Celebrity President: Nicolas Sarkozy, Carla, Cécilia and Marie-Dominique
Nicolas Sarkozy was elected the sixth president of the Fifth Republic of France in May 2007. Their first celebrity leader, he is a departure from previous French Presidents in that he courts the press and is happy for them to gossip about his personal life - and his personal life got very public when Nicolas Sarkozy got together with the model Carla Bruni. He has now become a bone fide tabloid celebrity with the typical celebrity gossip circulating about him.
France has very strict privacy laws, and the affaires and indiscretions of previous presidents were not really discussed (and in any case the French react to such things with a shrug). Sarkozy has chosen to be more high-profile - they call him le Président Bling-Bling. The French still react mostly with a sardonic shrug, but of course their eternal cousins and rivals across the Channel, the English, are completely fascinated at the idea of the elected leader of the country having such an openly colourful life (English Prime Ministers have had affairs too, but usually these are hidden from the rapacious press and the details have only come out later, and the details are not glamorous. I mean, John Major and Edwina Currie? Please! Who would wish to gossip about them?).
This page is about Nicolas Sarkozy's three consorts, without whom global politics would be very dull indeed.
From left to right, Jacques Martin, Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz, Marie-Dominique Culioli, and Nicolas Sarkozy - Sarko traded Marie-Dominique for Cécilia
The first consort: Marie-Dominique Culioli
Nicolas Sarkozy married Marie-Dominique Culioli on 23 September 1982. Marie-Dominique, the daughter of a chemist from Corsica, had met Sarkozy in 1980 in Paris, while she was a student at the Sorbonne and he had just been elected councillor in the suburb of Neuilly.
Two years after their wedding, Sarkozy presided as Mayor at the nuptuals of Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz and Jacques Martin, a television personality. The two couples were friends and socialised together, and the Sarkozys had two children, Pierre (born 1985) and Jean (born 1987).
Then in 1988, on a skiing trip the two couples had taken, Marie-Dominique discovered that Nicolas was having an affair with Cécilia. She was shocked and upset, and as a good Catholic, did not want to split up.
It was eight years before the divorce was finally granted in 1996, during which time Marie-Dominique had battled with breast cancer.
She had no further contact with Sarkozy, raising their sons separately from his new family. But after his election win in 2007, she phoned him to congratulate him, telling him that she had voted for him. She currently helps their son Jean, who has followed his father's footsteps and has become elected councillor for the suburb of Neuilly, but tries to stay out of the headlines, not wishing to court gossip. She still bears a grudge towards Cécilia, her former friend, for breaking up her marriage.
The second consort: Cécilia Sarkozy (formerly Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz, and now Cécilia Attias)
As soon as Sarkozy's divorce from Marie-Dominique was granted, he wed Cécilia in 1996.
Cécilia had exotic heritage. Her father was a Russian immigrant, who wed Diane Albéniz de Swert, the daughter of a Spanish diplomat, in Paris, whose grandfather was a composer.
Cécilia married the French TV personality and celebrity Jacques Martin, who was 24 years older than her, in 1984, nine-months pregnant in the town hall of Neuilly. The ceremony was conducted by the Mayor of Neuilly, one Nicolas Sarkozy.
It's not known exactly when their affair started, but when Marie-Dominique found out about it in 1988, Sarkozy moved out of the marital home and moved in with Cécilia, who left her husband. Cécilia's divorce from Jacques Martin came through in 1989, but Marie-Dominique was resisting granting Nicolas a dissolution. Naturally all this fueled gossip in Neuilly. Reputedly, the women of the town sided with Marie-Dominique, calling Cécilia "the mayor's whore".
When Sarkozy's decree absolute finally came through, the couple married in 1996. Six months later, Cécilia gave birth to a son, Louis. Cécilia was very ambitious and handled Sarkozy's publicity. She is credited (or blamed) for Sarkozy's celebrity bling bling lifestyle and taste for the high life.
Their alliance was tempestuous. The first public intimation that something was wrong came in 2005, when Cécilia had a public affair with Richard Attias. Sarkozy retaliated with an affair of his own with a journalist from Le Figaro.
The couple appeared to reconcile, but in the lead-up to the 2007 general election, she kept disappearing, though this was the most important moment of Sarkozy's life, as he was running for President. She wasn't present when Sarkozy cast his vote in the first round, and then went on a two-week holiday to Florida, thus missing the crucial two week period between the first round vote and the second round vote, when fierce campaigning takes place. After the election, she stood up President and Laura Bush for a lunch, saying she had a sore throat, and then six hours before a trip to Bulgaria, pulled out of that one too.
