Penelope Fillon

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Penelope Fillon
Penelope Fillon.jpg
Municipal Councillor of Solesmes, Sarthe
Assumed office
Preceded byFrançois Fillon
Spouse of the Prime Minister of France
In office
17 May 2007 – 10 May 2012
Prime MinisterFrançois Fillon
Preceded byMarie-Laure de Villepin
Succeeded byBrigitte Ayrault
Personal details
Penelope Kathryn Clarke

(1955-07-31) 31 July 1955 (age 64)
Llanover, United Kingdom
Political partyUnion for a Popular Movement (before 2015)
Republicans (2015–present)
François Fillon (m. 1980)
ParentsColin & Glenys Clarke
Alma materUniversity College London
University of Bristol

Penelope Kathryn Fillon (née Clarke; born 31 July 1955) is the wife of French politician and former Prime Minister of France François Fillon. She was the Spouse of the Prime Minister of France from 17 May 2007 to 10 May 2012. Born and raised in Wales, Fillon is a graduate of the University College London and the University of Bristol Law School. She worked as an English teacher at a secondary school in France in the late 1970s, where she met her future husband. François and Penelope Fillon married in 1980 and have five children. They are Catholic.

Throughout her husband's political career, she has remained fairly uninvolved in national politics and has mostly stayed out of the public eye, and has been labelled "discreet"[1][2] by the media. Despite her reputation as being private, Fillon ran for a seat on the municipal council of the Solesmes, Sarthe commune in which she and her husband reside. When François Fillon began running for the French presidency in 2017, she emerged in the public eye to campaign for her husband.

Penelope Fillon rose to prominence in January 2017, when French newspaper Le Canard enchaîné published an article in which she was accused of being paid €500,000 in public money over eight years as her husband's "assistant" while performing no or very little work. The public outcry that followed led the controversy to be labelled "Penelopegate" by some, despite her husband denying any wrongdoing.[3]


Early life and education[edit]

Penelope Kathryn Clarke was born on 31 July 1955 in Llanover, Monmouthshire, Wales, United Kingdom.[2][3][4] The daughter of George "Colin" Clarke, an English solicitor, and Glenys, a Wales native, she considers herself "Anglo-Welsh."[1][4][5]

Fillon attended primary and secondary school at King Henry VIII School in Abergavenny,[3][6] studying French, German, and English.[5] She went on to attend University College London, earning a degree in French and German.[4][5] She spent her final year before earning her degree as a teaching assistant of English at a middle school in Le Mans, France.[4][5] It was there she met François Fillon for the first time. She described the encounter in 2007:

"I was invited to a dinner and he was there. Of course I remember the dinner but, no, it wasn't a particularly heart-stopping moment."[5]

Fillon continued her education at the University of Bristol, earning a degree in law.[2][5] She intended to become a lawyer like her father, and qualified as a solicitor.[4][5] Rather than starting her career, however, she decided to pursue her relationship with François.[1][2][5] She described her choice:

"He would come over on the ferry and the night train to see me. Then when I finished my Law Society exams we decided to get married and I came to live in France, accepting that it would be for good."[5]

Penelope Clarke married François Fillon on 28 June 1980 in a civil ceremony in the groom's native Sarthe.[2] The religious ceremony was held in the 17th-century St Bartholomew's Church in the bride's native village of Llanover.[2] Shortly after, François's brother Pierre, and Penelope's sister Jane also married.[2][5]

Career and political activity[edit]

Shortly after their marriage, François and Penelope moved to Paris.[5] In 1981, they relocated to her husband's home region of Sarthe.[5] While her husband pursued his political career three days a week in Paris, Fillon remained at home with their growing family.[5]

For much of her husband's political career, Fillon stayed home to care for their five children, and when François was a government minister, the family resided in an apartment in Paris's 6th arrondissement.[5] When he was elected Prime Minister of France in 2007, the family moved to the Hôtel Matignon, living there until his term ended in 2012.[5]

In 2014, her husband François Fillon chose not to run for re-election to the municipal council of Solesmes, Sarthe, the small commune of 1,500 people in which the Fillons reside.[7] At the mayor's request,[8] Fillon ran for his former seat, running as the Union for a Popular Movement candidate.[7] She was elected, and has served on the council since 2014.[3][6][9]

2017 presidential election[edit]

In 2017, François Fillon commenced his campaign for the French presidency. Fillon, who for much of her husband's political career had remained in relative obscurity, emerged to campaign for him and especially to try to reach the female vote, representing the movement "Women with Fillon".[1][2][10]

