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The rules on what might loosely be described as “dating” for the occupants of the White House, No 10 Downing Street and the Elysée Palace have been generally restricted, in the case of the US and the UK, to “don’t get caught” and, so far as France is concerned, to “don’t worry, they [the press] will never dare print it”.
Some American Presidents, British Prime Ministers and French Presidents seem to have had unsuspecting wives, or perhaps wives who chose to disregard their husband’s escapades. Bill Clinton nearly came to a sticky end over his philanderings; John Major succeeded in hiding his affair until long after he left office; and Francois Mitterrand had a second family by his mistress amid an extraordinary conspiracy of silence and what were, until recently, onerous privacy laws.
So how would French President Nicolas Sarkozy, two months after being divorced by his prickly wife Cécilia, go about cementing a new relationship? Rule One: forget discreet. The French media have already slipped the leash, and the story is simply too big to ignore. Rule Two: aim high, and find someone spectacularly attractive. It is not often that a rather short 53-year-old divorcee has all the trappings of state at his disposal, including a 24-hour bullet-proof chauffeured limousine and a presidential palace with private dining facilities that Michelin would award three rosettes. Rule Three: find someone rich, so if it all goes wrong, they will not want a share of your assets. Rule Four: make it public, and like all canny politicians, choose the best moment to distract attention from policy failings, such as the embarrassing visit to Paris by the Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. Sex is also a wonderful PR antidote to the negative effect of recent strikes, called by the French trade unions in a bitter struggle with the government to protect their privileges.
Last November Sarkozy met Carla Bruni, also divorced, and described by one newspaper as ‘Mick Jagger’s Italian supermodel ex-lover’, just in case anyone thought she might be dull, at a dinner party hosted in the French capital by Jacques Seguéla, a millionaire advertising baron. Apparently it was love at first sight and by 17 December the happy couple had become a family item, taking Carla’s six-year-old son Aurelien and Nicolas’s ten-year-old son Louis to Disneyland Paris in time for the highlight of the day, the Mickey Mouse Grand Parade. Given the pre-Xmas crowds, this was somewhere they might well have remained completely anonymous, had not some select members of the paparazzi, mysteriously alerted, arrived to take intimate pictures of the couple.
Hitherto Carla Bruni could fairly be described as a ‘B’ list celebrity, despite a lucrative modelling career with annual earnings of £4M, which according to Business Age put her among the top 20 models back in 1998. She was discovered by Paul Mariano, creative director of the Guess Inc agency, who was thumbing through photographs of aspiring models and picked out her picture. Carla, then 19, and studying arts and architecture at the Sorbonne, gave up her degree course in favour of the catwalk. If the French President’s staff were ever called upon on to brief their head of state fully on his romantic campaign, long before the couple ended up between the sheets and Sarkozy was able to see for himself, they could have downloaded dozens of pictures of Carla stark naked, both official and unofficial, taken during the course of her high-profile career.
Carla Bruni was already notorious for a series of well documented affairs with the famous, Jagger, Eric Clapton, Kevin Costner and Donald Trump allegedly among them. She was supposedly the catalyst for Jagger and Jerry Hall’s break-up and said to be the woman who came between Trump and Marla Maples. Carla was categorised, no doubt unfairly, as a “man-eater”, and one Italian gossip columnist described her as ‘the rich husband’s wife’s worst nightmare’. However, Sarkozy should be encouraged by the fact that Jagger was already aged 55 when Carla fell for him.
The Italian connection is Bruni’s parentage. She was born Carla Bruni Tedeschi, at 6.10 pm. to be exact, in Turin on 23 December 1967, so her recent birthday, celebrated with Sarkozy, was a highly significant 40th. Her father, Alberto Bruni Tedeschi, the owner of Pirelli tyres, and her mother, actress Marysa Borino, moved their entire family – including Carla’s brother Valeria and sister Virginia - to Paris for fear of kidnap by the Red Brigade, when Carla was five. French is practically her first language, which is just as well, because Sarkozy speaks even less Italian than English.
Carla is multi-talented, not just a model with superb skin, brown hair, blue eyes, high cheek bones, long legs (she is 5ft 9in tall), and a perfect 34B-23-35 figure, according to the ubiquitous Celebrity Sleuth magazine. Friends describe her as the intellectual equal of her ex-husband, philosophy professor Raphael Enthoven. She plays the guitar and is an accomplished singer and songwriter, with two highly successful folk albums, the second with English lyrics. Her profile has been further enhanced by three appearances on the cover of Elle magazine.
As a tyre millionairess, Carla has never wanted for anything. She went to a finishing school in Switzerland, owns a penthouse in Paris with fabulous views, and a house in Saint-Tropez. Sarkozy is not known to adore Siamese cats, but he will have to get used to them, because Carla has two, Betty and Mitzy. In time the President may also find his new love blunt, sarcastic and self-centred, according to her modelling rivals, and prone to terrorising hotel staff for the slightest error. Expect some old retainers in the Elysée to disappear quickly should Carla become France’s First Lady.
From our January 2008 e-newsletter