'Very good looking 64': New French Pres upstaged by wife
FRANCE'S new President Emmanuel Macron has given his inaugural address at the Louvre, but he was almost upstaged - by his wife.
The 39-year-old former investment banker walked out to greet thousands of supporters at the Louvre after a 12-month campaign that has seen him emerge from relative obscurity to gain the keys to the Elysee Palace. He will now become the youngest head of state France has seen since Napoleon.
His victory speech included plenty of thanks to his 200,000 members who have joined the movement and volunteered their time to help. There was also a nod to his opponent, the Front Nationale's Marine Le Pen who secured around 35 per cent of the vote.
However some of the biggest cheers came for his wife, Brigitte 64, who joined him on stage at the end after the crowd started chanting her name.
"She's a good looking 64," said one young student watching. Others said they were happy the couple - who met when he was a student and she was his teacher - appeared in such an apparently happy relationship.
"It's his life, I don't care really," said Marie, 24.
So who is the new French President?
Having previously served as the economy minister under Francois Hollande, Mr Macron quit the Socialist Party to found his own movement, En Marche! Taking inspiration from both left and right, the party has signed up 200,000 members in one year.
His campaign has taken inspiration from Barack Obama's in 2008 and included a "grand march" across the country to talk to voters. The former President endorsed him in the closing days in an usual move in which he cited the importance of the elections to stability in Europe.
Mr Macron supports free markets, wants to cut corporation tax from 33 to 25 per cent and wants to reform the EU while keeping French borders open. He also wants to reduce unemployment and keep the 35-hour working week while allowing businesses to negotiate separate contracts with employees.
His support is clustered in major cities like Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes.Macron claims his camp has been the target of Russian "disinformation" during the campaign, including unsubstantiated claims he has a secret gay lover and offshore bank accounts.
He is married to his former teacher, Brigitte Trogneaux, who is more than 20 years his senior and a grandmother of seven, with three children of her own. Ms Trogneaux opened up about their relationship in a documentary last year including the fact he told her at 16 he would marry her.
"He wasn't like the others," she said. "He wasn't a teenager. He had a relationship of equals with other adults.""I didn't think it would go very far …. I thought he would get bored. We wrote, and little by little I was totally overcome by the intelligence of this boy."We'd call each other all the time and spend hours on the phone," she said.
"Bit by bit, he defeated all my resistance, in an amazing way, with patience."The pair married in 2007 and she has featured in his campaign.
Mr Macron's biographer Anne Fulda said his task is now to convince the electorate to fall in love with him as well."He wants to give the idea that, if he was able to seduce a woman 24 years his senior and a mother of three children, in a small provincial town ... despite opprobrium and mockery, he can conquer France in the same way."
MARINE LE PEN
To win the race, Mr Macron beat Marine Le Pen. The 48 year-old National Front leader is part of a political dynasty that is both loved and loathed. Securing 21.5 per cent of the vote in the first round was a major coup for Le Pen, who has worked to "de-demonise" the party founded by her father in her six years at the helm, and marks its transition from the fringes of French politics to the mainstream.
Since the vote she quit as head of the far-right party in an apparent bid to broaden her voter appeal.
Le Pen has predicted the European Union will "die" and wants to pull France out of Europe. She also wants to return to the French franc and close the borders, while introducing a cap on immigration at 10,000 people a year.
She has advocated banning religious symbols including headscarves and veils in public, said she will crack down on radical Islamist terror and scrap a law that provides a path to citizenship for the children of immigrants. She wants to penalise groups that hire foreign workers, introduce a 35 per cent tax on companies bringing in foreign goods and lower the retirement age to 60 from 62.
Growing up in the political spotlight has led to a tumultuous family life for Marine, who is one of three daughters of Jean Marie Le Pen and his estranged wife Pierrette. Her former paratrooper father founded the party in 1972 with his outspoken views thought to have led to a bombing in the apartment block targeting the family when Marine was just eight years old.
The family later moved to a gated mansion in the suburbs of Paris, Montretout, where her parents' marriage dissolved in a public battle. When Marine was aged 15 her mother left the family home and was not seen by her again for 15 years, according to reports. In the 1980s she also posed for Playboy in shots that have recently resurfaced in French media.
Family biographer Olivier Beaumont, who wrote a book called In the Hell of Montretout about the family, told NPR Marine picked up the political torch from her father. But their relationship was severed when his dogs killed her cats at the Montretout property.
"There's a big difference between Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen," he said. "The father only wanted to provoke. The daughter aspires to real power," he said
Despite her father's outright anti-Semitic views that include calling the gas chambers a "detail" of history, he also made it to the second round of the Presidential elections in 2002. However after Marine took over the leadership in 2011 she has worked to soften its image with a broader appeal to voters. Her niece Marion, has been instrumental in helping to attract younger, socially conservative voters from France's wealthier southern regions.
Marine now lives with her partner Louis Aliot, who is also a party member. She has three children.