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POLITICS

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.

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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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POLITICS

Macron vs the unions: What happens next in France?

French President Emmanuel Macron is facing his biggest standoff with France's trade unions since coming to power in 2017, with the outcome of a series of strikes and protests seen as decisive for both sides.

Macron vs the unions: What happens next in France?

The 45-year-old leader has made raising the retirement age a signature domestic policy of his second term in office — something the unions and millions of protesters are determined to block.

After two days of nationwide strikes and demonstrations, AFP looks at what is likely to happen next on the streets, in parliament, inside the government, and in wider French public opinion.

On the streets

Labour leaders were delighted with their second day of protests on Tuesday, which they claimed had seen around 2.5 million people hit the streets, including in many small and medium-sized towns.

Official estimates put the figure at 1.27 million, compared to 1.1 million people during round one on January 19th, according to the interior ministry.

READ MORE: Calendar: The latest French pension strike dates to remember

Momentum is clearly with the unions who announced two further days of protests and strikes next week, on Tuesday and Saturday.

“The movement is growing and spread across the whole country,” the head of the hard-left CGT union, Philippe Martinez, said on Wednesday.

Nevertheless, unions no longer have the ability to paralyse the country and working-from-home practices mean most white-collar workers can easily adjust to transport stoppages.

The biggest fear of authorities is a repeat of the 2018 so-called “Yellow Vest” protests — a spontaneous movement drawn mostly from the countryside and small-town France that led to shockingly violent clashes with police. 

“The trauma was so big and the violence so great, I don’t see it happening again for the moment,” Bruno Cautres from Sciences Po university in Paris told AFP earlier this month. 

In government 

The government was expecting a rough ride — few major policy changes happen in France without protests, and former president Nicolas Sarkozy faced similar resistance with his pension reform in 2010.

Macron has faced numerous challenges from the unions in the past and has always succeeded in pushing through his pro business agenda and social security reforms.

The only exception was his first attempt at pension reform — also highly contested — which he withdrew in 2020 during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has been the public face of the latest proposals, while Macron has kept his statements and appearances to a minimum, as is his habit.

But with the battle lines hardening and protests growing, the president might be forced to enter the fray. 

“I think the president will speak, but not right now,” a minister told AFP on condition of anonymity. “If he did it now, it would look like we’re panicking.”

In parliament

The draft legislation will be debated for the first time in the 577-seat National Assembly from Monday.

Macron’s allies are the largest group with 170 seats, but they do not hold a majority after a weaker-than-expected showing in June elections.

Support from the 62 rightwing Republicans (LR) party MPs will be essential.

LR has long supported raising the retirement age, but there are doubts over how many of their MPs will give the government their backing.

“I’m not asking the government to give in to the protests. This reform needs to be done,” LR parliamentary party chief Olivier Marleix said on Wednesday.

The lower house debate will finish on February 17th at the latest when a vote can be called — or the government could transfer it to the Senate or ram it through with controversial executive powers that dispense with the need for a ballot.

The bill is expected to pass the conservative-dominated Senate, where a vote is to take place by mid-March.

Public opinion

The latest polling figures show a growing majority opposes the reform and supports the protests, with roughly two in three people against the proposals.

Ministers have struggled to find winning arguments, at times arguing the changes are needed to reduce government spending, at others insisting they will make the pension system fairer.

“The government has not won with the argument that it is necessary,” Bernard Sananes, the head of the Elabe polling group, told AFP. “And it is fighting on another, more intense front which is that the reform is seen as unfair.”

In private, Macron’s allies insist their best hope is for parliament to quickly approve the legislation that will never be popular but might grudgingly be accepted as necessary.

“The question is how big the protest movement will be and how long it will last,” the minister told AFP.

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