Valérie Trierweiler, Julie Gayet
Mumbai, Jan. 24: Mumbai could become Valérie Trierweiler’s “last stand” as the French First Lady.
French consulate sources here confirmed the 48-year-old aggrieved partner of President Francois Hollande, 59, would be on a weekend trip to Mumbai to keep a charity commitment.
The eight-year-old relationship between the First Couple has been on the brink since news of the President’s affair with French actress Julia Gayet, 41, broke earlier this month.
Trierweiler’s Mumbai trip, which will fulfil a pledge to humanitarian organisation Action Contre La Faim (Fight Against Hunger), is being seen in Paris as a reflection of her determination to cling on to her Premiere Dame duties.
It’s being conjectured that the former journalist hopes that her India visit would pave the way for her to accompany the President on his February 9-11 visit to America too. This at a time Hollande is said to be seeking advice on ending their relationship and has promised to clear the air on her status before crossing the Atlantic.
The Mumbai visit will mark Trierweiler’s first public appearance since January 18, when she left a Paris hospital after treatment for depression following a French magazine’s disclosure of Hollande’s alleged affair.
These past six days, Trierweiler has remained confined to the presidential retreat, Pavillon de la Lanterne, near the Palace of Versailles, some 200km from Paris.
“She is coming to Mumbai despite being advised against it by the Elysee Palace. She will arrive early on Sunday and leave on Tuesday morning,” a French diplomat said in Mumbai.
“This is a curtailed version of a longer India tour she had planned earlier, which would have included trips to Calcutta and the Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Puducherry.”
Trierweiler’s decision stunned Hollande’s advisers, who had hoped she would leave the stage quietly. “Madness” was how one aide described the announcement of the Mumbai trip.
The First Lady is expected to be accompanied by French actress Charlotte Valandrey, who is known for her charity work and made headlines by revealing in her autobiography, L’Amour Dans le Sang, that she was HIV-positive.
Trierweiler’s Mumbai engagements will include a visit to the shantytown of Dharavi and an Iskcon project for midday meals to underprivileged children.
Apart from a charity dinner, she is also expected at a lunch thrown by socialite and hostess Chhaya Momaya where top industrialists’ wives and the cream of Mumbai high society have been invited.
Trierweiler is due to visit a hospital on Monday before participating in a news conference at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
With alarm spreading among Hollande’s staff at what Trierweiler might do or say, a spokesman for Action Contre La Faim said she was likely to make only a fleeting appearance at the news conference.
Valerie Daher, the charity’s chairperson, said she was saddened to “hear a controversy emerge” over the trip. She said Air France and the Taj Mahal Palace would provide flights and accommodation.
The French diplomat The Telegraph spoke to confirmed: “There is some talk ---- how should I put it --- that the President might not continue the relationship (with Trierweiler) for long.”
Reports in the French media say Hollande is planning to travel on his own to America, leaving Trierweiler in Paris — suggesting that, for him, her time as First Lady is over.
But Trierweiler has sacked her lawyer, Maître Frédérique Giffard, for suggesting yesterday that she wanted to negotiate a settlement with Hollande.
Giffard had said: “She really wishes that all this business can be resolved to get out of it with the greatest possible dignity.”
Trierweiler was scathing: “She spoke without knowing anything and without being authorised. She is no longer my lawyer.”
However, her position has been weakened with a poll in Le Parisien showing that 54 per cent of French people no longer wanted a First Lady at all.
The poll also found that Trierweiler was the least popular First Lady in modern French history, with just 8 per cent of the respondents giving her their preference.
Bernadette Chirac, wife of Jacques Chirac who was President between 1995 and 2007, came top, ahead of Danielle Mitterrand, whose husband François Mitterrand was head of state from 1981 to 1995. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, whose husband Nicolas Sarkozy ran the country between 2007 and 2012, was third.
As his love life continued to make headline news, Hollande arrived at the Vatican today for a meeting with Pope Francis.
Hours before his arrival, a bomb exploded outside the Saint-Yves-des-Bretons, a French church in Rome. No one was injured but three cars were damaged and the windows were blown out of a nearby building.
Additional reporting by The Times, London