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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Valérie Trierweiler - the French president's "first bodyguard"

Valérie Trierweiler hasn't had an easy time with the media since François Hollande came to power.

And finding the right title for a woman filling a role which, although it doesn't officially exist, has in the past been one whereby the spouse would most likely devote herself to philanthropy and charity work all the while steadfastly supporting her husband, has been equally difficult.

The image - at least the one portrayed by her puppet in the popular satirical programme "Les Guignols" - is one of a dominating woman who doesn't suffer fools gladly and has her buffoon of a better-half firmly under her thumb.

It might be an exaggerated and not entirely accurate representation, but it's one that sticks.

Valérie Trierweiler (screenshot from "Les Guignols")

As does a term coined during campaigning for the presidential elections last year, when a member of the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (Union for a Popular Movement, UMP), Lionnel Luci, dubbed her "Rottweiler".

Perhaps Trierweiler hasn't helped herself, either in terms of how she's perceived or what she is supposed to be called.

The weekly news magazine, L'Express, nicknamed her the "minister of jealousy" back in June 2012 when she made that infamous Tweet in support of Olivier Falorni, the rival to Ségolène Royal in the parliamentary elections.

CNN didn't know quite how to describe Trierweiler when she accompanied Hollande on his first official trip to the United States shortly after taking office. The couple aren't married and there's no sign from either of them that the knot is going to be tied any time soon (if at all).

In the end the channel plumped for "first girlfriend".

In October last year Trierweiler announced she would be involving herself more in that catch-all term "humanitarian affairs" - mainly with children - and that it would take precedence over her work as a journalist.

She continues to write for Paris Match - but only on culture rather than politics.

Everything seemed to be settling into a more-or-less familiar "first lady" pattern.

Except last weekend there was an "incident" which brought back memories of why Luca's "Rottweiler" insult still resonates.

Trierweiler accompanied Hollande to Tulle, the town in which he used to be mayor and member of parliament.

It was the chance for the French president to gather his thoughts - albeit briefly - from the previous week's revelations in the Cahuzac affair and recharge the batteries in a place where he's apparently still liked.

At one point Hollande, complete with security detail of course, decided to go walkabouts and meet and greet.

Trierweiler was there too - not so much to smile sweetly and press some flesh: more to show how heavy her hand could be when the cameras got a little to close (for her liking) to her other half.

Keep a close eye on what happens at 40 seconds on the accompanying video from Monday evening's "Le Petit Journal" on Canal +.

It's surely Trierweiler at her "bodyguard" best.

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