French president's companion appears at official ceremony

PARIS, June 18 (AP) — French President Francois Hollande's companion, actress Julie Gayet, has made her first appearance at an official ceremony that Hollande was also attending.

The 43-year-old was still far from playing the first lady's role, however, never appearing Thursday by Hollande's side.

Gayet was invited to accompany her grandfather, Alain Gayet, a 92-year-old French Resistance hero, to a ceremony commemorating Charles de Gaulle's appeal of June 18, 1940, at the Mont Valerien memorial west of Paris. In his famous appeal, De Gaulle exhorted the French to resist the German occupation.

Dressed in black, Gayet arrived with her grandfather and listened to Hollande's speech in the area reserved for important guests.

Hollande, 60, and Gayet have never denied being a couple, but they never made their relationship official either.

Hollande has made a point of keeping his love life private after his tumultuous breakup with Valerie Trierweiler in January 2014 amid reports that he was having an affair with Gayet.

When questioned in press conferences, Hollande always referred to the French tradition of keeping private life "private." Yet the president's love life has made headlines in the French press several times since the first photos purportedly showing a helmeted Hollande visiting Gayet in a Paris apartment.

In April 2014, ex-first lady Trierweiler published a book portraying Hollande as a mean liar perpetuating a "cycle of infidelity."

In recent months, gossip magazines presented photos as showing Hollande and Gayet on the terrace of the Elysee Palace, or in the gardens of the president's secondary residence in Versailles.

Hollande has never been married.

His three-decade partner Segolene Royal, mother of his four children, is also a prominent Socialist politician, now one of the most influential ministers in his government.

Hollande and Royal split in 2007, two years after his affair with Trierweiler began.

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