Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Monday, 21 September 2009 16:54 UK

Giscard pens 'Diana' love story

Valery Giscard d'Estaing welcomes visitors to his castle in central France - photo 19 September
Giscard d'Estaing is familiar with many of the continent's stately homes

A former French president seems likely to raise eyebrows with his new novel, a fictional tale of a president's love for an English princess.

Le Figaro newspaper, which has read the book, said the main characters appear to resemble the author, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, and the late Princess Diana.

Giscard d'Estaing, 83, is praised for the novel's wealth of authentic detail.

But analysts say he could be inviting ridicule with hints of an affair with a woman more than 30 years his junior.

I kissed her hand and she gave me a questioning look, her slate grey eyes widening as she tilted her head gently forward,
Quote from the novel The Princess and the President

In The Princess and the President - of which Le Figaro obtained a draft copy - Giscard d'Estaing tells the story of fictional President Jacques-Henri Lambertye's affair with Princess Patricia of Cardiff, the newspaper says.

The couple meet at a G7 summit at Buckingham Palace, the newspaper says.

In his first-person account, President Lambertye describes the princess as "very pretty, always in the media and unhappy at home", as well as having a passion for charity work, suggesting comparisons with Diana, Princess of Wales.

"I kissed her hand and she gave me a questioning look, her slate grey eyes widening as she tilted her head gently forward," the newspaper quotes Lambertye as saying at their first meeting.

The princess tells how her future husband had confessed to an affair which he intended to continue when they were married.

Prestigious body

The newspaper praises the author for his knowledge of French literature, and details about the personalities of the day and the palaces where they meet.

However, the novel departs from reality in at least one key detail.

Lambertye is easily re-elected for a second presidential term, while Giscard d'Estaing was voted out in 1981 after one - just two months before Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles to become the Princess of Wales.

In that year, Diana was 20 while Giscard d'Estaing was 55.

Diana died in a car crash in 1997.

The former president is a member of the prestigious Academie Francaise, an authority on the French language charged with compiling the official French dictionary.

He has written political books, memoirs and one previous romantic novel, Le Passage, criticised by Le Monde in 1994 for its "total absence of originality".

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