Paris: France`s first ladies have always had a murky official existence, bound by no legal status but still given taxpayer-funded staff and an office.
As Valerie Trierweiler reels from revelations that her long-term partner, President Francois Hollande, has been having an affair with an actress, the issue of the first lady`s legal status has once again come to the fore -- all the more so as the two are not married.
Presidents` wives or partners are mentioned only once in France`s big legal arsenal -- if they are widowed, they are entitled to a survivor`s pension, as is the case with many other spouses.
But the president`s partner is nevertheless always given an office and a secretary at the Elysee presidential palace, officially to respond to mail. She also has a bodyguard.
According to a recent investigation by the weekly VSD magazine, Trierweiler costs the state USD 27,000 a month -- far less than the 60,000 euros spent by her predecessor Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and the 80,000 euros used by Bernadette Chirac before that.
When the president goes abroad on official business, the state also pays for his partner to accompany him.
Questioned about the issue at a press conference on today, Hollande -- who refused to comment on the affair -- called for "transparency" so that "the resources given to the partner be known, published and the lowest possible."
Trierweiler -- who is being treated in hospital for extreme stress following the affair revelations -- is due to accompany Hollande to the United States next month, although it is now unclear whether that will happen.