PARIS (Reuters) - Carla Bruni, the Italian singer and former supermodel, would bring a dose of glamour to the Elysee Palace if her surprising romance with President Nicolas Sarkozy ends in marriage.
A feline star of the catwalk turned husky voiced chanteuse, Bruni, the scion of a rich Italian industrial dynasty, embodies a world of cultured glamour far removed from the ambitious outsider who won the French presidency last year.
Her patrician indifference to bourgeois convention and her relationships with rock stars and intellectuals also seem to mark her as part of the Left Bank Parisian cultural elite that Sarkozy is normally assumed to despise.
Sarkozy, a former lawyer and champion of "the France that gets up early," has little known interest in the arts apart from his friendship with French rocker Johnny Hallyday. He once declared "I am not an intellectual."
But there was little doubting the president's feelings as the pair toured the pyramids hand in hand or gamboled in the Egyptian surf together last month.
"It's serious," Sarkozy, 52, told the press but triggered feverish speculation about a possible wedding date by adding: "There's a good chance you'll find out about it when it's already happened."
The 40 year-old Bruni, a tall, slim brunette, bears a certain physical resemblance to Sarkozy's second wife Cecilia, who made no secret of her dislike of the role of First Lady and spent little time in the Elysee Palace.
But she would mark a distinct change of tone from Bernadette Chirac, the formidable wife of former President Jacques Chirac whose style was unmistakably that of a "grande dame" from the old-fashioned French bourgeoisie.
One significant difference may be Bruni's own attitude to marriage.
"I get crazily bored by monogamy," she told Figaro Madame last year. "I'm monogamous from time to time but I prefer polygamy and polyandry."
She has been romantically linked to a string of famous men, from rock stars Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger to property tycoon Donald Trump and France's former Socialist Prime Minister Laurent Fabius.
Bruni, daughter of a tire heir-turned musician and a concert pianist, grew up in France after her family left Italy in the 1970s because of the threat of kidnapping by the extreme leftwing Red Brigades.
She became a model in her late teens, joining the elite class of supermodels like Claudia Schiffer and Naomi Campbell during the 1990s before scoring a surprise hit in 2003 with a record of literate, melodic ballads that sold 2 million copies.
She was introduced to Sarkozy at a dinner party hosted by public relations executive Jacques Seguela, only weeks after the president's divorce from Cecilia last October.