The French press expressed disapproval and allies of Sarkozy expressed worry. In October 2007 it was announced that the Sarkozys had divorced by mutual consent.
The third consort: Carla Bruni
Nicolas Sarkozy was very upset about his break up with Cécilia. He appeared to be becoming ever more manic and his approval ratings were steadily sinking. In November 2008 he began dating Carla Bruni, a celebrity super model who bore a striking resemblance to Cécilia when she was younger, in the most high profile manner, publicly canoodling in Egypt among the pyramids, walks on the beach, trips to EuroDisney. The French media were agog in a frenzy of celebrity style gossip. Sarkozy's approval ratings sank further. The French didn't mind that he was finding some solace, but they wanted him to do it discreetly, and above all they wanted him to concentrate on affairs of state instead of his love-life.
Carla Bruni was even more exotic than Cécilia. Born to an extremely wealthy Italian family, they moved to France in the 1970s to protect themselves from a wave of kidnappings targetted at the rich in Italy. She didn't need to work, but began to model, becoming one of the 1980s supermodels in the process, strutting the cat-walk for Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. Because of her celebrity lifestyle, a boatload of gossip and rumours has accumulated about her over the years. She had a reputation as a man-eater, breaking up Jerry Hall's relationship with Mick Jagger. It was claimed that she once slept with both a father and son at the same time (and bore the son's child), but she flatly denies the relationship with the older man and says it was put about by the spouse of the son (whose marriage she broke up). In 2002 she reinvented herself as a folk-singer and was unexpectedly successful.
Just three months after they met, Carla and Nicolas tied the knot in February 2008 in a ceremony at the Élysée Palace. It was rumoured that Nicolas had a crisis before the wedding, sending a text message to Cécilia saying 'If you come back, I'll cancel everything.' (Sarko initially filed libel charges at the magazine that broke the story, and then dropped the legal action).
The 40-year-old Carla Bruni Sarkozy proved to be an unexpected success at being First Lady. For a start, Sarkozy appeared to calm down, his humiliation at being dumped by Cécilia lessened by his marriage to a beautiful celebrity model like Carla. He settled down to work at last.
Her education and ability to speak several languages (unlike Sarko who can only speak French), and always knowing the right clothes to wear, stood her in good stead when making her state visit to Britain with Sarkozy (even though nude photos of her went on auction at Sotherbys during the visit). She has continued to produce songs with potentially embarrassing lyrics such as "You need to understand, you are my lord, you are my love, you are my orgy." Gossip about her and Sarko has now attained global proportions thanks to the circumstances of the alliance and Carla's model good looks. But the French don't seem to mind in the least, because she does the important things right, such as displaying French couture to perfection. In face-offs against the American First Lady, Michelle Obama, these things are important.
At the time of their wedding, people gave it six months, but it looks for the moment as though it might endure at least as long as Sarkozy is President. Carla clearly loves her job of First Lady, and France rather loves her too (she remains more popular than the President). She is France's first Celebrity First lady.
P.S. Carla Bruni is a socialist, unlike the right-wing Sarko, and at the time of the French election (before she met him), supported Sarkozy's rival for the presidency, Ségolène Royal. That means two of his three wives didn't vote for him. Thank goodness for the faithful Marie-Dominique!
A Baby Girl!
Update 19th October 2011 Carla Bruni has just given birth to a baby girl in a clinic in Paris, making Sarko the first French president to father a child in office.
The baby has been named Giulia - a traditional Italian name dating back over 2000 years to the Roman empire (the only child of Caesar Augustus was a daughter named Giulia, after her great-uncle Julius Caesar). Carla's older son is named Aurelien after Marcus Aurelius - she clearly likes her Roman emperors!
Whatever happens to Sarko in the next election, he and Carla have made history. He's the first French president to divorce while in office, the first to marry while in office and the first to have a child in office - it is likely he will be remembered for his private affairs as no other French leader has conducted such a high profile private life since the Bourbons were guillotined.
This baby is Sarko's fourth child and first daughter - he has two sons with Marie-Dominique and one son with Cécilia. The baby is Carla's second child - she has a ten year old son with Rafael Enthoven.
2012 French Presidential Election
The first round of the 2012 French presidential election has been held and Francois Hollande leads Sarkozy. The two men will go through to the second round run-off - it's very close at the moment, but looks like Monsieur Flanby will defeat Monsieur le Bling.
Update 6th May 2012 Nicolas Sarkozy has been defeated in the second round. François Hollande has been elected President of the Republic by 51.9% of the vote.on a turnout of 81.5% of the vote.