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 Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 22:58 GMT
Profile: Doris Schroeder-Koepf
Doris and Gerhard Schroeder
What crisis? Doris insists theirs is a happy marriage
As the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder goes to court to try to stop the press publishing rumours that his marriage is on the rocks, BBC News Online profiles his wife, Doris.

Doris Schroeder-Koepf has broken the mould of German first ladies.

The feisty blond is a former tabloid journalist and has not been content to play the dowdy Hausfrau role of many of her predecessors.

Seen as the most politically influential first lady ever, she was instrumental in making Gerhard Schroeder the darling of the frontpages - the so-called "media chancellor".

But once the sheen began to fade, she was quick to go on the counter-attack against her former colleagues.


Born in 1963 in the southern region of Bavaria, she went to a strict Catholic boarding school.

Born 1963, Neuburg
Catholic boarding school in Bavaria
Journalist for Bild, Express, Focus and freelance in New York
Daughter, Klara-Marie, born 1991
Married Gerhard Schroeder 1997

She went straight from school to work as an intern at a regional paper before climbing the ladder to become the parliamentary correspondent for the tabloid, Bild, Germany's most-read paper.

After a spell in New York she returning to work for Focus magazine in Munich, where she met the rising political star, Gerhard Schroeder.

They wed after their affair became public, bringing an acrimonious end to Mr Schroeder's third marriage to Hiltrud Hampel - a committed vegetarian and animal rights campaigner and a very different character to the coiffed Doris.

'No crisis'

The newest Mrs Schroeder - 20 years her husband's junior - has drawn strict borders between her public and private roles.

Her daughter Klara-Marie, born in New York from a previous relationship, is never seen in public.

There isn't any crisis because we're happily married

Doris Schroeder-Koepf
And Mrs Schroeder-Koepf continues to live in the family home in Hanover - where Mr Schroeder's political roots are - though she travels regularly to Berlin and accompanies the chancellor on his state visits.

This separation of high-powered and home life seems to drive her outrage about press tittle-tattle on the state of their love life.

"Every 'crisis' is documented, but there isn't any crisis because we're happily married," she was quoted as saying.

And it has driven her husband to court - taking out injunctions first about his alleged use of hair dye, and then about their relationship.


Though she has not worked since her husband took the chancellorship, she has put her journalistic observation and critique to work - cutting down on Mr Schroeder's drinking and cigar smoking and putting together a wardrobe suitable for a world leader.

And she has taken on a new role as cheerleader-in-chief in the chancellor's team, denouncing "campaigns" of "dirty journalism".

"They want rid of Gerd," she said in the face of a slew of bad press. "But they underestimate him. He's hard as nails".

In the 2002 campaign, she wrote a column for Mr Schroeder's website, in which she spoke out on issues ranging from food safety to education.

And, as Mr Schroeder's popularity plummeted following his re-election, she took a pot-shot at former minister Oskar Lafontaine, who had compared him to one of the less successful pre-war chancellors.

These outbursts have drawn whoops of derision from her former colleagues in the press, but, if the polls are to be believed, the public likes to see her standing by her man - 58% said she was right to speak out on political subjects.

And commentators say whatever the truth behind the rumours surrounding the couple, Mrs Schroeder-Koepf is likely to be staying at her husband's side.

The so-called Audi chancellor - like the car symbol, he has four rings - could not get away politically with yet another new model.

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