Ségolène has made her bed
Helena Frith Powell is not surprised that France’s socialist ‘golden couple’ is no more
François Hollande is one of my least favourite politicians. He is arrogant, unattractive, charmless and French.
Even worse, he’s a socialist.
However, I am beginning to feel rather sorry for him. The reason? Ségolène Royal, the glamorous mother of his children, who until recently was also his “civil partner” of 25 years, has kicked him out.
It is suggested he has been having an affair. While women find powerful men irresistible, it seems men prefer their women a little less ambitious.
Hollande might have been struck by Ségolène’s good looks, style, glamorous clothes, slim figure and perfectly manicured nails, but, when it actually comes to spending time with someone, it seems he prefers someone else.
This is hardly surprising. Presidential candidates are hardly known for their willingness to sacrifice their lives for others.
I would imagine Ségolène is extremely difficult to live with.
I met her a few years ago when I was writing a book about French women. I only spent an hour with her but found her incredibly hard work.
Suffice to say, she didn’t exactly strike me as the homely type. In fact, I was amazed to hear that she had four children.
She was impeccably dressed, slim and about an hour late.
At the time, the French presidential election was nothing more than a dream, a glint in her perfectly mascaraed eye.
But even then she seemed extremely tough, determined, glacial and ambitious.
For all the talk of Ségolène being a woman’s woman, this was not a woman to whom I warmed. I remember being most impressed by the fact that there was a lip-gloss on her table.
Like most French women, Ségolène takes great care of her appearance. In retrospect, however, the lip-gloss was just another illustration of the fact that this is a woman who will use anything, including her looks, to get what she wants.
During her last election campaign speech in May she played the feminine card to the full.
“The time for a woman is here,” she yelled to the adoring crowd. “But will France dare. I say dare, dare, dare!” Can you imagine the uproar if a man had said that France should be run by a man?
Then there’s the fact that, during the final weeks of the election campaign, she took to wearing a wedding ring.
So determined was she to win that she was prepared to wear this symbol of unity to silence those who disapproved that she and François were not wed, when their relationship was seemingly strained.
Her stance on their marital status changed from a “we don’t need a piece of paper” attitude to one of “we may get married” – the most cynical of ploys given that their relationship was in terminal decline.
Maybe if she’d spent more time working on it and less time adapting it to the wishes of the electorate they would still be together.
She may look like the sort of woman that every man would love to be seen with, but I suspect Ségolène is far from easy to live with.
Where on earth was François on her list of priorities? After the politics? After the children? When I met her, she said the one good thing about having so many children was that they tended to look after each other. Sadly that is not the case with lovers, as Ségolène has now found out.
And as if the poor man’s life isn’t miserable enough, she has announced that, come 2008, when his mandate as leader of the Socialist party runs out she’ll be after his job as chairman.
This is obviously the end for the party’s “golden couple”. Perhaps it’s time for another golden couple to take centre stage.
It’s well known that Cecilia Sarkozy is not mad about the idea of living in the Elysée Palace. Ségolène clearly is, so maybe she should move in with Sarko?
But, as we’ve seen from her relationship with François, being a successful political couple is not that easy.
Has anyone ever heard of Mr Merkel? Was Denis Thatcher ever tempted to become an MP? I don’t think so. And therein lies the secret.
Ségolène Royal had two options; pursue her own career or preserve her relationship with a man who was initially more successful than her and unlikely to give it all up. She chose her career. And he, unsurprisingly, chose someone else.
Helena Frith Powell was born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Italian father, but grew up mainly in England. She is the author of eleven books, translated into several languages including Chinese and Russian. She wrote the French Mistress column The Sunday Times about life in France for several years. She is a regular contributor to the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Tatler Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar.
Helena has been the editor of four magazines, including M Magazine, a supplement for the Abu Dhabi-based National Newspaper and FIVE, a high-end fashion glossy, also published in Abu Dhabi. Helena was also editor-in-chief of 360 Life, a quarterly glossy magazine published with the Sports 360 Newspaper in Dubai, part of the Chalhoub Group.
Helena contributes regularly to UK-based newspapers and magazines and holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Cambridge. She is working on a thriller set in Sweden as well as a novel about the relationship between Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield called Sense of an Echo.
In 2022 her short story The Japanese Gardener came second in the Fish Publishing Short Story Prize. One of her stories was also shortlisted for the Bridport Short Story Prize. When she’s not writing, she works as a headhunter for the media and entertainment industry for the Sucherman Group.
Helena, who was educated at Durham University, lives in the Languedoc region of France with her husband Rupert and their three children.
More France Please, we’re British; Gibson Square 2004
Two Lipsticks and a Lover 2005; Gibson Square (hardback)
All You Need to be Impossibly French; (US version of above) Penguin 2006
Two Lipsticks and a Lover; Arrow Books (paperback) 2007
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (hardback) 2006
Ciao Bella Gibson Square; (paperback) 2007
So Chic! (French version of Two Lipsticks) Leduc Editions 2008 (also translated into Chinese, Russian and Thai)
More, More France; Gibson Square 2009
To Hell in High Heels; Arrow Books 2009 (also translated into Polish)
The Viva Mayr Diet; Harper Collins 2009
Love in a Warm Climate; Gibson Square 2011
The Ex-Factor; Gibson Square 2013
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles; Gibson Square 2016
The Arnolfini Marriage; Amazon Kindle December 2016
Smart Women Don’t Get Wrinkles (paperback); Gibson Square spring 2018
The Longest Night; Gibson Square spring 2019