Meet Valérie Trierweiler, France’s Unmarried ‘First Lady’

A brief introduction to the woman accompanying President-elect François Hollande to Élysée Palace later this month

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Charles Platiau / Reuters

France's newly-elected President Francois Hollande and his companion Valerie Trierweiler celebrate on stage during a victory rally at Place de la Bastille in Paris early May 7, 2012. France voted in elections on Sunday and Francois Hollande becomes the nation's first Socialist president in 17 years.

Filling Carla Bruni’s Louboutin shoes would be a daunting prospect for anyone, but will certainly be executed with ease by the next woman charged with such a task.

Valérie Trierweiler, 47, the partner — or “companion” as she prefers to be called — of new French President-elect François Hollande, is already relatively familiar to the French public, as a feisty journalist for Paris Match magazine and from work as a political talk-show presenter.

Hollande insists that, unlike his predecessor, he will not have a speedy marriage to his partner, who is to be the first unmarried Première Dame in France’s history. She therefore cannot officially hold the First Lady title, but her dedication to pursuing her own career after her partner takes control on May 15 as the first French Socialist Prime Minister in nearly two decades suggests that she’s not the kind to mind.

(MORE: After Winning the French Presidency, What Will François Hollande Do Next)

A twice-divorced mother of three, Trierweiler reportedly began her relationship with Hollande in 2005, despite claims that Hollande and former Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal, who had been together for 30 years, were still a couple during the 2007 French election campaign. Hollande and his new partner only went public in 2010.

Ever hungry to dissect female public figures, media commentators have already begun branding Trierweiler as “chic” and “classic” and remarking upon her sartorial choices. Even Reuters has fallen for her appearance, fawning over her “look reminiscent of late Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn.” In fact, rather than focusing on her own image, it is claimed that Trierweiler played a key role in transforming her erstwhile bland boyfriend into a serious contender for the French presidential position, supposedly helping him lose 10 kg and instructing him to wear glasses with thinner frames.

(MORE: Who Is François Hollande? What You Need to Know About France’s Next President)

She also played her part at the political side of the Socialist’s presidential bid, stationing herself at his campaign headquarters, ready to be consulted on major decisions, according to the Sunday Times. Hollande’s campaign staff members apparently were careful never to disturb him if the words mon amour flashed up on his phone, knowing that it meant Trierweiler was calling and that he would be listening attentively.

It seems that despite conveying a public persona almost diametrically opposed to the glamorous, camera-friendly Bruni, the engagingly independent Trierweiler will capture just as much attention from the press and public. Yet as Hollande told the world before being elected: “I will present myself alone before the French. Alone. This is not a couple presenting itself but one person who must convince with his ideas, his approach.” We’ll soon see.

MORE: François Hollande: France Needs a Return to Fairness