France has never had a first lady like this before.
Brigitte Macron will be the nation’s first premiere dame in nearly five years following her husband Emmanuel Macron’s election, stepping into the international spotlight last captivated by Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
Macron – the school teacher who took up with a student, the glamorous mother of three and grandmother to seven – is an atypical first lady, to say the least. Here’s everything you need to know about her.
1. She has chocolate in her blood
Brigitte Marie-Claude Trogneux Auzière Macron is the youngest of six children and the only girl. Her family in northern France has run Jean Trogneux, a small group of father-and-son chocolate shops, passed down through five generations.
The family is known throughout the Picardie region for their great-great-grandfather’s traditionally recipied Macaron d’Amiens.
2. She’s 24 years her husband’s senior
Brigitte, 64, is older than her husband by nearly a quarter-century. She was, in fact, already married for three and a half years before he was even born.
She has three grown children from her first marriage – one is a statistical engineer, the others a cardiologist and a lawyer – and seven grandchildren, whose ages range between 2 and 11. Her eldest daughter, Laurence, was actually Emmanuel’s classmate at Le Providence, the private school where Macron taught in Amiens.
3. She has three nicknames
She’s referred to as “Bibi” or “Cocott” by friends, or, occasionally, by her initials “BAM.”
4. The Macrons’ love story is relatively uncomplicated by French presidential standards
France hasn’t had a true traditional first lady in a decade – not since Jacques and Bernadette Chirac.
In 2007, within a month of their arrival at the Elysées Palace, Chirac successor Nicolas and his wife Cecilia Sarkozy separated. Within four months, the Elysées Palace announced their divorce. Four months on, in 2008, Sarkozy married supermodel Carla Bruni. An unconventional first lady, Bruni-Sarkozy chiefly consecrated her time to her musical career, and raising the couple’s infant daughter.
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Defeating Sarkozy in 2012, Francois Hollande had an even more complicated love life. A never-married father of four – with one-time presidential candidate Ségolène Royal – Hollande’s de facto first lady was his longtime companion, journalist Valerie Trierweiller.
Just six months into his tenure, however, the relationship ended over public reports of infidelity. For the last five years, with rare exception, Hollande’s ongoing relationship with actress Julie Gayet has remained a hushed affair of state.
5. During the election run-up, she was portrayed as “discreet”
“She isn’t reserved by nature,” said journalist Caroline Derrien, co-author of Les Macron, a biography of the couple. “She’s cheerful, talkative, extroverted … I’ve the impression the pitfalls of politics, the constant gaze on her, can cause her anxiety and she doesn’t seek to be constantly in front.”
Derrien added, “But at the same time, she doesn’t hide her pleasure when she’s on stage.”
6. She will be an active first lady
“She will have a role,” the new president told RTL radio of his wife in early March. “She will not be hidden because she shares my life, because her opinion is important to me and the presidential role brings something of a personal dimension with it.”
The Macrons are a “fusion couple” – very close and very watchful of one another. Brigitte is the new president’s closest counselor, occasionally telling him “we’ll talk about that in private” in front of his campaign staff.
Her interactions with the press during her husband’s meteoric campaign were extremely guarded. Just prior to his second-round victory, she stopped briefly to tell one reporter that she wouldn’t speak now, but would after the election, “and then you won’t be able to stop me,” she said with a laugh.
There is no statuary definition for the first lady role in the Fifth Republic. During his campaign, President-elect Macron pledged to reform this practice while insisting his wife’s role would not be a salaried post.
Most first ladies since Claude Pompidou have established a foundation for favored charity work.
A return to activism for Brigitte is to be expected, as she only ceased her educational career activities to concentrate efforts on her husband’s election in 2015.
In between the two election rounds this month, Brigitte reportedly confided to journalists the causes closest to her heart. “She is very sensitive to the areas of education and culture,” said Derrien. “She is also concerned with handicapped issues, and in particular autism. You can expect these two subjects will be part of her priorities at the Elysées.”
7. She’s been a Louis Vuitton gal since 2015
Brigitte’s wardrobe has been loaned to her by Louis Vuitton. “Everything has been noted in a register and the loan outs have been systematically returned,” her entourage confirmed in February to business news magazine Challenges. “And she only wears their outfits for public appearances.”
The exclusive relationship began in the summer of 2015, when Vuitton’s associate director Delphine Arnault threw the economy minister’s wife a few tips.
Reportedly, Louis Vuitton’s VIP service routinely handles her looks. The blue metal jacket Macron wore to Sunday’s victory rally at the Louvre was a favorite Vuitton piece, according to Paris Match, which she’d previously won to one of the house’s fashion show last year.