Two Guys, a Sarko and a Carla
Editor Paul Morris wonders if Sarkozy should have stuck with the age-old tradition of the Royal mistress and if Belgium could do with two with one or two ... or three...
Increasingly over the decades politics has become a popularity show, where sporting the right clothes, beaming the right smile and buying the right media folk have become the prerequisites for a successful career.
In French politics, when it comes to men at least, one further requirement that has not changed is The Mistress. When I first lived in France, President Mitterand was not gallivanting around with heiresses, ex-models or folk singers - he was tucked up on a Friday night with big Helmet Kohl as they controlled Europe over a five course meal. Or so we thought…
Sarko has hardly been in the job five minutes and he’s got himself all three, an heiress-model-chanteuse rolled into one, making him the envy of every hot-blooded male on the Old Continent. And surely it’s that easy: just hang a stunning, talented woman on your arm and your popularity will shoot through the roof. Apparently not. His popularity is on the wane, according to the polls. The French public appear to like their mistresses in a cupboard, safely out of harm’s way, keeping a low profile. Mitterand of course fitted the bill perfectly. When asked about his love child his response was, "Et alors?" So what?
The argument goes that Sarko is too preoccupied with la Bruni to handle the increasingly problematic job of governing France. When the next major strike rocks the country or riots break out in les banlieues can he call on Carla to sing a song in that sweet mellifluous voice and calm the savage beasts? Rumours abound of their marriage behind closed doors while she insists that she’s doesn’t think monogamy works. Plus ca change….
Across the border in Belgium, they would die for the same problem. They would kill their grandmothers for any old Prime Minister never mind a President who is splashed across the world‘s press. Guy Verhofstadt was PM and still is, sort of, for now, till he hands over to another Flemish-speaking ‘Guy‘, Mr Leterme, who is famous for attempting to sing la Brabanconne (the country’s national anthem) in French but could only manage the opening verse of la Marseillaise.
No sign of heiresses falling from the sky to light up talk of constitutional change. But Flanders did produce a gigantic baby recently which at least gave people something to talk about other than the imminent demise of their country as they know it. Not glamorous, sure, but it was a World Record.
Back in 1999 Albert II, King of the Belgians, refused to comment on stories about Delphine Boël, the illegitimate child he had with baroness Sybille de Sélys Longchamps. In his Christmas speech, he alluded to "private matters" and that was that. "Et alors?".
The mistress is engrained in French politics, there is even a Wikipedia page devoted to Royal mistresses through the ages. Charles VI had just one bit-on-the-side Odette de Champsdivers (interesting name) while Charles VII upped the ante, doubling his predecessor’s attempt by messing around with both Agnès Sorel and Antoinette de Maignelai.
By the time Louis XIV of France came along it had turned into an Olympic sport. No less than eighteen paramours are listed for old Louis, including his sister-in-law and a gardener’s daughter who gave birth to a child, giving a whole new meaning to 'sowing your wild seeds'.
Has Sarko broken with tradition at his peril? Should he have kept Carla in the cupboard, as the mistress everyone knows about and can talk about in hushed tones? It may in time prove to be his downfall. The happy couple may be reduced to a deux chevaux with Sarko and Carla stickers on the windscreen. Divested of all power and wealth they might head to the south of the France, to pick grapes for 4 euros an hour and live the simple life beyond the glare. On dark nights when only candles warm the simple barn they have made home, she can always sing a song to warm his cockles. Je suis venu de te dire que je m’en vais…?
Editor Expatica Belgium/France