France’s former first lady faces the world

Valerie Trierweiler's India trip was organised many months ago. Picture: AFP/Getty
Valerie Trierweiler's India trip was organised many months ago. Picture: AFP/Getty
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THE former partner of French president François Hollande made her first public appearance since their break-up when she arrived in India last night to carry out charity work.

A day after officially parting ways with Mr Hollande, France’s former first lady, Valerie Trierweiler, boarded an Air France flight from Paris to Mumbai with an entourage that included her friend, actress Charlotte Valandrey.

Speaking at the Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport yesterday, Ms Valandrey said Ms Trierweiler was “very happy to leave for that mission to save children in India”. She added: “This is a strong woman, a woman of heart.”

Ms Trierweiler is lending her support to the Action Against Hunger (ACF International) charity in India, in a trip that has been in her diary for months.

Her schedule will include attending a charity gala dinner.

Mr Hollande declared his relationship with Ms Trierweiler over on Saturday, saying in a statement: “I wish to make it known that I have ended my shared life (partnership) with Valerie Trierweiler.”

The high-profile split has left Ms Trierweiler’s position in some doubt. She had been Mr Hollande’s partner for several years. An arts columnist for weekly magazine Paris Match, she was not married to Mr Hollande but assumed the role of first lady at official functions following his election in May 2012. She spent a week in hospital after revelations of her partner’s alleged affair hit the headlines.

Ms Trierweiler, 48, sent a goodbye message on Saturday via Twitter to the staff at the presidential palace. “All my gratitude goes to the extraordinary people at the Elysée. I will never forget the devotion or emotion at the time of leaving,” she wrote.

Last night, a representative from Action Against Hunger said that Ms Trierweiler was going ahead with the planned trip, despite no longer being France’s first lady.

The visit will be her first public appearance since it emerged earlier this month that Mr Hollande was having an affair with French actress Julie Gayet, 41.

ACF had invited Ms Trierweiler to India in her “official capacity” as French first lady before the scandal broke.

Her foreign trip, which is being financed by private businesses, will see her visit a Mumbai hospital where ACF has a feeding project for malnourished children and witness training for medical staff.

She is also due to lunch with the wives of leading businessmen and then attend a charity gala dinner at the city’s luxury Taj Mahal hotel.

The dinner has been organised to promote ACF’s local charity partner, Fight Hunger Foundation, with a list of sponsors including Moët & Chandon.

A press conference is planned for this afternoon, but Ms Trierweiler may not address the media. Mr Hollande’s private life has been the subject of global headlines since the French magazine Closer claimed this month he had been having an affair with actress Gayet for two years.

Mr Hollande has not confirmed or denied the alleged affair but did threaten legal action.

Mr Hollande, 59, has seen his personal approval ratings plummet since his election, although this has been attributed to dissatisfaction with his leadership rather than disapproval of his private life. Yesterday, about 17,000 people marched through central Paris to criticise his leadership, carrying banners saying “The French are angry!”

Demonstrators also complained about France’s struggling economy and high unemployment, its taxes, housing needs and lack of freedoms – but did not mention his alleged affair.