French election: Macron faces 12 contenders as race begins
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The French population will go to the polls this weekend as Mr Macron seeks to win a second term in office. The incumbent President heads into the first round of voting with a narrow lead in the polls, but faces a fierce challenge from the resurgent Marine Le Pen. Polls project that Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen will go through to the second round of voting on April 24, a repeat of their duel five years ago which saw Macron become France’s youngest ever head of state. Mr Macron only entered the campaign at the last-minute, claiming he had diverted all of his attention to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, while Ms Le Pen has been travelling up and down the country desperate to strike a chord with the French on issues close to their hearts.
Throughout the election campaign, Mr Macron’s wife and First Lady Brigitte has been the talk of the town.
Brigitte, who turns 69 next week, is more than 24 years older than her husband, having met him at the school she worked at.
A 2017 book by journalist Anne Fulda, featured in The Independent at the time, shed new light on their relationship.
The book claims they first met when he was just 16 in La Providence High School in Amiens in 1993, while collaborating on a school play.
Brigitte planted a kiss on his cheek, the book claims, sparking the beginning of a long romance.
The report said: “Before turning 17 Mr Macron was dating his still-married teacher, against the express wishes of his parents.”
Mr Macron’s parents had believed their son was dating Brigitte’s daughter, Laurence, before the truth came out.
They removed him and shipped him off to the elite Lycée Henri-IV in Paris.
Mr Macron’s mother, Francoise Nogues-Macron, told Ms Fulda: “We just couldn’t believe it.
“What is clear is that when Emmanuel met Brigitte, we couldn’t just say, ‘That’s great’.”
His father, Jean-Michel Macron, added he “almost fell off his chair” when he first found out.
He said: “When Emmanuel met Brigitte, we certainly did not say, ‘How wonderful!”
Nonetheless, Francoise added: “What mattered to me was not the fact he was having a relationship with Brigitte but that he was alive and there weren’t any problems.”
Upon realising that her son’s relationship with Brigitte was more than a passing phase, she is said to have told her: “Don’t you see? You’ve had your life.
“But he won’t have children with you.”
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Brigitte, a French teacher who taught drama as her second subject, is reported to have grown close to her now-husband when they were writing a play together.
Brigitte, according to The Independent, told a friend years later: “You know, the day when we wrote the play together, I had a feeling I was working with Mozart.
“The writing became an excuse. I felt that we had always known each other.”
The feelings were very much mutual. Brigitte told Paris Match magazine in 2016 that Mr Macron had vowed to one day return and marry her when he was just 17.
He is quoted to have said: “You cannot get rid of me. I will come back and marry you.”
Mr Macron told Ms Fulda that he had to battle with his parents to lead the life he wished to lead.
He told her: “I had to fight in order to live both my private and my professional life as I wish.
“I had to fight and it wasn’t the easiest or most obvious, not the most automatic thing to do, nor did it correspond with established norms.”
The couple eventually tied the knot in 2007, the year after Brigitte had divorced her first husband.
Brigitte finally spoke out on the age gap in a 2017 interview with the French magazine Elle.
She said: “There are times in your life where you need to make vital choices. And for me, that was it.
“So, what has been said over the 20 years, it’s insignificant.
“Of course, we have breakfast together — me and my wrinkles, him with his youth — but it’s like that.”
She added: “If I did not make that choice, I would have missed out on my life.
“I had a lot of happiness with my children and, at the same time, felt I had to live ‘this love,’ as Prévert used to say, to be fully happy.”
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