A new biography of French President Emmanuel Macron has revealed his parents shock when they discovered their 16-year-old son was having an affair with his married teacher.
Much has been made of the fact that centrist Mr Macron is married to Brigitte Trogneux, a woman 24 years his senior he met as a 15-year-old schoolboy when she was a teacher at La Providence, a private school in Amiens, northern France.
Writer Anne Fulda, who penned the book Emmanuel Macron: A Perfect Young Man, spoke to the politician’s parents about the scandalous affair that began while Ms Trogneux was a 39-year-old married mother-of-three.
The schoolboy’s parents had believed their son was dating his teacher’s daughter, Laurence, until the truth came out through a family friend.
Shocked at the illicit affair, the Macrons removed the intellectually gifted teenager from the school.
His 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’.”
But she 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.”
Realising the affair would not be a passing phase, she is said to have told the teacher: “Don’t you see? You’ve had your life. But he won’t have children with you.”
His father, Jean-Michel Macron, revealed he “almost fell off his chair” when he learned about his son’s lover: “When Emmanuel met Brigitte, we certainly did not say, ‘How wonderful!”
The shaken parents met Ms Trogneux and asked her not to see their son again until he reached adulthood, but she defiantly told them she couldn’t “promise anything”.
But the future President’s maternal grandmother, Manette, was surprisingly understanding.
Francoise recalled: “My mother, who would never have tolerated such a situation for her own children, showed herself to be much more open and tolerant with regard to her grandchildren’s love affairs.”
Both parents deny any suggestion that they would have threatened to kick the schoolboy out of the house, and insist he was due to go to the prestigious Lycee Henri IV in Paris for the final year of his studies in any case.
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The young Macron was not a student in his future wife’s French classes but in her drama lessons, which she taught as a second subject.
She recalls being in awe of his “exceptional intelligence, a way of thinking that I had never seen before” and said that when she arrived at La Provence, “all the teachers were buzzing about Emmanuel”.
The unlikely pair grew close when they co-authored a play. Ms Trogneux 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 new First Lady of France confirmed to Paris Match magazine last year that a determinedly romantic Macron had vowed to marry her when he was just 17 years old, promising to come back and find her after he was sent to the capital.
“You cannot get rid of me. I will come back and marry you,” he is quoted as having said.
Recalling that his parents “took it badly” when they discovered the affair, Mr Macron said: “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 pair eventually married in 2007 when he was 29 and she was 54 years old. Becoming a very youthful stepfather to her three adult children, he told them at the wedding reception: “Thanks for accepting us, a not-quite-normal couple.”
Mr Macron has become France’s youngest ever President at the age of 39 – the same age as his wife, now 64, was when they met.
Many commentators have said the obsession with their age gap is an example of deeply ingrained misogyny since men in positions of power are frequently married to much younger women.
The details of the role she will play as First Lady are as yet unclear but as a former teacher, Ms Trogneux is expected to concentrate on education reform.