Socialites in France are Way More Interesting, Influential Than in New York

Not only do the French age better than us, but their socialites have achieved levels of national scandal that our forgotten New York ladies could only aspire to.

This summer, French newspapers have been busy following the Bettencourt Affair, which, according to the New York Times, involves:

An aging heiress. An angry daughter. A society photographer. A renegade butler and an embittered accountant. Secret tapes. A famous company with a nasty past and long political connections. An unpopular president and a cabinet minister with a taste for money, and tales of illegal cash donations in envelopes.

Liliane Bettencourt, “the richest woman in Europe,” is the 87-year-old heiress of the L’Oréal fortune whose daughter has accused her entourage of manipulating her mother and stealing her money. For instance, Mrs. Bettencourt has given a billion euros worth of annuities, paintings, and an island in the Seychelles to a society photographer. (The photographer reportedly told police he didn’t even want the island “because of the mosquitoes and the sharks.”)

“My daughter could have waited patiently for my death instead of doing all she can to precipitate it,” said the heiress.

Even President Nicolas Sarkozy is involved!

At the center of the scandal are 21 hours of tapes made by Ms. Bettencourt’s former butler, in which the president and his labor minister, Éric Woerth, are mentioned by name. Mr. Woerth has quit, on Mr. Sarkozy’s orders, after allegations of illegal political contributions from the heiress. So far allegations that Mr. Sarkozy accepted envelopes of cash from the heiress have mostly died down.

Arthur Goldhammer, a French politics expert at at Harvard’s Center for European Studies, told the Times: “This saga is the French King Lear: a thankless child attacks a failing parent and a regime totters.”

So think about that next time you pick up an anti-aging cream from the Body Shop. Socialites in France are Way More Interesting, Influential Than in New York