How often have certain Western politicians cast an envious look at Jacques Chirac and thought: how the hell did he get away with it?
France grieves deeply after the news that his flamboyant, philandering former center-right president has died at the age of 86. World leaders took part in a tribute yesterday.
Exactly what and about whom they grieve remains as opaque as ever.
Former French President Jacques Chirac was often seen in the company of beautiful women such as the legendary actress Brigitte Bardot, pictured here in October 1990
Chirac & # 39; s wife, Bernadette, in the photo, was aware of his numerous affairs during their marriage
The first ex-president in French history who was convicted of corruption, managed to defend conflicting opinions on just about everything during four decades in politics.
Here was the great peacemaker – famous for keeping France out of the 2003 invasion of Iraq – who also struck nuclear technology on Iraqi Saddam Hussein and destroyed a coral atoll from the South Pacific with his own nuclear weapons.
Here Chirac was the ardent Eurosceptic who became a passionate advocate of a European super state.
He was the self-proclaimed champion of human rights and the developing countries who also sucked up the most horrible tyrants, argued that "Africa is not ready for democracy" and regretted the "noise and odor" of workshy immigrants.
And all the while he was the family man who enjoyed affairs with countless women – from modest secretaries and party workers to movie stars. As mayor of Paris, he held a mayor bus with a bedroom for commissions and used public funds to rent a flat for a political journalist from Le Figaro, who was then his mistress.
Chirac, pictured here in 1987 with Madonna, was routinely saturated with a French top comedy like & # 39; Superliar & # 39;
As president, a biographer claimed, he would never want & # 39; naked women, burning with desire & # 39; aboard the presidential jet. During a state visit to Tunisia, he managed to take both his long-suffering wife, Bernadette, and his mistress du moment on the same journey. The two women did not exchange a word.
Not that he would ever be distracted from his work for a long time. After the publication of the presidential driver's memoirs, Chirac could never completely shake off the nickname he acquired afterwards: & # 39; Five minutes – including shower & # 39; (To make matters worse, this was later reduced from & # 39; five & # 39; to & # 39; three & # 39;).
Routinely saturated on a French top comedy show like "Superliar," Chirac would never have been achieved in British politics – or maintained it for so long. It was his luck to be blessed with a French media who rarely subjected him to the same investigation by his British counterparts. It also helped that he slept with a good number of them.
And even when scandals arose – be it holes or mysterious six-figure payments for family entertainment – the publicity never seemed to cause him any lasting damage. As for millions of what he called "my best countrymen," he was a typical French political chancer who brought the gloire back into French public life.
He may have made the whole world furious. For example, the British public was shocked by his devastating attack on the UK: "You can't trust people who cook so badly." Yet it all played brilliantly for a domestic audience.
Chirac, pictured with the Princess of Wales in September 1995, criticized the UK with a damning remark: & # 39; You can't trust people who cook so badly & # 39;
And the few times his extra-marital infidelity appeared in the public domain, they did little damage to his ratings. "Do you know where my husband is tonight?", The aristocratic Bernadette asked his driver on the night of 1997 when Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car accident in Paris. According to the driver, the president was enjoying with an Italian actress. When the story came up some time later, the French audience shrugged.
Chirac was the only surviving child of a well-to-do middle class family who shone at school and university and beyond, passed the French army – where he was the top of his officer intake – and the prestigious Ecole Nationale d & # 39; Administration, the training school for elite civil servants.
His determination, along with his political and bureaucratic skills, were soon noticed by the French prime minister, Georges Pompidou, who made him chief of staff and gave him the first of his many nicknames: "Le Bulldozer." After joining the French parliament in 1967, he was promoted to Minister of Agriculture in the early 1970s. He wisely supported the new president, Giscard d & # 39; Estaing, and was rewarded with the position of prime minister.
He soon had a formidable power base to bet his claim on the grand prize (while also handing out fake orders to friends). In 1977 he was elected mayor of Paris and stayed there for almost 20 years.
Chirac became president in 1995 and tried to apply a mild dose of Thatcherism to the bloated state sector of France. An inevitable sequence of strikes and U-turns meant that little changed.
In 1977 he was elected mayor of Paris and stayed there for almost 20 years
At the same time, Chirac decided to conduct a series of nuclear tests on a widespread atoll in the Pacific Ocean in the French colony of French Polynesia – just before France would sign a test ban. There was indignation all over the world, although a handful of French allies – including Britain – refused to condemn him.
Months later, the British government invited Chirac and his wife for a state visit to London, where he received full treatment with Buckingham Palace. She would be charmed by Chirac and the English-speaking Bernadette. Within a year, however, Chirac traveled through China and regretted the British imperial record in Hong Kong to conclude contracts for French companies in China.
After seeing an extreme right-wing challenge from Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front, Chirac won a second term as president in 2002.
Shortly thereafter, his refusal to join the US and the UK to invade Iraq saw his approval ratings at home rise. However, his decision caused so much contempt among allies that he was mocked by the gossip press as a & # 39; cheese-eating surrender monkey & # 39 ;.
There was also a trip to stay with the queen, because Great Britain and France were the centenary of the bilateral friendship agreement, the "Entente Cordiale".
But at the same time he was working on a man who was trying to ban Britain from the rest of the world.
Zimbabwean despot Robert Mugabe was forbidden to visit Europe. Yet Chirac gave him a special pass to attend a meeting of African countries in Paris.
In 2011, he was sentenced to two years in prison for abusing trust and public funds, although the sentence was suspended
Meanwhile, there were reports of corruption during his days as mayor of Paris. In 2011, he was sentenced to two years in prison for abusing trust and public funds, although the sentence was suspended. He then disappeared from view of the public. Bernadette, meanwhile, would have the final say.
Four years ago she announced that she was not a fan of her husband's policy and that she supported his successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who abhorred Chirac. She also accused her husband of "ruining her life." His life in public interest had certainly taken its toll on their two daughters, one of whom died in 2016 after a lifelong struggle with anorexia.
In 2002, Bernadette had publicly acknowledged that she had been married to a serial woman. It had been difficult, she said, but her husband had always returned to her. "Anyway," she added, "I often warned him: Napoleon lost everything on the day he left Josephine."
After seeing an extreme right-wing challenge from Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front, Chirac won a second term as president in 2002
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