Personal life[edit]

François and Penelope Fillon have five children: Marie (born 1982), a barrister, Charles (born 1984), a lawyer, Antoine (born 1985) and Edouard (born 1989), who both work in finance, and Arnaud (born 2001), a high school student.[2][11] They also have three grandchildren.[2]

Fillon does not speak Welsh, but she does support the Wales rugby team.[3][4][6]

Fictitious employment controversy[edit]

In January 2017, Le Canard enchaîné published an article in which Penelope Fillon was accused of alleged fictitious employment, as her husband's "assistante parlementaire" for a total salary of €500,000 over eight years on the one hand, and as a "literary adviser" of Revue des deux Mondes on the other, with a monthly salary of €5,000, amounting to a total of another €100,000.[12] A preliminary hearing immediately opened. The public outcry around this so-called "Penelopegate"[13] was such that doubts were voiced about François Fillon himself, who was at the time the frontrunner for the 2017 presidential election,[14] with an immediate sharp decline in the opinion polls.[15]

On 31 January, new reporting by Le Canard enchaîné found that Penelope Fillon was actually paid €300,000 more than previously reported, for a total sum of €831,440 for 15 years of her parliamentary assistant work.[16] It also reported that Fillon had paid two of his children €84,000 for little apparent actual work.[16]

On 6 February 2017 Fillon held a press conference. He said "It was a mistake and I apologize to the French [people]" but also said that the salary of his wife was "perfectly justified".[17] However, on 28 March 2017, she was placed under formal investigation following a day of questioning by magistrates.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d Tésorière, Ronan (21 November 2016). "Penelope, la très discrète épouse de François Fillon" [Penelope, the very discreet wife of François Fillon]. La Parisienne (in French). Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mazuet, Julie (21 November 2016). "François Fillon candidat : Penelope Fillon, l'ultra-discrète" [Candidate François Fillon: the ultra-discreet Penelope Fillon]. Madame Figaro. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Petrequin, Samuel (25 January 2017). "French candidate faces accusations he paid Welsh wife £426,000". Wales Online. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Penelope Fillon, the PM's wife: From Monmouthshire to Matignon". The Riviera Reporter. April–May 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "She'll always have Paris..." The Telegraph. 20 May 2007. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Silk, Huw (22 November 2016). "The Welsh woman whose husband is favourite to be French president". WalesOnline. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  7. ^ a b Joseph, Marion (28 January 2014). "L'épouse de François Fillon candidate aux municipales dans la Sarthe" [The wife of François Fillon candidate to the municipalities in the Sarthe]. Le Figaro (in French). ISSN 0182-5852. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
  8. ^ Jeudy, Bruno (23 September 2015). "Penelope Fillon, l'interview exclusive de l'épouse de François Fillon" [Penelope Fillon, the exclusive interview with the spouse of François Fillon]. Paris Match (in French). Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  9. ^ Jeudy, Bruno (28 February 2017). "Info Match : Penelope Fillon a zappé le conseil municipal de Solesmes". Paris Match (in French). Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  10. ^ Billard, Sebastien (27 November 2016). "Penelope Fillon, l'hémisphère conservateur et thatchérien du candidat ?" [Penelope Fillon, the conservative and Thatcherian hemisphere of the candidate?]. L'Obs (in French). Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  11. ^ "Marie, Charles, Antoine, Edouard et Arnaud : les enfants de François Fillon" [Marie, Charles, Antoine, Edouard and Arnaud: the children of François Fillon]. Paris Match (in French). 22 November 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2017.
  12. ^ Emploi de Penelope Fillon : comment les fillonistes organisent la défense du candidat, on Libération (accessed on 28 January 2017).
  13. ^ Willsher, Kim (4 February 2017). "François Fillon sinks in polls after 'Penelopegate' scandal". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  14. ^ Les révélations du Canard Enchaîné sur les rémunérations perçues par la femme de François Fillon n’ont pas manqué de faire réagir, de Londres, à Moscou en passant par Berlin et Madrid, on Les Échos (France) (accessed on 28 January 2017).
  15. ^ Affaire Penelope Fillon : la popularité du candidat en chute libre, d'après ce sondage, on (accessed on 28 January 2017).
  16. ^ a b Willsher, Kim (31 January 2017). "François Fillon faces fresh claims over paying wife and children". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  17. ^ Fillon: «Rien ne me fera changer d'avis, je suis candidat à l'élection présidentielle»
  18. ^ "Francois Fillon's wife Penelope under formal investigation". BBC News. 28 March 2017. Retrieved 28 March 2017.