Valerie Trierweiler has denied she tried to kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills when she discovered that her boyfriend, François Hollande, the French president, was having an affair with an actress.
The denial came during the former first lady’s media blitz in Britain, where her bestselling kiss-and-tell book about her nine-year relationship with Mr Hollande – Thank You for this Moment: a Story of Love, Power and Betrayal – is published in translation this week.
She wrote in the book – which when it came out in French in September marked the darkest moment of the Socialist leader’s presidency – that he had snatched a bag of pills out of her hand on the night in January when she learnt of his affair with actress Julie Gayet.
This was widely reported in the media as a thwarted suicide attempt by the glamorous 49-year-old journalist, who was distraught at hearing of photos in a gossip magazine of her boyfriend arriving at his lover’s apartment on the back of a scooter.
But Miss Trierweiler – who has refused to give interviews to the French media about her book – told the BBC on Sunday that “it wasn’t a suicide attempt.”
“I just wanted to go to sleep. I didn’t want to go through those moments, to see the photos, to face up to this new reality. I knew that they would be published but I didn’t look at them.
“I still haven’t seen all of them. I can’t look at them,” she said in an interview for the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
France is looking on in fascination as Miss Trierweiler does the rounds of Britain’s media, giving interviews to most of the national dailies and appearing on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, with a Newsnight appearance due on Monday.
“Trierweiler received like a star in London” was Le Parisien newspaper’s headline on Sunday, while the Journal du Dimanche splashed her picture alongside one of Miss Gayet on its front page and asked “Just how far will her (Trierweiler’s) vengeance go?”
Her visit comes as Mr Hollande, under whose presidency France has suffered from minimal economic growth and ever rising unemployment, hit a new low in the opinion polls.
He was already the least popular French president in modern history, and a new IFOP poll on Sunday showed that his score had dropped another percentage point to just 13 per cent.
His aides have said he is terrified his ex-partner will write a sequel to her no-holds-barred book, which depicts him as a deceitful, heartless hypocrite who mocks the poor.
There had been several reports that 60-year-old Mr Hollande’s relationship with Miss Gayet, 42, was over.
But a French celebrity magazine on Friday published what it said were recent photos of the pair sitting at a terrace inside the grounds of the Elysee presidential palace and said the romance was ongoing.
Miss Trierweiler says she wrote the book not to take revenge but simply to refute the “lies” being told about her in the wake of her acrimonious split with the president.
“I needed to tell my side of the story because of the lies that were being told about me,” she said in a lengthy interview.
The twice-divorced mother of three also claimed Mr Hollande had made repeated attempts to win her back.
“Ever since we had separated, he had been begging me to start again, to resume our shared life. For three months, he had been harping on that he had made a mistake and lost his way. He was forever repeating I was the only one he loved, and he had barely seen Julie Gayet. He sent me flowers. He swore undying love,” she said.