Sunday, February 03, 2008

French Pres Gets Bruni

If you look close you can see her new wedding band. This is as close as we'll get to a wedding photo....

Sarkozy marries royally with Versailles wedding night

Venue risks unfortunate comparison for president's marriage to Carla Bruni

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Monday February 4, 2008
The Guardian

For a French president likened by critics to a power-crazed elected monarch with a love of "bling-bling", it was perhaps an act of defiance for Nicolas Sarkozy to spend his wedding night in the grounds of the opulent Palace of Versailles.

But wearing his trademark aviator shades, Sarkozy showed off his new première dame yesterday in the park of the palace remembered for revolution, ensuring that his foreign bride would, as with all first ladies, spark comparisons with the ill-fated Marie Antoinette.

Barely 11 weeks after first meeting the Italian ex-model Carla Bruni, Sarkozy married her on Saturday in a hasty private ceremony at Paris's Élysée Palace - an act advisers hoped would stem his dire poll ratings and draw a line under the celebrity romance that has enthralled and nauseated the nation.

The couple refused to issue an official wedding portrait and instead invited a scrum of photographers to pursue them on a stroll through the park after spending the night at Versailles' hunting lodge, which they had made their weekend retreat. They kissed and whispered over a coffee in the palace grounds.

After a highly public romance, which alienated traditional voters, the president went to extreme lengths to keep the wedding secret. Decoy cars were used. Not even an official palace photographer recorded the 10-minute ceremony held on Saturday morning in a room adjoining the presidential office. The bride, marrying for the first time, wore a knee-length white Hermès dress hemmed with light blue. The teetotal bridegroom toasted his third marriage with a glass of orangeade.

François Lebel, the mayor who performed the ceremony before 20 guests, described the couple as "emotional and in love". Sarkozy twice left the celebrations to hold emergency talks about the crisis in Chad.

His guests went for lunch at Mohamed Al Fayed's Ritz hotel before arriving in Versailles for the evening party. Present were Bruni's six-year-old son, and Sarkozy's three sons from previous marriages.

Barely four months after his reluctant divorce from his second wife, Cécilia, her shadow loomed over the wedding proceedings. One of Sarkozy's witnesses was Mathilde Agostinelli, the head of communications for Prada in France and formerly one of Cécilia's best friends.

Relieved officials from Sarkozy's ruling UMP party yesterday hoped the quick wedding and Bruni's new official status would stem his plummeting approval ratings. At 41%, they are his lowest ratings since his election - and owe much to his slowness to push through convincing economic reforms and his very pubic romance.

Bruni, an heiress who left her supermodel career to become a folk-pop singer, is the first première dame who does not depend on her husband's income and has her own career. She has a fortune estimated at £7.5m and signed a pre-nuptial agreement indicating that in the event of divorce, each would keep the assets they had before the wedding day instead of splitting them 50-50.

Bruni, who is working on her third album, has insisted on a recording studio space at the Élysée. "It makes a change to have a first lady with a brain," one ministerial adviser told the Guardian.

The couple's first major state visit will be to Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace next month. The president is also due to visit French Guyana next week, where he publicly appeared with Cécilia before the election to show the nation their relationship was still intact.

Bruni - whose leftwing politics are opposed to Sarkozy's, and who has had a raft of boyfriends, saying monogamy "bores" her - is a very modern first lady.

"With a character as unpredictable as Carla Bruni, Nicolas Sarkozy is running a risk," the political analyst Philippe Braud told Agence France Presse. "If Carla Bruni behaves wisely ... her elegance, her culture, her popularity as an artist and her sense of PR could play a vital role in shaping the image of a modern president, in tune with the times."

But he added Sarkozy could also "end up in situations the French would see as undermining the dignity of his office".

At a market in central Paris, Aline Batut, 75, a retired shopkeeper and Sarkozy voter, said: "I hope this draws a line under it. I want him to stop showing her off and get on with his job."


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