French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Emmanuel Macron

Two aspects of Emmanuel Macron's story are very well known - he created a new party was elected president at the age of just 39, having never before held elected office, and his wife is the much older woman who he met while he was just a teenager. But here's some things you might not know about him.

French elections: 5 things you didn't know about Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP

1 He’s pretty nippy in midfield – We’re talking football here, Macron is a lifelong supporter of Olympique Marseille, despite being from Amiens which is pretty much the opposite end of the country to Marseille (although this is not usual, Paris-Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille have fans all over France).

He also plays, taking part in a charity football match in late 2021, where footage shows him taking a penalty. True to political form, his shot went straight down the centre to find the goal.

VIDEO Macron’s charity football game

2 He was actually only a banker for four years – One of the things that is often cited about Macron is that he’s a former investment banker – and it’s true he worked for the private Rothschild & Cie Banque between 2008 and 2012.


But in his working life before becoming president at the age of 39, only four years were spent at the bank. The rest of his career was working as a technocrat and economic adviser, before taking up a role in François Hollande’s government in 2012.

3 He’s a bit of an anglophile – Undoubtedly a proud Frenchman, keen to restore France to glory on the world stage, Macron is also a fluent English-speaker and enjoys a bit of anglophone culture, according to his former PM Edouard Philippe, who revealed in his book that he and the president had discussed theories of power in relation to Star Wars and Game of Thrones.

Macron also has an English great-grandfather, although he never met him.

4 He is a (possibly erotic) novelist –  Macron has often said that his first dream was to become a writer and it’s known that as a very young man he wrote a book telling the story of a young man falling in love.

Very few people claim to have actually read this so it’s not clear whether is merely a romance or something a little spicier. If he has written erotica it doesn’t make him unusual – it seems to be practically compulsory for French politicians.

5 He has blue eyes like a lake in the sunshine – Well, that’s according to his economy minister Bruno Le Maire, who described Macron as having “a blue gaze tinted by metallic sparkles, like a lake burdened with sunshine whose surface it would have been impossible, under the scintillating reflections, to pierce” in his most recent book.

He certainly has blue eyes and he also appears to have the politician’s trick of charming his audience, many people report being convinced and converted after a one-to-one meeting with the president.  

And the thing that everyone ‘knows’

Macron has repeatedly paid tribute to the influence that his grandmother Manette, a teacher, had on his childhood.

But the other great influence on his life is another teacher, his wife Brigitte. The two have faced down decades of gossip, jokes and hostility due to their unconventional relationship with its 24-year age gap, which began when he was still at school and she was a teacher, married with teenage children.

But 26 years after meeting they are still together and after a rocky start Brigitte’s adult children from her first marriage now reportedly have a good relationship with the stepfather who is close to them in age. His stepchildren campaigned for him in 2017.

The couple have no children of their own, but have adopted a rescue dog – Nemo. 

Member comments

  1. His wife had an affair with her student – stop the whitewashing.

    In most countries that’s a crime, not “unconventional”.

    1. Utter nonsense. There was no “affair” when he was at school, no proof of any criminal conduct, despite several journalistic investigations, and then a number of books. It was a one-sided infatuation at that stage. She moved schools when she realised his attention was becoming the subject of rumours, and his parents then moved him to go to school in Paris, believing this to be a teenage fantasy that would disappear over time. She was married then, with three kids, but they kept in touch, and met openly when he was working, much later. The claim of “whitewashing” is often made, especially by his political opponents, but no friends, acquaintances, family or colleagues have ever hinted at anything untoward when he was at school, despite much encouragement to do so. Your claim is as baseless as it goes, and is entirely typical of the level of hostility they have met over the years since they married.

  2. Mike, you are totally lost. I live in France and I’ve never heard anyone defend him like you are.

    Macron’s parents asked her to stop contacting Emmanuel – she flat out refused. She refuses to say when their relationship became sexual – clearly something to hide.

    The list goes on and on, but I’m talking with some troll. Anyone else: 2 minutes of research and you find a wealth of info on this.

