The European media was abuzz earlier this year with the news of French president François Hollande’s affair with Julie Gayet, an actress seven years his junior and - conveniently - smoking hot.
The element of the story that our own media found most captivating was the French’s attitude to the scandal, which, roughly translated, is “meh” (or, in the original, “boff”). A poll published in the Journal du Dimanche revealed that 77% of French people believe the affair to be a “personal matter” for the President of the Republic, while 84% said their opinion of Hollande remained unchanged (translation: “He ees still a piece of merde”).
Not so the Brits. For us, the story threw up a number of questions, most pressing of all is the issue of how Hollande found the time to have an affair alongside running a country with an annual GDP of $2.613tn.
How do politicians and other public figures manage it? Here’s how.
Good diary management
Case study: John Prescott and Tracey Temple
Deputy PM John Prescott risked his marriage of over 40 years when he started sleeping with his assistant private secretary in 2002. But Tracey Temple was more than just assistant secretary to Prezza’s privates - crucially, she was his diary secretary. That’s one way of making damn sure your extramarital shenanigans don’t clash with your professional obligations.
Keep it brief
Case study: Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky
US President Bill Clinton may ultimately have been impeached for dishonesty around his sexual wanderings and financial dealings, but he still managed nine separate sexual encounters in the White House with intern Monica Lewinsky between November 1995 and March 1997 - seven of them while his wife was in the building.
That he got away with it for so long was perhaps down to the convenient brevity of the “sexual relations” they in fact definitely did have. A voicemail from 1997 records Lewinsky offering to “sneak over” for a “nice little visit for, you know, 15 minutes or half an hour. Whatever you want” - which suggests that the President had set a precedent for the length of their encounters some time before. Nice.
Stay close to home
Case study: Admiral Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton
Nelson and Emma got it together while sharing a house with Emma’s diplomat husband and a number of other high-powered Brits fleeing the French invasion of Naples in 1798. By all accounts, their affair seems to have been rather convenient - so much so that Emma was pregnant with Nelson’s child by the time he was recalled to England in 1800. Her husband (who was doddery and old and therefore we don’t care) was released from his duties as envoy to Sicily at the same time, so together the happy ménage a trois made a triumphant return to England.
Aware of the intense public speculation surrounding his private life in England (he was, after all, already married), Nelson destroyed his letters from Emma and asked her to do the same - precautions presumably scuppered when she named their daughter “Horatia”.
Shag your colleagues
Case study: John Major and Edwina Currie
John Major was unexpectedly exposed as a long-term adulterer in 2002 when fellow politician Edwina Currie published diaries revealing the pair’s four-year affair during the eighties. Once readers had finished gagging over Edwina’s descriptions of Major as a “very exciting lover” and the soon-to-be-PM’s “big, blue underpants”, attention turned to the question of how he had managed to keep the affair a secret for 14 years.
Well, aside from the fact that, until 2002, very few people had ever been tempted to even consider Major as a sexual being, he had the undeniably efficient “I've been working late at the office” excuse going for him. Which seems more believable out of the following two options? “Hello, I’m John Major and I’m working late, discussing the future appointment of women to the Cabinet with Edwina Currie,” OR “Hello, I’m John Major and I’m shagging a 'warm, sticky and laughing' Edwina Currie.” Genius.
Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs
Case study: John F Kennedy and everyone
JFK’s reputation is as much that of a prolific womaniser as it is a politician. He’s thought to have shagged literally hundreds of women during his presidency, even managing a threesome at the White House during his own inauguration ball while his wife danced downstairs.
So how do you juggle being Leader of the Free World with having All of the Sex? Well, huge quantities of amphetamine probably help. Kennedy suffered from chronic back pain and started seeing notorious celebrity medic Dr Feelgood for treatment during his 1960 election campaign. Soon he was taking amphetamine-laced injections up to four times a week (apparently without ever asking what was in them). Four months into his presidency, he was a full-blown addict.
There remain many unanswered questions around Kennedy’s presidency, but by all accounts, it’s amazing how much you can achieve when you’re speeding on IV amphetamine.