Philip Delves-Broughton

Chirac and the son of Nippon

Philip Delves Broughton ponders the silence of the French media in the face of revelations that the last three presidents have had second families

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Within the next few months, Jacques Chirac’s illegitimate son will turn 18 and the French press will face a dilemma. Do they celebrate his majority on the front page of Paris Match? Or do they keep it as hush-hush as they have in the past out of courtesy, respect for a statesman’s private life and fear?

I talk of Chirac’s illegitimate son as if he were a fact, but all I have to go on is ever more brazen Parisian gossip which says that we are in 1994 all over again, counting down to when Paris Match put Mazarine Pingeot on its front cover and the world found out that Fran’ois Mitterrand had a 19-year-old daughter who lived with his long-standing mistress in a government flat on the Left Bank.

The latest to edge towards unmasking Chirac’s supposed second family is Guy Birenbaum, a prominent literary editor and author of Our Insider Trading, a book published last week which blames Paris’s political, media and financial elite for preserving a culture of secrecy. In a chapter titled ‘Chirac-San’, he assembles the case for the existence of Chirac’s Japanese son.

According to Birenbaum, the Paris that matters knows, as they knew about Mazarine. But being discreet, French and worldly about adultery – unlike the sweaty-palmed Anglo-Saxons – they have kept it to themselves. He says he knows the identity of the boy’s mother, but rather than naming her he tantalises us. ‘Madame X,’ he writes, ‘is the vice-president of one of the best-known and most influential Western art galleries in Japan. She is also director of a gallery in Paris, with a base in the 8th arrondissement, a stone’s throw from the Elys