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EXPLAINED: Does France really have a hijab ban?

As Iranian women burn their hijabs in protest at the country's repressive laws you might have heard people contrasting this to the French 'hijab ban' - but is the Muslim headscarf actually banned in France?

EXPLAINED: Does France really have a hijab ban?

What are the rules? Does France have a hijab ban?

No, France does not have a ban on hijabs in public spaces. However, the rules differ when it comes to headscarves and full-face coverings and this can be confusing because both the full-face veil and the Muslim headscarf are often referred to a voile in French.

In 2010, the country brought in a complete ban on clothing that includes full-face coverings – including the burka and niqab. These cannot be worn in any public space in France, at risk of a €150 fine.

The hijab or headscarf, however, is completely legal in public spaces including shops, cafés and the streets and it’s common to see women wearing them, especially in certain areas of the big cities like Paris.

However, that doesn’t mean there is no restriction on women’s freedom to wear the Muslim headscarf.

In line with France’s laws on laïcité (secularism) it is forbidden to wear overt symbols of religion – including the Muslim headscarf – in government buildings, including schools and universities (with the exception of visitors).

Public officials such as teachers, firefighters or police officers are also barred from wearing any overt symbol of their religion while they are at work.

In 2004, President Jacques Chirac’s government banned all religious signs from state schools. While the law also banned crucifixes and kippas, “it was mostly aimed at girls wearing Muslim headscarves,” explained The Local’s columnist, John Lichfield.

Burkinis are also subject to certain rules. They are not allowed in public swimming pools in France where there are strict regulations regarding dress (Speedos only for men and compulsory swimming caps), but they are allowed on beaches and in other public spaces.

READ MORE: Burkini: Why is the French interior minister getting involved in women’s swimwear?

This became a source of controversy during the summer of 2022, when Grenoble challenged the ban on the full-body swimsuit by relaxing its rules on the swimwear permitted in public pools.

In response to the challenge, France’s highest administrative court voted to uphold the countrywide ban in June. 

What about in athletics?

Some federations, such as the French Football Federation, have banned players from wearing the hijab, along with other “ostentatious” religious symbols such as the Jewish kippa.

A women’s collective known as “les Hijabeuses” launched a legal challenge to the rules in November last year.

Other sports, such as handball and rugby, have a more open position.

Are there plans to change these rules? 

Currently, there are no government plans to reverse the ban on full-face coverings including the burka and niqab or to allow the symbols of religion in public buildings, like schools.

There have been attempts to change the current legal framework on the headscarf, however.

In 2021, Senators proposed an to the government’s “anti-separatism bill” that would ban girls under 18 wearing a hijab in public. Several other amendments also targeted Muslim women – such as banning mums from wearing the hijab when accompanying school trips – however these were all defeated in the Assemblée nationale and therefore did not become law.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What does laïcité (secularism) really mean in France?

Are the rules followed?

The rules around the niqab are generally followed and it has become quite rare in France.

However sociologist Agnès De Féo, believes that in the years following its ban, the full-face covering became more popular, rather than less.

She wrote that “the law had an incentive effect: it incited women to transgress the ban by embracing the prohibited object. Prohibition made the niqab more desirable and created a craze among some young women to defy the law.”

As of 2020, however, fewer women wore the niqab and burka in France than they did in 2009.

The rules around the wearing the headscarf in public buildings are generally respected, but it’s not uncommon for rules around any form of Muslim dress to be over-zealously interpreted – sometimes by accident, sometimes with a cynical political intent.

One key example was in 2019, when Julien Odoul, a member of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) party, caused widespread outrage after posting a video of himself confronting a headscarf-wearing woman who accompanied students on a field trip.

He cited “secular principles” – arguing that the headscarf’s ban in schools should also extend into school trips.

In response, the country’s Education Minister at the time, Jean-Michel Blanquer, clarified that that “the law does not prohibit women wearing headscarves to accompany children.”

There was also controversy at election time over candidates who appeared on posters wearing the hijab, although again this is perfectly legal and doe snot contravene secular principles.