French Face of the Week

Star-crossed lovers, haunted by past lives

Star-crossed lovers, haunted by past lives
Elisabeth Lorentz (L) and Eric Holder (R). What is about their past that this week led the President of the Republic to intervene and jeopardize their future? Frederick Florin/AFP
Elisabeth Lorentz and Eric Holder are in love. But this week, a set of facts from their past, and a letter from French President François Hollande himself, threatened to destroy their future. They are our French Faces of the Week.

Who are they?

Elisabeth Lorentz, 48, and Eric Holder, 45.

Why have they been in the news this week?

The two plan to marry next month, and by their own account, “already invested €8,000” in the ceremony.

This week, however, their pre-nuptial excitement was rudely interrupted by the intervention of a certain François Hollande, President of France.

Their life stories, and their plight have fascinated and bemused French readers in equal measure.

Tell me more.

The couple, happy until very recently, both live in Dabo in Moselle in north-eastern France, and it’s there they had been hoping to tie the knot in a civil ceremony on July 28th.

However, a letter from Hollande, sent on June 3rd, has caused a certain stubborn set of facts from their past to play havoc with their future.

For 17 years, between 1989 and 2006, Elisabeth was in a romantic relationship with Eric’s father, and for three years, she was her fiancés stepmother.

How did that come about?

In 1989, at the age of 24, Elisabeth met and got together with an older man, who happened to be Eric’s father from a previous marriage.

Elisabeth and her older beloved had a daughter together in 1997, and were officially married in 2003, making Eric her stepson.

Eric had a daughter himself along the way, and everything ticked along until in 2006, a brutal separation between Elisabeth and her husband left her, and her nine-year-old daughter devastated.

Eric, whose daughter was roughly the same age as his step-sister, was by all accounts a gentleman during this difficult period – offering comfort to his step-sister, as well as to his father’s now former wife.

Bonding over that romantic catastrophe, Eric and Elisabeth saw qualities in each other they hadn’t before.

One thing led to another, the two fell in love, Eric proposed to Elisabeth – bring on the cake and the dancing.

So what’s the problem?

Well, Elisabeth’s divorce from Eric’s father – the event that shook her but eventually gave birth to their passion for each other – doesn’t make a difference in French law.

Despite Eric being Elisabeth's former stepson, his father would have to die for them to be legally married, according to the letter the two received from the Elysée Palace this week.

Even though Eric’s father approves of the relationship, even though he is one of the honoured wedding guests, and even though, as Elisabeth told AFP, “everything is ready,” their union appears to be impossible.

The betrothed are not despondent, but they're certainly not overjoyed by these developments.

"I'm going through a nightmare at the moment," Elisabeth told AFP. "When Eric asked me to marry him, I was so happy. I was on a little cloud. And now, I'm being accused of incest.'

A somewhat bizarre twist is the fact, indignantly raised by Eric in conversation with Le Parisien, that “My mother got remarried to my father’s brother, and that didn’t cause a problem.”

So what happens next?

Elisabeth and Eric have vowed to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if they have to.

And they might be in with a shout of winning. In 2005, the court in Strasbourg, just 50 km from the lovers, ordered the UK to allow the marriage of a stepfather and stepdaughter.

What do others say about them?

“Marriage is prohibited between all ascendants and descendants and those related through marriage.” – Article 161 of France’s Civil Code.

“No allowance can be made in a scenario where the person who created the relationship through marriage is not deceased.” – French President François Hollande in his letter to the couple.

What do they say for themselves?

“Everything is ready: the room, the caterer, the band. I already have my dress and all my accessories. We’re not cancelling anything,” Elisabeth told AFP earlier this week.

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