Back in the days of Charles de Gaulle, few people would have used the word "couple" to designate the General and his wife Yvonne. I can't imagine a neighbor in the Champagne-Ardenne village of Colombey-les-Deux Eglises phoning up Madame de Gaulle at La Boisserie and saying: "My wife and I would like to invite a few couples along to our place this weekend for a barbecue and a scrabble evening. Are you interested?" In any case, while Charles and Yvonne were of course a married couple, they were certainly not what you would call a political couple. According to a legend (maybe apocryphal), while the General was attending to the affairs of France, his wife spent most of her time knitting.
During the recent presidential election, we saw an extraordinary emergence of authentic political couples, the most famous of which was Ségolène Royal and François Hollande.
In spite of their electoral defeat, and Ségolène's decision to refrain from being a candidate in next month's parliamentary elections, the Royal-Hollande couple hasn't exactly gone into hibernation. On the contrary, they're on the front page of the news because of a book on Ségolène's recent campaign, called La femme fatale, which is about to hit the bookstands. More precisely, the Royal-Hollande couple is attempting to use judicial means to block the release of this book... which is naturally a godsend in unexpected publicity for the two authors: Raphaëlle Bacqué and Ariane Chemin. The bone of contention between the political couple and the authors would appear to be an anecdote concerning the possibility that François Hollande might have preferred Lionel Jospin, rather than his wife, as the Socialist presidential candidate. [Jospin was the man who was knocked out unceremoniously in the first round, in 2002, by the extreme-rightwing candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen.] According to the anecdote related by Bacqué and Chemin, Ségolène would have yelled out at her husband: "If you call upon Jospin to block me, I swear you'll never see your kids again." Nice story, particularly for the authors of a political saga, but a little bit too dramatic to be true. The book will surely be a best-seller.
In calmer waters, Jean-Louis Borloo, a political friend of Sarkozy, happens to be the husband of an excellent TV journalist named Béatrice Schönberg (who reads out the news on France 2)... who was axed for the duration of the elections.
Another victim of a similar kind was the brilliant young TV journalist Marie Drucker [I used to know her father back in my 1972 days at the Research Service of the French Broadcasting System], who had the misfortune of being madly in love with a minister of Chirac named François Baroin, who was actually called upon to replace Sarkozy when the latter stepped officially into the electoral arena.
One of the most famous political couples in France is composed of the Socialist ex-minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his journalist wife Anne Sinclair, who was for many years one of the most popular women in France.
At the present moment, of course, the most famous couple of all is Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Cécilia.
Nobody really knows (maybe not even Nicolas) whether Cécilia is prepared to step into the role of the First Lady of France. Personally, I would bet that she won't. In other words, I don't believe that Nicolas and Cécilia constitute a political couple. I don't see Cécilia staying at home, knitting like Yvonne. Nor do I imagine her collecting small coins for charity, as Bernadette Chirac has been doing for years. Sarko has promised us that, with his election, things are going to change, no doubt in a surprising manner. I'm convinced that one of the biggest surprises that awaits us is finding out what the hell Sarko's going to do with his wife.