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Valerie Trierweiler: From Hollande's paramour to 'pariah'

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Valerie Trierweiler

Valerie Trierweiler

French President Hollande and Valerie Trierweiler in Paris

French President Hollande and Valerie Trierweiler in Paris

Hollande with the politician Ségolène Royal, the mother of his four children

Hollande with the politician Ségolène Royal, the mother of his four children

Thank You for this Moment by Valerie Trierweiler (Biteback) is out now

Thank You for this Moment by Valerie Trierweiler (Biteback) is out now

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Valerie Trierweiler

Just over 10 months ago, Valérie Trierweiler was one of the most powerful women in France: jetting around the world on the presidential plane, hosting state dinners at the Élysée Palace and rubbing shoulders with Michelle Obama.

As her explosive new memoir hit shelves here this week, however, the former first lady told how she went from President Francois Hollande's paramour to "pariah" overnight when news of his affair with French actress Julie Gayet broke earlier this year.

Already a bestseller in her native France, Trierweiler's kiss-and-tell account of her nine-year relationship with the country's 24th president has just been translated into English, as well as 10 other languages.

But it was the language of love in which the twice-divorced mum-of-three first described how she was seduced by Sarkozy's successor on a business trip to the city of Limoges in central France.

And far from his dull 'Mr Normal' image, the 49-year-old describes the first kiss she shared with the Socialist Party leader - 11 years her senior - as something from the silver screen.

Trierweiler, a former political journalist, sets the scene: "We left Paris after lunch. I sat to his right in the back seat of the car. He wasn't his usual self, less jokey. There were silences between us and a certain gravitas.

"As Francois Hollande's loyal driver sped on, Hollande inched closer and took my hand. I was ill at ease but did not claim my hand back. A voice inside me whispered: 'You are mad. It's not too late to stop, take your hand back.' But I did nothing of the sort."

"After [the meeting] we got back on the road," she continues. "My hotel was in Limoges. Hollande had to push on until Tulle. We weren't ready to say goodbye so we went to a cafe. We spoke about our relationship for the first time. Our attraction to each other. His tacit message was that he wasn't interested in a fling: he intimated that he had real feelings.

"When it came to saying our goodbyes, everything between us changed dramatically without either of us fully grasping what was happening," says Trierweiler. "What passed between us in that moment is indescribable, it was like a scene from a film. A kiss like no other kiss I'd ever shared with anyone. A kiss that had been held back for nearly 15 years, in the middle of a crossroads.

"Francois did not drive back to Tulle that evening."

Despite selling 200,000 copies in just two days, and going on to sell 500,000 more, in France however, where the mistress is seen by many as an accepted part of political life, the daggers are out for the woman compared to Lady Macbeth.

As she continued her publicity campaign this week, Trierweiler stood accused of discrediting France and humiliating its president by taking "her Hollande-bashing over the Channel".

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"Valérie Trierweiler is pursuing her work of mass destruction abroad," spat Marianne, a weekly magazine, on its website. "This woman, like Lady Macbeth, is only now motivated by a single passion."

That passion, they claim, is to avenge her ex-partner over his affair with Gayet, which became public on the cover Closer magazine earlier this year.

Indeed, as Hollande's private life faces fresh scrutiny following the publication of photographs of the leader and his latest mistress in the gardens of the Élysée Palace this week, Trierweiler's timing couldn't be better. And almost a year on, the pain of his betrayal, which Hollande confessed to his girlfriend just hours before the magazine hit news stands, certainly hasn't dulled.

"That night, François swallowed a sleeping pill and slept for a few hours on the other side of the bed," tells Trierweiler of the exposé that ended their relationship. "I caught barely an hour's sleep and got up at 5am to watch the news. The 'information' had made the morning news headlines. Suddenly, it was all very real."

"François woke up. I was not going to be able to cope, I could tell. My resolve weakened - I did not want to hear any of it.

"I ran to the bathroom and took the little plastic bag hidden in a drawer among my beauty products. It contained sleeping pills - several sorts, tablets and sleeping syrup.

