France's Sarkozy marries Bruni at the Elysee

PARIS Sat Feb 2, 2008 1:33pm EST

1 of 4. France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and his new girlfriend, Carla Bruni, walk together during a visit to the Giza pyramids in Cairo, December 30, 2007. Sarkozy married Bruni at the Elysee Palace on Saturday, just three months after they started dating, French officials and family said.

Credit: Reuters/Nasser Nuri

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PARIS (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy married supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni at the Elysee Palace on Saturday, just three months after they started dating.

"Ms Carla Bruni Tedeschi and Mr Nicolas Sarkozy would like to announce that they got married this morning in the presence of their families and in the utmost privacy," a statement from Sarkozy's Elysee office said.

The pair tied the knot at a low-key, civil ceremony conducted by the mayor of the Paris district that houses the president's grandiose official residence.

"I married two voters ... who live at 55 Rue du Faubourg St Honore," Mayor Francois Lebel told Europe 1 radio, giving the official address of the Elysee.

"The bride was wearing white and was ravishing, as usual," he said, adding: "The bridegroom wasn't bad either."

Another official told Reuters the wedding took place at 11.00 a.m. local time (5 a.m. EST).

Sarkozy and Bruni indicated last month that they planned to marry after a whirlwind romance and made clear that it would be a private affair, far from the eyes of the press.

Their relationship has been splashed across the media and Sarkozy's popularity ratings have plunged in recent weeks, with voters complaining that the president was focusing too much on his private life and not enough on the country's many problems, including rising prices and flagging consumer confidence.

Now they are wed, Sarkozy might find it easier to manage the relationship because Bruni will become the first lady of France and will start traveling with him on his many overseas trips.

HISTORICAL

Lebel said the wedding took place in a room on the first floor of the Elysee Palace and lasted about 20 minutes.

"There were around 20 people there, close family and a few friends," he said. The mayor said the last French head of state to marry while in office was Napoleon III in 1853.

Sarkozy, 53, separated from his second wife Cecilia last October following an 11-year marriage and just five months after winning power. His colleagues said he was deeply upset by the divorce.

However, friends say he started seeing 40-year-old Bruni the following month and they were photographed visiting Paris Disneyland together in December. They then spent the Christmas holidays together in Egypt and Jordan.

Photos of the glamorous couple sparked a media backlash against Sarkozy, who was widely described as "president Bling Bling", obsessed by the rich and famous. One opposition leader dubbed him a modern-age Louis XIV, France's "Sun King".

Their quickfire relationship also surprised many in his entourage.

Bruni, 40, has been portrayed as a man-eater in the press and has previously been linked with rock stars Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, as well as businessman Donald Trump and French former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius.

While she is a well-known leftist sympathizer, Sarkozy is a right-winger, viewed as a law and order hardliner.

Sarkozy's own mother urged him not to re-marry after his divorce and Bruni herself has spoken out against marriage. "I'm monogamous from time to time, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry," she told the Figaro Madame magazine a year ago.

She has a son from a previous relationship, while Sarkozy has two grown-up sons from his first marriage, and a third son from his marriage to Cecilia.

Bruni threw a surprise birthday party for Sarkozy last week at her plush Paris home and friends say the pair are extremely happy together.

RTL radio said Sarkozy's witness at the wedding was Nicolas Bazire, a senior figure in the LVMH luxury goods group, while Bruni's witness was Mathilde Agostinelli, head of communications at Prada France.

The radio station also quoted Bernadette Chirac, wife of previous French President Jacques Chirac, as saying getting married at the Elysee, the president's official residence, was "a wonderful thing".

"I want to express all my best wishes to this new household. She is very, very beautiful," she added.

(Editing by Caroline Drees)

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