Emmanuel Macron is 24 years younger than his wife, and the incoming French president is exasperated that people keep talking about it.
Discussing the assumptions and rumors about his relationship with his wife, Brigitte, Macron said the parisian newspaper this week that “if I had been 20 years older than my wife, no one would have thought for a second that I couldn’t be.
It’s a sentiment that many French women seem to relate to. speaking to washington postMary Jordan of before the election, some suggested that the Macrons’ marriage was a social “revenge” for years of powerful men seeking younger wives. But she begs the question: how unusual is Macron’s May-December romance in French politics anyway?
When he takes office, Macron will be the only leader of France’s Fifth Republic younger than his partner; no surprise there. However, the Macrons will also have the largest age gap of any French first couple under the Fifth Republic. Charles de Gaulle and François Hollande were nearly a decade older than their partners when they took office, but those relationships are less than half the age difference that the Macrons have.
However, the complicated love lives of some French leaders make this comparison a bit more complicated. To the delight of French tabloids, both Hollande and his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, parted ways with their respective partners during their stay at the Elysee Palace. Hollande quickly struck up a relationship with actress Julia Gayet, 18 years his junior, while Sarkozy married former model Carla Bruni, 13 years his junior.
Another factor is the fact that many French presidents have known extramarital affairs. François Mitterrand’s long but covert relationship with art historian Anne Pingeot is now widely recognized and quite accepted. The couple had a daughter together, and Mitterrand would appear with her in public later in her life. Pingeot was 27 years younger than Mitterrand.
Around the world, the picture is even more complicated. If you look at the leaders of the 20 largest economies in the world, at least three have age differences with their partners that are at least as large as those of the Macrons: President Jacob Zuma (38 years old) of South Africa, President Michel Temer (33 years old) from Brazil and President Donald Trump (24 years old) from the United States. However, there are complexities here as well, some resulting from social differences. For example, Zuma may top the list above, but he, too, is a polygamist. His wives are of different ages.
Little is known about the current wife of Saudi King Salman, so she is not included. Meanwhile, the age of the discreet wife of Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Emanuela Mauro, is not publicly known. And Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is separated from his wife, while Russian President Vladimir Putin split from his wife in 2013 (although he has since been linked to several younger women).
However, it seems clear that the leaders of the world’s largest economies tend to favor younger partners. There is only one who joins Macron in choosing an older wife: Angela Merkel. The German Chancellor’s husband, Joachim Sauer, is five years older.
© The Washington Post