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France's First Lady Facing "Protocol" Issues Over Relationship

GUILLAUME BAPTISTE/AFP/GettyImages(PARIS) -- Valerie Trierweiler, France's new first lady, has covered French politics as a journalist for more than 20 years. So she likely anticipated how being the first unmarried French first lady to occupy the Elysee Palace -- and one who plans to continue to work -- might mean new uncharted territory, and how the press might respond.

What the twice married and twice divorced mother of three likely didn't expect, however, was just how much a protocol conundrum her relationship with the newly minted French president, Francois Hollande, would create.

Concerns about just how she will travel to places such as the Vatican or Saudi Arabia -- a conservative society where unmarried couples living together isn't accepted -- have already begun to arise at the French foreign ministry, according to several reports. And just how she will be addressed at official palace functions is also presenting some unique yet thorny issues.

Would "Madame Valerie Trierweiler, companion of the president" or "Madame Valerie Trierweiler-Hollande, the president's spouse" be appropriate?

Trierweiler said she didn't expect her unmarried status to pose problems, telling an interviewer recently that she's "not sure it will come up all that much."

"Frankly, it really is not an aspect that bothers me," she told the daily Le Figaro. "This question of marriage is above all a part of our private life."

A French foreign ministry official quoted in Canada's National Post said most countries to which a French president travels are happy to accommodate his wishes and in the 21st century, being unmarried does not pose a major problem.

"If we tell them 'treat this person as the president's wife,' then they will do so," said the official, who asked not be named.

Trierweiler and Hollande have been together since 2005, when Hollande's relationship with fellow Socialist Segolene Royal, who ran for president but lost to Nicolas Sarkozy, publicly ended. The couple is currently living in an apartment in Paris's 15th arrondissement but is expected to move into the Elysee Palace for security reasons. They have apparently ruled out getting married purely for diplomatic reasons, according to several French media reports.

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