Awkward video clips and eye-opening comments from years gone by of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie have begun to emerge potentially giving clues as to the extent of the challenges the couple faced prior to the breakdown on their marriage.
And some commentators have suggested the break up could lessen Mr Trudeau’s re-election prospects.
On Wednesday, Mr Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau announced they were separating after 18 years of marriage.
The pair said that after “many meaningful and difficult conversations,” they had decided to split.
“As always, we remain a close family with deep love and respect for each other and for everything we have built and will continue to build”.
The pair, who were married in 2005, have signed a legal separation agreement prior to issuing their statements.
Brian Lilley, a columnist with the tabloid Toronto Sun newspaper, said on Wednesday that the general consensus he had received following the break-up news was: “I thought it happened years ago”.
He said there had been a “persistent rumour” about the state of the Trudeau marriage, including that Justin Trudeau “had been involved with other people”. But there was nothing concrete to back the scuttlebutt up.
Yet it’s not just musings from commentators – the Trudeau’s own actions and comments have thrown a spotlight on their relationship.
Awkward video clip
In 2020 on Canada Day, the couple recorded a very awkward video message from Ottawa’s Food Bank Farm.
In the version posted on the PM’s official YouTube channel the pair talk in Canada’s two official languages of English and French, signing off after saying “Happy Canada Day”.
But in a further version online, the camera remains on then with a pause of around 15 seconds, possibly as the pair were awaiting further instructions.
Smiling in silence, Mr Trudeau then leans in for a kiss. His wife, peck done, immediately pulls away and looks in the other direction. Parts of the clip are indeed excruciating, although in other parts they did appear to be joking with one another.
Years earlier, in 2014, Mr Trudeau’s marriage cropped up when he was discussing his memoir, Common Ground.
“Everyone knows how challenging it is to balance family responsibilities with a job that takes me across the country and working extremely hard,” said to Evan Solomon, a reporter with Canadian public broadcaster CBC.
“There are times when she (Ms Grégoire Trudeau) hates my job and she hates me for loving my job.
“Our marriage isn’t perfect, and we have had difficult ups and downs, yet Sophie remains my best friend, my partner, my love,” he said.
“We are honest with each other, even when it hurts.”
Solomon asked if that was “coded language for extramarital affairs”.
“No,” said Mr Trudeau. “This is a conversation about the kinds of challenges that any real marriage goes through. Tremendous ups and downs, but as I say we are deeply in love and committed to each other and we continue to be.”
It wasn’t the last time the couple’s relationship struggles were raised.
‘Dark, heavy storms’
In 2015, Ms Grégoire Trudeau, a former TV reporter in Quebec, reiterated that wedded bliss was something the pair sometimes missed.
“I can tell you right away that no marriage is easy,” she told Canada’s Global News.
“I’m almost kind of proud of the fact that we’ve had hardship because we want authenticity; we want truth; we want to grow closer as individuals through our lifetime and we’re both dreamers and we want to be together for as long as we can.
“I’m happy that we had to go through that.”
Last year, on social media, Ms Grégoire Trudeau again talked about their marriage struggles.
“We have navigated through sunny days, heavy storms, and everything in between and it ain’t over,” she said.
“Long-term relationships are challenging in so many ways. They demand constant work, flexibility, compromise, sacrifice, devotion, patience, effort, and so much more.
“None of us are perfect and so there is no perfect relationship.”
But, she added, “Love conquers all”.
Certainly, as much as the Trudeaus were frank about the troughs of their marriage they also were public about the peaks too. There were regular snaps of themselves enjoying life together.
‘Persistent rumours’ about Trudeau
Yet, whispers that not all was well remained.
“The rumours that the couple had split, long denied, had become reality,” said The Toronto Sun’s Lilley.
“Over the years, journalists had made polite inquiries about Trudeau and were told there was nothing to report.
“(But) there will be rumours about what caused (the separation), the persistent rumours that the PM is or has been involved with other people will go into overdrive.
The rumours will “show up on social media — the same place that the Trudeaus announced their split.”
But, Lilley added it was a “personal matter” and the Trudeau’s should be given the privacy they asked for over private matters.
Although there would be legitimate questions over to what extent – if at all – Ms Grégoire Trudeau benefited from the public purse.
On Wednesday, Jamie Sarkonak, writing in newspaper The National Post, said Mr Trudeau’s image with voters as a family man could be affected by the split.
“He can’t live by example on the family file, because he can’t claim personal success on that front.”
However, Trudeau has some time on his side to get the public used to his new life as if not strictly a single man, than an man estranged from his wife.
The next Canadian election is until 2025 which, if he wins, would see him have secure more than a decade in office.