LONDON, England (CNN) -- When news broke on Thursday that the President Nicolas Sarkozy and his first lady, wife Cécilia had separated, there was hardly a ripple of surprise.
Cécilia Sarkozy: No longer a desperate housewife
According to Le Nouvel Observateur, a leading French news weekly, the Sarkozys "went before a judge together at the end of the day on Monday October 15 to make formal the separation procedure of the couple."
Cécilia, 49 had already made news for being the "disappearing first lady." Where was she when France lost the World Cup semi-finals? Why was she not accompanying her husband on a state visit to Morocco? Why did she not turn up to a function in Bulgaria to accept an humanitarian award, asked France's newspapers?
Since he assumed office in May the International Herald Tribune observed that Cécilia has been "staying away from most official functions and staying out of public view for long periods of time."
Cécilia had not attended any official engagement since Bastille Day in July and the couple had split for several months in 2005 when she moved to New York. In the UK, the Telegraph newspaper pithily observed, "He's gone from lover to husband to cuckold in 11 years." The press asked whether the relationship was ending at a press conference on Monday.
A presidential spokesman answered, "I have no comment. Truly, truly, truly, I assure you, I have no comment to make on this subject. Next question?" By Wednesday Xavier Darcos, the education minister said, "It is a private matter on which I can't express myself. I simply always find it painful to see that love can come apart but I don't know anything."
The 49 year-old former model has always been an unconventional politician's wife -- making it clear from the outset of her husband's campaign that she would be off-stage and disengaged in political matters. She told one regional newspaper, "There is no role. I do not believe in having a particular role."
Tabloid newspapers had been predicting for months that the amount of no-shows meant a divorce was on the cards.
They cite the time Cécilia made a brief appearance at the G8 summit in June 2007, and then left, with the excuse of an important appointment in Paris, which left her husband as the only head of state at the dinner without a spouse. In August 2007 she bowed out at the last minute from a scheduled lunch with U.S. President George Bush and his wife, saying she had a sore throat but was seen later that day out shopping.
Cécilia has long been her own woman. She went to a convent school then onto law school but dropped out and worked as a model and in PR. Nine months pregnant she married a man (Jacques Martin) 26 years her senior in 1984. They were married by the now President, Nicolas Sarkozy as he was mayor of the area at the time. Cécilia went on to have two children with Martin.
She later had a child, Louis, with Sarkozy. Their relationship had a tumultuous start -- they were both married to other people when they fell in love. They married in 1996 after their divorces were finalized. In 2005 Cecilia had an affair with PR executive Richard Attias -- a 49 year-old Moroccan. They moved to New York and Sarkozy eventually wooed Cécilia back, although not before he had an affair with a young political journalist.
The French would say "mais oui," after all former leaders such as Francois Mitterrand had an affair and a love child while Jacques Chirac has admitted dalliances
The International Herald Tribune said any impact on his popularity from the divorce would be minimal due to her absence on the public stage. E-mail to a friend