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The return of the ‘70s wild-child – The story of Margaret Trudeau

Sanjana Ray
10th Sep 2016
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The world has been swooning over Justin Trudeau, arguably the World’s favourite politician right now. He knows just how to pull all the right strings, making even sixty-year old women giggle behind their lacy handkerchiefs. Trudeau’s heart-winning charisma and boyish flamboyance are traits he’s picked up from a fairly dynamic personality in his personal life – his mother.

Margaret Trudeau, or ‘Maggie’ as the enthusiastic press would fondly call her, was quite simply the wild-child of the ‘70s. Married to former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau – Justin’s father, Margaret’s scandalous life has all the bearings of a young Elizabeth Taylor, minus the multiple marriages of course.

Margaret-Trudeau

Image credits: www.nytimes.com

Born into a political family, Margaret’s father, James Sinclair, was a popular Canadian Cabinet Minister, and she spent most of her teenage years in North Vancouver. Although she attained a Sociology degree from the Simon Fraser University in Burnarby, British Columbia, Margaret always took an avid interest in politics. Growing up, she had her sights set on becoming either a foreign correspondent or an ambassador.

Following college, Margaret got into what can only be generalised as a ‘hippie trip’. She’d smoke marijuana, party till sundown and sprout redundant philosophy. However, all that changed when she met the former love of her life – Pierre Trudeau. She was vacationing with her parents in Tahiti, lying on a snow-raft when he came up to her and started talking. Although he was some twenty years her senior, his charismatic wit sparked intrigue within her. Once she got home, that she got a call from the Prime Minister’s office asking to take her out. Only then did she realise that she had caught the eye of the 15th Prime Minister of Canada.

From being a hippie who once roamed the streets of North Africa barefoot, she suddenly entered a world of glamour, power and politics as the First Lady of Canada at the mere age of 22. Although the first several years suited her rather well and she enjoyed the privileged domesticity she was privy to, it soon grew old. She began to resent the heavy security, the refusals to be allowed to step outside the doors and, most importantly, to have a career of her own.

“He wanted a good wife, barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen,” she said in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald. After she bore him three children, she got restless. She began to disappear for days, taking acting classes in New York and spending many nights at Andy Warhol’s Studio 54. She became termed the ‘wild-child’, her scandalous activities followed to the bone by the media as she sashayed through the most ‘it’ parties with the Rolling Stones, got called their ‘groupie’ and was in a perennial state of intoxication, imbibing the life of drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Naturally, her dilly-dallying and notorious reputation caused an irreversible strain on her relationship with her husband. The couple finally divorced in 1984, and in 1998 their youngest son, Michel, met with a fatal skiing accident. The cumulative grief was too much for Margaret to handle and she gave up, roaming the house in her robe and unkempt hair, immersing herself in drugs and alcohol. She had reached such a high stage of negligence and adversity that she was forcibly taken by the medical authorities for a health recovery.

This was when it truly hit her that she had a problem – she had become chronically bipolar. “I did not know until I experienced it that there is a line between sanity and insanity,” she said in the interview. She had remarried after Pierre, but following her son’s death she was so traumatised that she filed for a divorce from him. She vowed to turn her life around and kept to her word – in the late 1990s, she became a mental health advocate and started involving herself in campaigns to beat bi-polar disorder and other similar illnesses.

On her eldest son Justin’s landslide victory last year, she said she wasn’t the least surprised since he had always been a ‘golden boy’. As she returned to the official Prime-Ministerial House she had walked out from, so many years ago, she said it was strange but also welcoming at the same time.

“I have worked hard to become happy. It was a real struggle. I smile at the memories, wince and wink for the bad ones, and know that I have lived,” she told The Globe and Mail in 2009.

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