Wednesday 7 December 2016

Mitterrand could have schooled Haughey in mistress etiquette

Unlike Haughey, the late French president understood that a great affair makes for an enhanced legacy

Donal Lynch

Published 16/10/2016 | 02:30

Affairs to remember: Late French president Francois Mitterrand with his lover, Anne Pingeot Photo: REX/Shutterstock
Affairs to remember: Late French president Francois Mitterrand with his lover, Anne Pingeot Photo: REX/Shutterstock

It was another brilliant lesson from the French to the world in How To Have (And How To Be) A State Mistress.

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Forget cashing in your chips in the form of some sordid chat-show revelation, or squirrelling away a semen-stained dress as 'proof' of the liaison. Forget hiding behind lawyers and spouses, or retreating to conventional morality when caught out. Forget implausible denials. The Mitterrand letters, excerpts of which were published this past week, have rewritten the rules of political indiscretion.

They showed that as long as there was love, there is also public forgiveness. Even for a man who was reviled in his lifetime as a 'quasi-pharaoh'. Even for a woman - Anne Pingeot - dismissed until recently as the 'other woman' of a corrupt and bygone political establishment. And even for a liaison which Mitterrand himself described (in reference to the great age difference between him and Pingeot) as "perfect incest".

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