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'The bride looked ravishing as usual … and the groom wasn't bad, either'

DEEP in conversation and with their wedding rings sparkling in the morning sun, it appears a photographer had a lucky break when he discovered the French President and his new wife enjoying a private moment in a French café.

But, given the rather flattering angle of the lens and the handy positioning of the wedding bands, many might be forgiven for thinking the romantic coffee morning was a pre-arranged publicity stunt with photographers told exactly where to be to get the best shot.

The couple, president Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni, the Italian-born supermodel-turned-singer, married at the Elyse Palace in a secret civil ceremony on Saturday that lasted around 20 minutes.

Francois Lebel, mayor of Paris' eighth arrondissement, who conducted the service, told Europe-1 radio that the bride looked "ravishing as usual", and "the groom wasn't bad, either".

The pair spent their wedding night in La Lanterne, a former hunting lodge near the palace at Versailles and they were spotted yesterday taking a stroll, hand-in-hand, in Versailles' gardens.

The two hosted a small wedding dinner on Saturday night at La Lanterne. The wedding ceremony, which took place in the presence of around 20 family members and close friends, was "a moment of family intimacy for the young newlyweds, of great simplicity and apparently a lot of affection between the spouses", Mr Lebel said.

There was speculation that former prime minister Tony Blair, who was in Paris for a meeting, also attended.

Bruni wore a white, knee-length dress with a 4in (10cm) wide navy-blue band around the hem, by Paris designer Herms.

After the couple had exchanged vows, guests were served orange juice before retiring to The Hotel Ritz on the nearby Place Vendome for lunch. Then it was on to the evening reception in the 18th-century hunting lodge adjacent to the Chateau de Versailles.

It is believed that one of the reasons for the couple marrying so quickly – just two-and-a-half months after they met and three-and-a-half months after Mr Sarkozy's divorce from second wife Cecilia – is next month's planned state visit to Britain.

"Speedy Sarko" as the hyperactive president is nicknamed in France, is said to be concerned about being a guest of the Queen at Windsor Castle if he and Ms Bruni were not married. Last month, he faced difficulties over protocol concerning an official visit to India. Ms Bruni finally remained behind in Paris.

The supersonic speed, and non-stop media coverage, of their romance has raised hackles even in liberal France. He is 53; she is 40. It is his third marriage, though her first. He is a right-winger with a reputation as a tough upholder of law and order; she is a Socialist voter who demonstrated last year against his immigration policy.

"I can't believe it is real. It must be a show. It has all gone too fast and I don't think she understands what she has let herself in for," said Christelle Wolf, a 32-year-old Parisian. "As first lady of France, she will be locked up in the Elyse and she won't accept it. She is too libertine to be tied down."

Sarkozy's association with the internationally famous Bruni has earned him the nickname "President Bling Bling" – associated with high living and big spending.

But French voters would never sanction such ostentation and will demand a certain level of decorum. "As president, Sarkozy should set a good example. By marrying so soon after his divorce, he has got off to a bad start and is going to have to be careful from now on," commented 47-year-old Parisian Christophe Dunglas.

How will 'man-tamer' Carla shape up as France's new first lady?

CRISPIAN BALMER

DON'T expect her to open flower shows or host coffee mornings. Do expect her to party until dawn and appear on the front cover of the world's glossy magazines.

Carla Sarkozy, ne Bruni, looks certain to be an unconventional first lady and faces a testing time if she wants to win over the heart of a sceptical France.

A feline star of the catwalk turned celebrated chanteuse, Bruni brings undoubted glamour to the opulent Elyse Palace and marks a complete break with the wives of many previous presidents, who were often remote and discreet matrons.

Although Sarkozy is her first husband, Bruni has described herself as a "man-tamer" and has had a number of affairs with intellectuals and rock stars, including Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. She also has a young son from a previous relationship.

Website Whodatedwho.com lists 11 boyfriends, French news magazines suggest the figure is nearer 40, and, in an interview published last year, that she might now regret, Bruni was quoted as saying: "I get crazily bored by monogamy."

But in some ways, Bruni is perfectly cast for her new role.

A patrician upbringing means she can move easily at the highest levels of society, she speaks at least three languages fluently and her modelling past ensures that she won't be afraid of the media circus that will now accompany her every move. But her obvious indifference to bourgeois convention could get her into difficulty in the Elyse's rarefied air.

"Oh, the tedium that takes hold of me when I do things for the sake of social correctness or out of professional obligation," she once told Marie Claire magazine.

Sarkozy's last wife, Cecilia, also once went on the record as saying she was not politically correct and she survived little more than four months in the Elyse.

Burnt by the Cecilia experience, Sarkozy will no doubt be mindful that his new wife should not be caged in, and Bruni's mother, Marisa Borini, has said that her daughter will continue her career as a musician despite her new role.

"Both Sarkozy and Carla Bruni are going to have to improvise and create a role for her that did not exist in previous presidential protocol," said Jean Luc Parodi, director of research at the National Foundation of Political Science.

 
 
 

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