France gets first British 'second lady'

17th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 17, 2007 (AFP) - Penelope Fillon from Wales, whose husband Francois on Thursday became France's new prime minister, is the first British-born wife of a French head of government.

PARIS, May 17, 2007 (AFP) - Penelope Fillon from Wales, whose husband Francois on Thursday became France's new prime minister, is the first British-born wife of a French head of government.

Born Penelope Kathryn Clarke 51 years ago, she grew up in the village of Llanover, near Abergavenny in south Wales, where her father George was the local solicitor.

It was there that she married Francois in June 1980. The couple have five children: Marie, Charles, Antoine, Edouard and Arnaud. The youngest was born in 2001.

One of Francois' brothers, Pierre, later married Jane, Penelope's sister.

"Penny" was a law student when she met her future husband in the late 1970s while she was teaching English in a high school in the Sarthe, the northwestern region represented by Francois Fillon in France's senate.

The family currently lives in the Chateau de Beauve, a 12th-century mansion near the city of Le Mans.

The Fillons now have the option of moving into Matignon, the prime minister's official residence in central Paris, but it was not immediately clear whether they will do so.

Francois Fillon, a 53-year-old former social affairs minister, served as Nicholas Sarkozy's political adviser during the presidential campaign.

He is an avid mountain climber and long-distance runner, as well as a sports-car driver who every year gets behind the wheel of a Ferrari to take part in the 24-Hour race at Le Mans.

Like her husband, Penelope is a keen sportswoman with a passion for horseriding.

Locals says she has fully integrated herself in the life of Sable-sur-Sarthe, the electoral fief of her husband, where she was appreciated for her simplicity and openness.

She was described by her former high school French teacher, Alan Breeze, as "an outstanding student, a gifted linguist and a very thoughtful person."

France's "first lady" is Cecilia Sarkozy, wife of the newly-appointed president, who is to live in the Elysee presidential palace just down the road from Matignon with the couple's five children.

Eva Barre, the Hungarian wife of former prime minister Raymond Barre, was the first foreigner to be married to a French head of government under the Fifth Republic that began in 1958.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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