France's Sarkozy Quietly Weds Former Model Carla Bruni

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni in Luxor, Egypt, in December. They first met Nov. 14.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni in Luxor, Egypt, in December. They first met Nov. 14. (By Nasser Nasser -- Associated Press)
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By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, February 3, 2008

PARIS, Feb. 2 -- Just as French President Nicolas Sarkozy had predicted, the news media did not find out about his wedding until after it happened.

Sarkozy, 53, married supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni, 40, in a small ceremony Saturday attended by close friends and family at the Elysee Palace, the president's official residence. He became the first French president in more than seven decades to marry while in office, less than four months after becoming the first French president to divorce while in office.

"The bride wore white. She was ravishing, as usual," said Fran¿ois Lebel, mayor of the presidential palace's Paris neighborhood, who said he officiated at the ceremony.

"The groom wasn't bad, either," he told Europe 1 radio.

The couple issued a statement saying only that they had married "in the presence of their families in the strictest privacy."

Sarkozy reportedly met Bruni -- who has been romantically linked with celebrities including Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Kevin Costner and Donald Trump -- at a private party Nov. 14, about a month after he divorced his second wife, who now uses the name C¿cilia Ciganer. He and Ciganer were married for about 11 years.

News that Europe's most eligible bachelor was dating the Italian-born Bruni broke when they appeared together at Disneyland Paris in mid-December. That much-photographed outing was followed by trips to the Great Pyramids of Egypt and Jordan's archaeological treasure, Petra, all faithfully chronicled by the paparazzi.

The French regional newspaper L'Est R¿publicain jumped the gun, reporting nearly three weeks ago that the couple had married.

Last Monday, the budget airline Ryanair used a photograph of the smiling couple in a newspaper advertisement, with a thought bubble above Bruni's head reading, "With Ryanair, all my family can come to my wedding." Sarkozy and Bruni sued the airline, and Bruni demanded $735,000 in damages -- the amount she said she typically receives for appearing in an ad.

During a court hearing in Paris on Thursday, the couple's attorney, Thierry Herzog, said Bruni "never indicated that she wanted to get married, nor when she would get married." A decision in the case is expected Tuesday.

In early January, Sarkozy called their relationship "serious" and told reporters that if he and Bruni were to marry, "there's a strong chance that you will learn about it after it's already done."

Lebel said about 20 people attended the ceremony, which he called "a moment of family intimacy for the young newlyweds, of great simplicity and apparently a lot of affection between the spouses."

The Italian news agency ANSA said Bruni's mother had confirmed the wedding, according to the Reuters news service. French news agencies said that Nicolas Bazire, a former French politician and senior executive at LVMH luxury goods group, and Mathilde Agostinelli, head of communications at Prada France, were witnesses.

Political analysts and pollsters say the highly public, 80-day romance is at least partly responsible for Sarkozy's plummeting approval rate, which has fallen from 64 percent in September to 41 percent in a survey released this week.

Although most people probably do not begrudge him a happy love life, analysts said, they seem to prefer that his public image reflect more of a focus on solving the country's problems. In a December poll, 45 percent of respondents said Sarkozy displays "too much" of his personal life in public. In a survey last month, 93 percent said the news media were giving too much importance to Sarkozy's private life.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company