If Emmanuel Macron defeats far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in May’s showdown for the French presidency, the country will have perhaps its most unexpected first lady ever.
Macron’s wife, Brigitte Trogneux, was his drama teacher in high school and is 25 years his senior. He’s 39, she’s 64.
The front-runner was just 16 when he vowed to marry Trogneux – a married mum-of-three at the time – and his parents even tried to put a stop to the schoolboy love affair, according to a new book.
The unusual love story has captivated French tabloids and magazines, and emerged as a major storyline during Macron’s rapid rise towards the Elysee Palace, with both husband and wife hitting back at critics.
Throughout the campaign Macron, an independent centrist, and Trogneux have been photographed embracing and kissing, including during Sunday night’s celebration after he advanced to the May 7 run-off election against Le Pen .
Macron, who quit the Socialist Party to run for president and founded the party En Marche! in April last year, has repeatedly paid tribute to his wife and told his supporters she would play a major role as France’s first lady if he’s elected.
The May-December romance blossomed as Trogneux taught Macron when he was a 15-year-old student at a Jesuit college in Amiens.
A new book says he defied orders from his parents to end the romance and his father ordered Trogneux to stay away from his son until he reached 18.
A tearful Trogneux, then known as Brigitte Auziere (her married name), replied: “I cannot promise you anything.”
Last year she told a French documentary that he wasn’t like the other teenagers in her classes, BBC News reported.
She recalled how he proposed writing a play together, adding: “I didn’t think it would go very far.
“I thought he would get bored. We wrote, and little by little I was totally overcome by the intelligence of this boy.”
At 16, Macron’s parents sent him to Paris to continue his studies but he vowed to marry Trogneux, who was around 40.
Trogneux told the documentary: “We’d call each other all the time and spend hours on the phone.
“Bit by bit, he defeated all my resistance, in an amazing way, with patience.”
The relationship continued after he left for Paris, became an adult and graduated from university, and eventually moved into investment banking, although it was unclear when the romance became a full-blown love affair.
Trogneux joined him in Paris and the couple married in 2007 – she did not take his name – after she divorced her first husband. The pair have not had any children together.
New details about their romance emerged in journalist Anne Fulda’s timely book, “Emannuel Macron: A Perfect Young Man”.
She interviewed Macron, Trogneux and both of his parents, and said they were shocked when they found out he was pursuing his teacher.
Macron’s mother was quoted as saying: “We couldn’t believe it. What is clear is that when Emmanuel met Brigitte we couldn’t just say: ‘That’s great!'”
She later confronted Trogneux saying: “Don’t you see. You’ve had your life. But he won’t have children with you.”
Fulda said Macron’s parents have since accepted the relationship and his mother has since described her as “adorable”.
In the book, Trogneux was discreet about the origins of the affair.
She was quoted as saying: “Nobody will ever know at what moment our story became a love story. That belongs to us. That is our secret.”
Macron, who could become France’s youngest ever president, hit back at critics, saying: “Nobody would call it unusual if the age difference was reversed. People find it difficult to accept something that is sincere and unique.”
Fulda said the couple once avoided publicity but that changed once Macron started running for president.
She told BBC News: “He wants to give the idea that, if he was able to seduce a woman 24 years his senior and a mother of three children, in a small provincial town… despite opprobrium and mockery, he can conquer France in the same way.”
In November 2016, Macron declared that he would run in the election under the banner of En Marche! , a centrist political movement he founded in April 2016.