Cecilia Sarkozy said that the reason of her divorce was the will to avoid the harsh public spotlight on a complex relationship for the tranquility of the shadows.
Nicolas and Cecilia Sarkozy announced Thursday they had divorced, setting a precedent for France and spelling the end of a passionate and deeply political power couple who had challenged the traditional role of president and first lady.
A one-time model who worked as an aide to Nicolas Sarkozy in his long climb toward the presidency, Cecilia Sarkozy told L'Est Republicain newspaper that it was "no longer possible" to keep their marriage together after a separation in 2005 that made headlines.
"I am someone who likes the shadows, serenity, tranquility," she was quoted as saying in Friday's edition of the paper. "I had a husband who was a public man, I always knew that, I accompanied him for 20 years. ... But me, I think that is not my place. It is no longer my place."
"When you marry a politician, your private life and public life become one," she told the newspaper, calling that just "the beginning of the problems."
She expressed frustration that Nicolas had not asked her opinion when he decided she should not testify before a parliamentary inquiry into her only major public gesture as first lady: helping secure the release of Bulgarian medics and Palestinian doctor imprisoned in Libya.
"I have nothing to hide in this story," she told the newspaper.
Sent by the president, she negotiated directly with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Critics in France said that, as the president's wife, diplomacy should not have been her place. A French parliamentary hearing into the releases opened Wednesday.
Friends said the personal blow of the divorce will not dent Sarkozy's energetic leadership as he works to reshape France, make it more competitive and nurture its alliance with the United States.
Sarkozy's spokesman, David Martinon, insisted Friday that the divorce would not "change anything in the functioning of the president's office."
He shrugged off charges from the leftist opposition that Sarkozy timed the announcement to coincide with nationwide strikes Thursday against his reform plans.
The couple's marital problems spurred debate within France about the public discussion of such private matters. Previous presidents' trysts were long kept secret.
This time, media outlets widely reported their troubles, reasoning that Sarkozy himself had advertised his relationship with Cecilia - showing off his chic wife before photographers, calling her or sending text messages when out of town, and saying in a book that they would be together "forever."
Cecilia, in L'Est Republicain, called her ex-husband "a man who is capable of doing a lot for France and the French." She, meanwhile, plans to concentrate on her family.
She said the divorce has been "very difficult" - but added that she has no regrets.
The two had both been married before, and have five children between them. The divorce judge granted the Sarkozys joint custody of their only son together, 10-year-old Louis, who will live primarily with his mother.