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March 1, 2008updated 01 Feb 2016 10:45am

L'amour Fou?

By Spear's

Whirlwind romances can prove to be the bedrock of solid and successful marriages, says Vanessa Neumann.

Whirlwind romances can prove to be the bedrock of solid and successful marriages, says Vanessa Neumann

There’s an old French adage: En amour, comme en guerre, un peu de ruse est necessaire. ‘In love, as in war, a little cunning is necessary.’ And it seems Sarkozy will need all his cunning in his war with the press over his love for new wife Carla Bruni.

You’ve got to admire Sarkozy’s boldness in telling the press corps where to stick their opinion of his romance with Bruni. It’s commendable of him to put his money where his mouth is and buy her a £10,000 Dior engagement ring (it’s a very small mouth), and taunt the press, despite their endless ridicule and his drop in opinion polls.

People find it shocking that he has moved on so quickly after splitting from his wife, who was perceived as unloving. The French people preferred that pathetic Sarkozy; but I understand why Carla Bruni prefers this Sarkozy. What could be more erotic than being with a strong man who knows what he wants and wants you? What I don’t understand is French shock at his behaviour – neither, apparently, does Sarkozy.

At a recent press conference, Sarkozy bemoaned ‘how France has changed’ – presumably a reference to the tolerance the French press had for the private lives of his predecessors Miterrand and Chirac, both of whom are alleged to have fathered illegitimate children. The difference, of course, is discretion: while Mitterand and Chirac kept their private lives discreet, Sarkozy has paraded Bruni in front of the press corps on state visits and said the engagement is ‘serious’ at press conferences, although he proposed less than two months after meeting her.

But then France has a long and venerable history of leaders who are decisive in matters of state and of the heart. Napoleon proposed to Josephine a few months after they met, and he filled the intervening months with passionate love letters. Two months after he proposed, they were married. When it became clear that they were infertile, Josephine agreed to an amicable divorce so that Napoleon could remarry and produce an heir, which he did: with Marie Louise of Austria, whom he married by proxy on 11 March 1810 before a ratifying ceremony held at the Louvre on 1 April. Napoleon II was born the following year.

Charles de Gaulle, known in France simply as Le Général, was equally swift and decisive both in love and in war. He had three children with his wife, Yvonne Vendroux. A strong matriarch, she was known as Tante Yvonne (Aunt Yvonne) and renowned for saying: ‘The presidency is temporary, but the family is permanent.’

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De Gaulle’s solidity and decisiveness at home translated to the political front, where he made a number of controversial and unexpected strong moves from granting Algeria its independence in order to end an unpopular war, to withdrawing France from NATO, from recognising Communist China to objecting to the British entry into the European Community. His growth of the French economy, independent foreign policy and strong stance on the international stage earned his politics the nickname ‘the politics of grandeur’ (la politique de grandeur) and his monarchical ways led to his admirers calling him the epitome of a roi juste, a just king.

It could be that le Sarko (or Sarko the First as his detractors call him) is also after the politics of grandeur, though on a more personal plane. The night he won the election he celebrated by dancing exuberantly at every hot nightclub in Paris. Could you see Gordon Brown ‘gettin‘ jiggy’ in Annabel’s, Tramp and Boujis? In a country that is uneasy with prominent displays of wealth (mind you: the same country that gave us Versailles and all the excesses of the Sun King), Sarko is viewed as a modern antidote. Everything about him shouts je m’en fous (what the fuck). He has no qualms about flaunting it, whatever the ‘it’ du jour may be. So maybe Sarkozy is right after all; France has changed: it has elected a brash arriviste who flaunts his trophy fiancée.

Unlike other members of the press, though, I am not cynical about their (or anyone else’s) quick engagement and even quicker nuptials. I myself have just gotten engaged, after two-and-a-half months of dating, to Spear’s WMS editor William Cash. We had, after all, known each other socially for four or five years and watched each other’s evolving romantic sagas – watched each other suffer and then evolve into wiser people. So when I’m asked if I wouldn’t like some more time, I reply: ‘No. I am absolutely sure. Love without doubt.’

Half my friends who spent many years dating before giving into marriage simply because ‘it was time’, are now getting divorced. They are labouring under the post-Enlightenment delusion that there is something out there called Happiness that they can hunt and acquire. ‘I think my happiness may still be out there,’ have said two male friends of mine, both married with children. ‘I’m not sure.’ Wealthy, handsome and connected, they chase a ghost they cannot find. Lacking the strength to either leave or devote unconditionally, they have had a stream of extramarital affairs. Oddly enough, their business ventures have not grown as they would have liked, either.

Happiness is created through bonds with people and worthy pursuits. The trick to happiness is to create a life one has reason to value – and this takes clarity and decisiveness, whether in the bedroom, the boardroom or on the battlefield – not time spent dithering.

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