France's Second Lady, Penelope Fillon

Penelope FillonFrançois Fillon is a man of notable self-control and subtlety in his personal relationships. These qualities owe a good deal to certain influences such as, surely, his Jesuit schooling and then his long and stable marriage to the former Penelope Kathryn Clarke.

When I interviewed her some years ago (see Reporter n° 126) I was struck by her calm and down-to-earth style. She met her husband when working as a language assistante in a lycée in Le Mans (benefiting, by the way, from a system which has just fallen victim to the Osborne axe). They were married in 1980 and have five children; Mme Fillon also cares for five horses at their home in the Sarthe: "I really count them as friends."

Talking to her, there's no trace of a Carla or a Cherie. She leads a very discreet existence and says "a political wife can have the life she wants if she's determined to do so". Asked about her husband's reported wish to retire to Wales she found that "a wonderful idea". Before that, though, they may be stopping off for a while at Paris City Hall.