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article imageBrigitte Macron says will take on informal role as first lady

By Laurence BENHAMOU (AFP)     Aug 17, 2017 in Politics

The wife of French President Emmanuel Macron has said she will adopt the role of first lady, but only in an informal capacity after opposition to plans to give her an official status.

Speaking to Elle magazine in her first interview since her husband's election in May, Brigitte Macron also joked about the couple's age gap -- the young leader is 25 years younger -- and spoke glowingly of their marriage.

The president's plans to create an official status and job for his wife as first lady were shelved in the face of a hostile online petition, but Brigitte, a former school teacher, said she planned to adopt the job anyway, albeit in a different way.

"Like all of those before me, I will take on my public role, but the French people will know the resources at my disposal," said the 64-year-old in an interview to appear on French newsstands Friday.

The weekly magazine will also run the interview in other editions around the world.

Instead of creating an official first lady position -- which would have needed a change in the law or constitution -- the presidency has instead decided to issue a "transparency charter" setting out the funds and staff devoted to Brigitte's activities.

"We'll post my meetings and my commitments on the presidency website, so that the French people know exactly what I'm doing," she said in the article, which includes pictures of her dressed casually in jeans and white T-shirt with a red designer jacket. "What's important is that it is clear."

She is expected to champion the work of charities dealing with education and the disabled.

- 'An adventure' -

Brigitte Macron also spoke about her unusual marriage with Macron, a former pupil in her drama classes at a Catholic high school in the northern city of Amiens.

"When I read about us, I always have the impression I'm reading someone else's story," she said. "Our story is so simple."

Despite the difficulties their relationship caused -- the mother-of-three divorced her first husband in 2006 -- she said she had no regrets.

"If I hadn't made this choice, I would have missed out on my life," she said.

"The only problem with Emmanuel is that he's younger than me," she said.

She told Elle she wants to remain "anchored in reality", revealing that she often goes out incognito for chats with ordinary people.

"With a cap, a headset and glasses you can go to the ends of the earth," she said, adding: "No one can lock me up!"

President Macron has made a mixed start to his five-year term, which has seen his approval ratings topple to 37 percent after 100 days in office, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

Asked about adapting to life in the presidential Elysee Palace in central Paris, Brigitte replied: "With Emmanuel I am so used to extraordinary things happening that I'm always asking myself what the next adventure will be. It's been like that for 20 years."

In his meteoric rise, Macron went from presidential adviser to economy minister to leader in only five years.

In the Elle interview, Macron's wife, the youngest of six children, revealed that when she was eight years old her eldest sister, who was pregnant, died along with her husband in a car crash.

"I have always been terrified of death," she said.

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