France President keeps media guessing

January 17, 2008 6:10:12 PM PST
Sarkozy, Sarkozy, wherefore art thou being so coy? Rumors swirled after a newspaper claimed that President Nicolas Sarkozy may have already married his sweetheart, model-singer Carla Bruni, in a small, secret ceremony at the Elysee Palace.

Others say they might honeymoon at a resort near the Italian city of Verona - which, as the hometown of doomed lovers Romeo and Juliet, would seem like inauspicious symbolism for newlyweds.

What light through yonder window breaks to illuminate this tale?

So far nothing from Sarkozy - but he seems to be amusing himself by keeping people guessing.

In a chat this week with reporters during a trip to Qatar, he commanded: "Stop being so fascinated by my private life."

He complained that reporters were so hungry for details that their "tongues (were) hanging out." And he concluded: "If I have something to tell you, I will."

Henri Guaino, a Sarkozy adviser, griped to France-2 television that the curiosity was "unhealthy and obsessive." But he advised people who want to know whether Sarkozy is married "to watch his hands" for a ring.

For now, the presidential ring finger is bare.

Sarkozy, 52, and Bruni, 40, reportedly met in November, soon after his October divorce from Cecilia, his second wife - also a tall, blue-eyed brunette with high cheekbones. The world learned of the romance when Bruni and Sarkozy showed up at Disneyland Paris in December.

Sarkozy has refused all comment on a report in L'Est Republicain newspaper this week that said he may have already married Bruni at an intimate ceremony at the Elysee Palace on Jan. 10. Other reports since then have suggested that the newspaper may have jumped the gun, and that they are still not wed.

As much as he gripes that paparazzi have trailed them, Sarkozy and Bruni have been astonishingly open - to the distaste of many French who find it unseemly that their head of state would flaunt a new love in such a manner.

He and Bruni were photographed together at the pyramids and beaches of Egypt, and in Petra, Jordan. He admitted at a news conference that their relationship was "serious," and he suggested they would marry, although he wouldn't reveal the date. A senior Saudi official had urged Sarkozy to respect Saudi Arabia's conservative Islamic culture by visiting the country without Bruni, and she did not accompany him.

Meanwhile, paparazzi have staked out a resort near Verona in hopes that the couple would turn up there for a honeymoon.

Marisa Merighi, owner of La Magioca, a countryside stone residence with a tile roof, said someone had called asking her to book space for "an important person" who needed privacy, without telling her who it was.

The next day, paparazzi showed up in her garden and told her it could be for Sarkozy and Bruni. She hasn't heard back from the "important person," so she assumes no one is coming.

"Usually with important clients there's no problem," she said.

"This time it's pandemonium."

The French, who are accustomed to their leaders keeping their private lives discreet, have coined a word for the star treatment of politicians: "peopolisation," a French play on the English word "people." The French call their stars "les people."

The fact that Sarkozy and Bruni have graced the cover of gossip magazines in their bathing suits has done nothing for his approval ratings.

According to a poll released Tuesday by the BVA agency, Sarkozy's critics have overtaken his champions, with 48 percent of French people seeing him negatively and 45 percent taking a positive view. Analysts say Sarkozy hasn't addressed a serious concern of the French - high prices and falling purchasing power - and that his glitzy, jet-setting lifestyle is irritating to many older voters.

On Thursday, though, there were no clues from the president as to his marital status.

As Shakespeare might have concluded, "Never was a story of more mystery, than this of Carla and her Sarkozy."


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