PARIS – Valerie Trierweiler rose from modest origins to having her own office at the Elysee Palace, but the glamorous journalist never managed to win over the French during her short stint as first lady.
That role came to a messy end on Saturday when her partner, President Francois Hollande, announced they had split two weeks after a scandal erupted over his affair with actress Julie Gayet.
The feisty 48-year-old was herself once the other woman, remaining Hollande’s secret companion as he kept up appearances with ex-partner Segolene Royal for her failed 2007 presidential campaign.
That same year Hollande split with Royal, the mother of his four children, and his relationship with Trierweiler was made public. In October 2010 Hollande, then the head of the Socialist Party, told the popular magazine Gala: “Valerie is the love of my life.”
But the elegant brunette ran into trouble just a few weeks after Hollande’s 2012 presidential victory when she tweeted her support in legislative elections for the independent candidate standing against Royal.
To the French, the tweet was a zinger aimed directly at her former love rival, who had shared Hollande’s life for three decades, and Trierweiler’s reputation suffered, with many deeming her haughty and arrogant.
Four months later Trierweiler apologized, saying she had made a mistake “that won’t happen again.”
Although France does not have an official first lady, Trierweiler — dubbed the “First Girlfriend” by U.S. media and “Rottweiler” by her detractors — did have a small staff at the Elysee presidential palace, including a chauffeur.
After Hollande’s election, Trierweiler cut down her work at Paris Match, occupying herself with charitable work.
She had also previously worked for the private television station Direct 8, doing interviews and presenting a political show.
But her life in the Elysee Palace began to unravel when on Jan. 10, the glossy magazine Closer published pictures of Hollande visiting his 41-year-old lover. Later reports said they had been seeing each other since before his election.
The news hit Trierweiler hard, and she checked into hospital for what was reported as “fatigue” on the same day the report came out, remaining there for a week.
The first question posed to Hollande at a Paris news conference a few days later was “is Valerie Trierweiler still the first lady?” But the French leader stalled on clarifying the situation for two weeks.
While France demanded clarification on her official status, Trierweiler won sympathy from former first lady Bernadette Chirac, whose husband, Jacques, had confessed to a roving eye.
Chirac said she “shares her sorrow,” and added that being in the limelight and first lady was not easy.
Born on Feb. 16, 1965, to what she termed “a bourgeois family that had lost its fortune” and lived in a modest neighborhood, Valerie Massonneau Trierweiler is the fifth of six children.
While her grandfather had run a bank at one time, her father was physically handicapped and, after his death, her mother worked at a local ice skating rink to make ends meet.
Originally from Angers, western France, she made her way to Paris to study political science and communications at the Sorbonne, where she met and married Denis Trierweiler, with whom she had three sons before their divorce.