The French "first lady" Valerie Trierweiler was in hospital last night suffering from "depression", three days after 'Closer' magazine reported that President Francois Hollande was having an affair with a 41-year-old actress.
The Elysee Palace said that Ms Trierweiler (49) had suffered a "severe case of the blues" last Friday after 'Closer' published an article about the alleged affair with Julie Gayet. She is expected to remain in hospital until today.
What began as a severe embarrassment for Mr Hollande is turning into a personal and political crisis. Tomorrow was supposed to be the first day of a reinvigorated presidency -- a press conference to unveil details of a promised "acceleration" towards a more market-oriented economic policy.
The acceleration now risks falling flat on its face unless Mr Hollande can find a way to defuse questions about his alleged affair, Ms Trierweiler's health and the validity of her status as France's first lady.
Mr Hollande (59) and Ms Trierweiler are not married. Her position is based on her private status as "first girlfriend".
A friend of the president told 'Le Monde': "The president has to make a rapid decision (in favour on one woman or the other). If he does so, the French will not hold it against him. Until then any appearance of Valerie by his side will appear hypocritical."
Mr Hollande's alleged relationship with Ms Gayet is said to have started almost a year ago, stopped and then resumed since the summer.
There have been a series of crisis meetings in the Elysee over the weekend. Mr Hollande decided to stick by his insistence that "private" and "public" life were separate.
There would be no formal statement.
An opinion poll yesterday appeared to give public support to Mr Hollande. Of 1,025 French people questioned for 'Le Journal du Dimanche', 77pc said the alleged affair was a "private matter".
Over 84pc suggested the affair -- which has not been denied -- would not change their opinion of Mr Hollande.
As one pollster pointed out, Mr Hollande's popularity is already so weak -- 22 to 25pc, the lowest of any modern president -- that it could hardly fall further. That does not mean that the revelations are politically harmless.
They have occurred at just the moment that Mr Hollande has signalled he is ready to adopt market-oriented reforms in an attempt to revive a stumbling French economy. To push through such reforms against the Left of his own party will demand the deployment of all of his personal and political authority. (© Independent News Service)