Francois Hollande wants "no more first ladies in the Elysee in future", it emerged on Monday, following the furore over his alleged affair with an actress. The French president's remarks are the clearest indication yet of his plans, and come as his advisers said it would be best for him to remain a "bachelor president" for the time being.
Hollande, 59, has so far made no official comment on whether France currently has a first lady since revelations 10 days ago that he has been having an affair with actress Julie Gayet, 41, to whom he paid frequent visits in a flat yards from the Elysee Palace.
He had promised to "clarify" the situation with the women in his life before a visit to the White House on February 11. But according to Michael Darmon, a reporter with iTele, Hollande made his views crystal clear in a chat with French journalists at the Elysee. "Francois Hollande returned to the status of a potential first lady, saying, 'I don't want any more first ladies in the future at the Elysee'," Darmon said.
The reports on Hollande's firm intention to remain single came two days after Valerie Trierweiler, his official partner, was discharged from hospital and as the Socialist leader travelled alone yesterday to the Netherlands.
Trierweiler, 48, was admitted to hospital after "taking one pill too many" the day France's Closer magazine published photographs it said proved Hollande was leading a double life, and she remained there for eight days suffering from "extreme fatigue".
One of Hollande's advisers told Le Figaro on Monday: "If there must be a split, it must be dignified and elegant regarding Valerie Trierweiler. And above all, Julie Gayet mustn't instantly move into the Elysee." Rather, Hollande should remain a "bachelor president" for the time being.
In the Journal du Dimanche on Sunday, presidency sources said Hollande and Trierweiler were preparing the ground for "an inevitable separation". On Saturday she left the Salpetriere hospital for La Lanterne, a hunting lodge near the Palace of Versailles used as a presidential retreat, thanking well-wishers for their support "from the bottom of my heart".
It is unclear whether the president, who had paid her one visit in hospital last Thursday, had gone to see her at La Lanterne. Hollande said in The Hague that Trierweiler "is feeling better and is resting at this time".
Elysee sources told The Daily Telegraph that while Trierweiler was keen on remaining a couple, the president's mind was made up and that he was "in negotiations, including legal ones" to end the relationship. The Elysee said Hollande had already planned to go the Netherlands alone before news of his affair broke.
In the past, Trierweiler has accompanied him only on far-flung state trips, such as to China and India. She was due to go with him to the US next month. Trierweiler was briefing journalists that she wanted to fight to save the relationship, seeing herself as France's equivalent to Hillary Clinton.
According to Paris Match, for which Trierweiler works, when Mr Hollande saw her on Thursday night, he said he "needed time" to come to a decision on his tangled relationships. "He apparently said to her that he needed 'more time'," wrote Catherine Schwaab, the deputy editor. "They agreed that she could 'wait' in La Lanterne. But wait for what? Therein lies the problem."