"Francois had followed me into the bathroom and tried to snatch the bag from me," she writes. "I ran into the room. He caught the bag and it tore. Pills tumbled onto the bed and floor. I managed to grab a few of them and swallowed what I could. I could not bear to live through the next few hours. I could feel the hailstorm that was preparing to hit me. I did not have the strength to withstand it. I wanted to escape one way or another. I passed out."

For her part, Trierweiler admits she now knows what politician Ségolène Royal, the mother of Hollande's four children who he left to be with her, must have felt like.

"All is fair and love and war and I now fully appreciate how betrayal can lead to so much resentment," she says.

"I can easily imagine that during that period Francois behaved with Ségolène Royal as he did with me during his affair with Julie Gayet - which is to say he was the king of doublespeak, ambiguity and perpetual lies."

In retrospect, she even counts their inability to have a child of their own was a blessing in disguise.

"Francois missed his children," explains Trierweiler of their attempt to have a baby. "He had not seen them in months and they collectively refused to see him as long as he stayed with me. I did not want to be responsible for this estrangement.

"Nothing is more important in my eyes than children. I have shared custody of my three boys and I miss them half of the week. So I told Francois that I was willing to try for a baby with him, but only once he had rekindled his relationship with his children.

"Francois did reconcile with his children but nature did not give us the child he had been dreaming of since we met. It is probably for the best.

"Not long ago, I read a book about Francois Hollande in which he told the author that he had never wanted a child with me," she adds. "I was mortified. He then justified himself to me by saying: 'I wasn't about to share our intimacy.' One more lie, and possibly the most hurtful he could ever have uttered."

Then on Saturday January 25 this year, an 18-word statement issued by President Hollande hammered the last nail in their near nine-year relationship.

"[Francois] insisted that we should announce 'our' separation in a joint statement," reveals Trierweiler in her book. "There was nothing 'joint' about it. He was forcing it on me.

"Francois read me the separation statement he had planned to hand in to the AFP [Agence France-Presse]. Eighteen cold and conceited words, each of them like a stab in the heart. I crumpled at the harshness of the phrasing, at the contempt with which he 'made it known' that he was 'putting an end' to his 'shared life with Valerie Trierweiler'.

"I stood up," she adds, "'Go on then! Send your bloody statement out if that's what you want.' He tried to stop me, to wrap me in his arms: 'We can't say goodbye this way. Kiss me.' He even suggested we spend the last night together."

Even as she sat in the Rue Cachy home they once shared, igniting the fuse of the tome that's been described as "political dynamite", the erstwhile first lady claims Hollande tried to win her back, sending her a bouquet of her favourite pink and white roses on their phantom ninth anniversary, along with the love note: "Nine years ago, the kiss in Limoges".

"Barring the pictures of the president with his helmet on, Julie Gayet, the statement, the whole mad situation, yes, it would have been our nine-year anniversary," she looks back. "Despite the fact that there was no anniversary left to celebrate, I agreed to go to dinner with him.

"We spent the evening in an Italian restaurant in our neighbourhood, where we used to go when we lived together. The president and the first lady were no more - there were no more grievances or recriminations, just a poignant mixture of joy and sadness. It felt like a huge waste. An irreparable waste.

"Still, if our love had a name that would be it: 'The Kiss in Limoges.' It is our very own legend. It was a Thursday, April 14, 2005. That date will always mean something to me."

But while their relationship may have begun in a whirl of Hollywood romance, Trierweiler rules out the possibility of a happily ever after for her and the president.

"As the days go by, my anger against Francois grows," she confesses, "how could he have made such a mess of everything? Our relationship and the start of his five-year term.

"He has written to me to explain himself: 'I was lost and I lost myself.' Not a day goes by without him begging for my forgiveness and asking me to start over. I cannot do it, even if I wanted to.

"Until our separation I was in love with him, wildly so," adds the author. "I would have done anything for him to look at me, to compliment me, to be thoughtful and attentive to me. I was 'crazy in love', as they say. As time went by I was just crazy. His unfaithfulness broke the spell."

Thank You for this Moment by Valerie Trierweiler (Biteback) is out now


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