Who do they think they are?
The First Lady of the Republic of France should be incredible. Incredibly alluring. Incredibly passionate. Incredibly charming. Incredibly talked about. Incredibly herself.
Incredibly, I don't think there has been a true First Lady of France since I lived in the Tuileries Palace two centuries ago. Until Carla. A woman with a reputation as deliciously improper as mine.
France feels better about herself when there is an unashamed Joséphine or Carla on the arm of their leader. Of all the great nations in the world, France is the most proudly and impossibly feminine. The famous nouns of France, République, Liberté and Raison are all feminine. The statue of Marianne symbolises the state in town halls and law courts across the country. She represents breaking with the Ancien Régime, which was always led by men. Yet, as poor Ségolène Royal is finding out, France does not want to be ruled by women; she is most happy when her leader is a man under the spell of a woman with the sparkle of devilry in her eyes. Neither a Margaret Thatcher nor an Angela Merkel is electable in France.
Egopendium: can you contribute?
Intuitively, Sarkozy has tuned to this not only because he has a petit caporal complex but because he recognises that a beautiful First Lady could help keep him in power. It is the lesson but not the truth of history that you cannot have a Joséphine without a Bonaparte or a Bonaparte without a Joséphine. He wants France to see me in Carla because it helps everybody to see the Bonaparte in him. In his mind, she is the reality that justifies his pretensions. Not to me. He is a toy bear who thinks he's a Grizzly. He happens, for the time being, to be in charge of the Republic of France but to my mind there would be no other similarities to my husband without Carla. I applaud his choice of partner, if not the man himself. Because I do see the resemblances, both physical and allegorical, between myself and Carla.
Look at her face. She could be my blood, there would be no shock in that. Thanks to my children, Eugene and Hortense, my Beauharnais bloodline weaves through Europe like the Rhine. Could a tributary have meandered into the bed of Marisa Borini, the mother of Carla Gilberta Bruni Tedeschi? I feel so. History is made in the bed of beautiful women, if only because we have more famous lovers. Though never as many as are rumoured.
Carla and I as France likes to see us
We are not entirely French, Carla and I. I am Creole, she is a native Italian. That allows us a wildness which France might not forgive in her own daughters. Although the uptight English, the hypocritical Americans and the brutal Germans are accused of it, it is the French who have the most difficult relationship with sexuality. Open, and at the same time intensely private. In France, a woman with an extravagant sexual history and attached to a man in power is in danger of seeming a whore if she is French. If she not French through and through, the same woman can be forgiven and envied as a romantic ideal.
I am amused by scandal in spite of the harm it can do. Scandal is something breathed on you by those who wished they were afflicted by it themselves. I don't care who you, or anyone then and since, think I slept with. Carla is no better described by her supposed lovemaking than I am. If we eat and drink with men, we must surely sleep with them. It is the law for all women with pretty bosoms, isn't it? My beloved Bonaparte was intoxicated by my lovemaking, that is well recorded in his letters. This is a greater reflection of his lack of experience than my amatory skills. There is no suggestion that 'Sarkoleon' had not been on many bedroom manoeuvres before engaging with Carla but that doesn't mean Carla hasn't eclipsed them all.
Made any connections?
If you can link the past to the present, we’d love to hear from you.
Photo: Carla Bruni, Wikipedia Commons
Photo: Joséphine, Wikipedia Commons
Photo: Carla, connect.in.com
Photo: Joséphine, fotopedia.com
Photo: Jagger, nndb.com
Photo: Hoche, virtualarc.com
Of course, what husbands and wives get up to together is not the stuff of scandal. What entrances France is what we get up to outside the marital bed - with Director Barras, with General Hoche, with Mick Jagger and with Eric Clapton, among many others if the scandal mongers are to be believed. When we are brazen about it, the country's heart flutters even more.
"I want a man with nuclear power, " announces Carla, who is easily " bored by monogamy".
Yet Sarkozy, it seems, has kept her and impregnated her with perfect electoral timing. What a giant the little man must feel.
But Carla can never make him as tall as my husband.
Joséphine’s opinion was interpreted by Will Coe, May 2011
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Hoche and Jagger