s next for France’s unconventional first lady?
Given Trogneux’s central role in Macron’s election campaign, it would be surprising if she retreated to the sidelines. Although the role of first lady carries no official status in France, Trogneux looks set to continue her involvement in her husband’s political life after the pair move into the Élysée Palace.
Indeed, France 24 reports that Macron intends to propose a formal, albeit unremunerated, position for his wife, and will leave it up to Trogneux to determine what her new role will encompass.
“She will have a voice there, a view on things,” he said. “She will be at my side, as she has always been, but she will also have a public role.”