Bernadette Chirac

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Bernadette Chirac
Bernadette Chirac 1 (2009).jpg
Spouse of the President of France
In role
17 May 1995 – 16 May 2007
PresidentJacques Chirac
Preceded byDanielle Mitterrand
Succeeded byCécilia Sarkozy
Personal details
BornBernadette Thérèse Marie Chodron de Courcel
(1933-05-18) 18 May 1933 (age 85)
Paris, France
Jacques Chirac (m. 1956)
RelationsClaude Chirac (daughter)
Martin Rey-Chirac (grandson)
Anh Dao Traxel (adoptive daughter)
ResidenceQuai Voltaire, Paris (personal)
Bity Castle, Sarran, Corrèze (personal)

Bernadette Thérèse Marie Chirac (born Bernadette Thérèse Marie Chodron de Courcel; 18 May 1933) is a French politician and the wife of the former President Jacques Chirac.

She and Chirac met as students at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (better known as Sciences Po) and were married 16 March 1956. They have two children: Laurence (born 4 March 1958, deceased 14 April 2016)[1] and Claude Chirac (born 6 December 1962), and a Vietnamese foster-daughter, Anh Đào Traxel.

Since 2001, Bernadette has been the patron of "Pièces Jaunes" (spare change), a charity that helps children in French hospitals by collecting small donations. On 3 September 2007, she became the president of the "Fondation Claude-Pompidou" (Claude Pompidou Foundation), following the death Claude Pompidou, a former First Lady of France.

She was involved in her husband's successful 1995 presidential campaign and her personal popularity saw her play an important role as First Lady in her husband's reelection in 2002. She was also an councillor in Corrèze, the couple's home département.


Early life and education[edit]

Born in Paris on 18 May 1933, Bernadette Thérèse Marie Chodron de Courcel was the daughter of Jean-Louis Chodron de Courcel (1907–1985), sales director of Emaux de Briare Inc., and Marguerite de Brondeau d'Urtières (1910–2000). She was the oldest of three children: her sister Catherine was born in 1946 and her brother Jérôme in 1948.

Her family were devout Catholics and she received a strict upbringing from her mother. Her father was called up in 1939 and imprisoned in Germany until the end of the Second World War. In June 1940, she and her mother fled to Lot-et-Garonne, where she attended the Sainte-Marthe school in Agen. From 1941 to 1943, after the occupation of the zone libre, they fled again to Gien in the Loiret. There she attended Sainte-Marie-des-Fleurs-et-des-Fruits school until the return of her father in 1945. The family settled in the sixth arrondissement of Paris. She went to the Paris Institute of Political Studies in 1950 where she met and married her future husband. Like most women at the time, upon marrying, she did not take her degree.

Political career[edit]

  • 1971: Elected to the municipal council of Sarran (Department of Corrèze).
  • 1977: Aide to the mayor of Sarran.
  • 1979: Elected to the Departmental council of Corrèze and subsequently re-elected on March 1985, March 1992, March 1998, March 2004, March 2011 and again September 2011.
  • 1990: Founder and president of the "Association le Pont Neuf" designed to promote exchanges between young French people and young people from Asia.
  • 1991: President of an International Dance Festival.
  • 1994: President of the "Fondation Hôpitaux de Paris-Hôpitaux de France", a charitable foundation aiming to improve the day-to-day lives of the children and the elderly who have been hospitalised. She was also patron of Opération Pièces Jaunes, an annual fundraising campaign to improve conditions in children's hospitals.


In 2001, Bernadette participated in a series of transcribed interviews with the conservative journalist, Patrick de Carolis. The book was called Conversation and was a bestseller, selling 350,000 copies in its first year of publication.


Immediate family[edit]

  • Father: Jean Chodron de Courcel (1907–1985), sales director. Studied at Eton followed by Cambridge University.
  • Mother: Marguerite–Marie de Brondeau d'Urtières (1910–2000)
  • Paternal grandfather: Robert Chodron de Courcel, diplomat and landowner.
  • Paternal great grandfather: George Chodron de Courcel (1840–1904), naval officer.

Nobility of Bernadette Chirac[edit]

Bernadette Chirac was born into an old aristocratic family of public servants, from the Trois-Évêchés. Her family includes military officers, goldsmiths, lawyers, diplomats and industrialists. They would become owners through marriages of factories in Gien and Briare, in the Loiret, which were famed for their porcelain and enamel mosaics. Like many old French families, Bernadette Chirac has several European royal families among her ancestors. In 1852, a decree by Napoleon III authorized the addition of Courcel, one of the family's properties, to their name. In 1867, Napoleon III made Alphonse Chodron de Courcel a hereditary baron for services rendered to the State.



  • 2001: Bernadette Chirac by Bertrand Meyer-Stabley (Perrin Edition) ISBN 978-2-262-01809-2
  • 2006: La Fille de Cœur by Anh Đào Traxel (Flammarion Editions) ISBN 978-2-08-068894-1 (a biography of the Chirac family by their foster daughter).
  • 2001: Conversation by Bernadette Chirac, with Patrick de Carolis, (Plon Editions) ISBN 978-2-259-19512-6