Byline: DAVID JONES;PETER ALLEN
TWO moments dramatically symbolised Nicolas Sarkozy's assumption of power yesterday as President of France: being entrusted with the country's secret nuclear codes and a very public embrace of his wife. Bullish and imposing, despite standing just 5ft 5in tall (without his Cuban heels), the man known as the new Napoleon urged his nation to 'hold out a hand' and bury their differences.
He said: 'I will defend the identity of France. There is a need to unite the French people. .. because never before has public confidence been so shaken and so fragile.' Ostensibly, Sarkozy's plea for unity and reconciliation was directed towards the grim suburban sink estates, where disaffected young rabble-rousers he once dismissed as 'scum' have torched cars in protest at his promised hard-line social reforms, and where, yesterday, riot police were on standby as the new president took office.
But his plea might also have been directed a bit closer to home. As he marched into the Elysee Palace to be sworn in, he tried to end months of speculation that his marriage is in crisis with a highly visible display of affection towards his enigmatic wife, Cecilia.
He gave the glamorous 49-year-old - who towers five inches above him - a tender caress on the cheek, while she later kissed him on the lips.
Even in a country whose strict privacy laws allow public figures to conduct themselves scandalously without fear of exposure, the Sarkozy marriage has become a public soap opera, spiced by periodic separations, passionate affairs and emotional reunions.
Inexplicably, Cecilia, whose reed-slim figure and unlined features belie her age, went missing for two weeks as the election campaign …