Brigitte Trogneux: From Macron’s teacher to France’s first lady

The relationship between French President-Elect Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte Trogneux has captivated the world.

There is nothing cliche about their story, which began when a 15-year-old Macron took part in a school play directed by Trogneux, 24 years his senior.

Trogneux went from being Macron’s teacher to his partner, and eventually his wife. But through each phase, she has been his mentor and inspiration.

“Without her, I wouldn’t be me,” Macron, 39, declared after winning the first round of voting in April.

Trogneaux — now 64 with seven grandchildren — will become France’s next first lady. Unlike in the United States, the spouses of French leaders have traditionally held more negligible roles in public affairs.

But there is nothing traditional about Trogneaux, nor her presidential muse. Macron has said that if he is elected, he will likely give his wife an official role in his administration.

‘Love took everything in its path’

Trogneux was born to a bourgeoisie family of chocolatiers, the youngest of six children. Like Macron, her hometown is Amiens in northern France.

Before she met Macron, she was on the path to living a relatively conventional life. She had a stable career teaching French literature, Latin and drama, and married a banker, Andre Louis Auziere, with whom she had three children.

“Love took everything in its path and led me to divorce. It was impossible to resist him,” Trogneux told Paris Match magazine in 2016.

She divorced Auziere in 2006 and married Macron a year later, moving to Paris to work as a teacher.

In 2015 she gave up her career to focus on her husband, who was at the time the country’s economy minister.

In a documentary by France3 TV, Trogneux is depicted as Macron’s coach. In one scene, she guides him through a practice run of a speech, cutting in to tell him to lift his voice.

“Every night we debrief together and we repeat what we have heard about each other,” she told Paris Match.

“I have to pay attention to everything, do the maximum to protect him.”

Her adult children, Sebastien, Laurence and Tiphaine, are reported to have a good relationship with their stepfather and have been seen campaigning for Macron in T-shirts bearing En Marche!, the name of Macron’s party.

In fact, Macron made sure to get the blessing of Trogneux’s children before proposing.

“It was a powerful act because not everyone would have taken that precaution, to come and ask us for her hand in marriage. I mean, it wasn’t quite like that, but he did want to know if this was something we could accept,” Tiphaine Auziere told BFMTV.

Celebrating an atypical family

It’s not clear when a serious romance began between the two, but Macron appeared to be a young man who knew what he wanted — at 17, he professed his love for Trogneux.

“Whatever you do, I will marry you,” he told her as he left Amiens to study elsewhere.

But Macron’s parents didn’t approve of their son’s romance with Trogneux. His father told Trogneux to back off until his son was at least 18, Reuters reported, citing the book “Emmanuel Macron: A perfect young man,” by Anne Fulda.

“Nobody will ever know at what moment our story became a love story. That belongs to us. That is our secret,” Trogneux was quoted as saying.

Philippe Besson, a friend of the couple, acknowledged that not everyone was so accepting of their relationship.

“They both had to face hostile looks, even the reluctance of their respective families and also the view of our society about the age difference,” Besson told BFMTV.

“Especially when the woman is older, (people are) always suspicious.”

To put things in perspective, US President Donald Trump is 24 years older than Melania Trump, but few people are making a fuss about their age gap.

Macron and Trogneux have been determined to ensure that their relationship is not painted as some sort of scandal.

They have made a point of making their relationship public, posing in glossy French magazines and describing their marriage as a celebration of an atypical but loving modern family.

“We do not have a classic family, it’s undeniable,” Macron said at a recent En Marche! event.

“But do we have less love in this family? I do not think so. Maybe there’s even more than conventional families.”

CNN’s Holly Yan, Melissa Bell and Judith Vonberg contributed to this report.

By Angela Dewan