For him, it was anguish. For me, a relief.” Thus does Margaret Trudeau characterize the apparent end of her six-year marriage to the Canadian prime minister.
On May 27 she and Pierre Trudeau formally separated. Three months earlier she had spent the night (innocently, she says) with the Rolling Stones in a Toronto hotel and next day had flown to New York to work as a photographer.
“Pierre was furious about the public disgrace and humiliation I caused him,” Margaret admits. “If I had gone more gracefully, he would have been more forgiving. But I have always remembered something I read long ago: It takes two to destroy a marriage.”
After a few assignments Margaret gave up photography—”I needed working papers and people wanted to exploit me”—to fulfill an “unspoken childhood dream” of becoming an actress. She has been taking acting lessons and this month began filming a Canadian production of an original thriller, Kings and Desperate Men, co-starring Patrick McGoohan. It is her first professional acting job, and she likes the role as the kidnapped wife of a radio announcer (“The character is poised and intelligent”). It was not her first film offer. “I got lots with sex and violence and nude scenes,” she says, “but I still have a responsibility. I’m a mother and I have kept my name.” (Pierre has custody in Ottawa of their three sons—Justin, 6, Sasha, 4, and Michel, 2.)
Since departing, Margaret lives with doubts. “I wonder all the time if what I did was right,” she says, but adds that she found little satisfaction in her life as the PM’s wife. “Politics is an ugly and thankless role,” she explains. “What I did was never really praised or appreciated. I tried during the 1974 campaign to show my husband, not as the aloof intellectual people think he is, but the warm, passionate man I know. But the day after the election—after I’d worked so hard—I was put back on the shelf. I was devastated. No matter how many limousines, maids and houses, they can’t make up for a woman’s own lack of identity. I can’t be a rose in any man’s lapel.”
She understands Trudeau’s anger. “No one wants to lose a pretty, young wife,” she says. “He’s a proud and tough man, which I like. Pierre never thought I’d have the courage to face the consequences. He and others waited for me to fail. You can be crushed and passive as I have been,” she says, “or you can fight. I want to build my self-respect, to find what is within me.”
Margaret still sees her children about 10 days a month. “We are both trying to give them as much stability as possible. Pierre now is very supportive; he has accepted my decision.” When she visits Ottawa, she has separate quarters. “Still,” she says, “when I hear he’s spent a weekend with another woman, my rage has no bounds.” She admits to a brief romance—”an honest relationship” are her words—with the U.S. distributor of Perrier water, Bruce Nevins. “Everyone wants a loving, equal relationship,” she explains. “But when you have been passionately in love with one man, you don’t start dating lightly.”
At the moment her life is reasonably tranquil. “Pierre and I haven’t even discussed divorce,” she says. “It’s too soon. There’s no way I’d sign away my children. Besides, Pierre really wants me to find my stability. Sometimes,” she adds, “I think there’s every chance to reconcile…and sometimes I think it’s all too late.”