Valerie Trierweiler undertakes her first public engagement since it emerged that President Francois Hollande was two-timing her with an actress. In what French observers have labelled "her last stand", Trierweiler, 48, has apparently sufficiently recovered from the "nervous exhaustion" that kept her in hospital for a week to fly to Mumbai for a charity event. She has not been seen in public since she was taken to hospital after learning of Mr Hollande's affair with Julie Gayet, a 41-year-old actress.
Hollande, 59, has so far made no official comment on whether France currently has a first lady since the revelations two weeks ago of his secret trysts with Gayet in a flat yards from the Elysee Palace.
The president, who met Pope Francis for the first time on Friday at the Vatican, has promised to "clarify" the situation with the women in his life before a visit to the White House on Feb 11. With speculation rife over whether she still plays any official role, Trierweiler's entourage announced she would be going on a long-planned trip to Mumbai at the behest of the Fight Hunger Foundation (ACF), a French relief organisation. In an English language press release, the charity proudly billed Trierweiler as "French First Lady", but an ACF spokesperson described the trip as private.
"She supported us before becoming 'first lady' and has continued to support us since taking up the role," Valerie-Anne Daher of ACF told BFMTV. Organisers insisted that the trip would cost neither the French taxpayer nor the charity "one centime", as it had been funded by private donors, most of them Indian. However, reports from the Elysee were less than enthusiastic. "This is madness. She's just got out of hospital. She should be resting," one source close to the president told Le Parisien.
Trierweiler has been staying at La Lanterne, a lavish presidential retreat outside Paris, since leaving hospital. A friend said: "She is feeling better. She's bounced back after seeing her family and has been strolling around the park of La Lanterne. She has received numerous messages of support. She's ready to travel again and her programme in India has been lightened."
News of the trip came hours after Trierweiler sacked her lawyer, Frederique Giffard, who had insisted that she was aware that "clarification" on her tangled situation was required and that she was seeking a "dignified" end to the affair. Patrice Biancome, her Elysee chief of staff, then announced that he was "the sole person authorised to speak in the name of Valerie Trierweiler" - a remark some took as a sign that she still firmly sees herself as first lady.
However, with Hollande remaining silent over their relationship, Le Parisien headlined its story "First Lady, it's over" and published a poll suggesting that 54 per cent of the French were against any official role or means for the president's partner.