An untested whizkid has shot to power as President of France in his very first election campaign, crumpling older, hard-bitten veterans in his wake.
Emmanuel Macron's astonishing rise from provincial straight-A student to Rothschild banker, to civil servant, to Sunday's victory as President of the sixth-biggest economy in the world seems like one of the mythic tales of success familiar to all French children, in which a gallant young hero overcomes impossible odds to achieve giant success.
At just 39, Macron is France's youngest leader ever—breaking a 169-year record held by the famed French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who took power at age 40.
Thousands of people poured in the huge courtyard of the Louvre Museum after polls closed at 8 p.m. on Sunday night, hugging each other and chanting "Macron Président!" as they waved flags. Macron defeated Le Pen by 66.1% to 33.9%, with 99% of votes counted.
From outside the Louvre, Meriem Tertouche, 40, an immigrant from Algeria, said she drove into Paris with her three small children from their home 120 miles away to celebrate Macron’s victory, adding that she had been "horrified by Le Pen and all her talk against immigrants."
In an address to the nation from inside his office, Macron said he had sensed the "rage, anxiety and doubt" coursing through much of France. "The renewal of public life starts tomorrow," he said.
And yet, after Macron takes the oath of office inside the ornate Elysée Palace next Monday, the years ahead could hold far more difficult and complicated plot twists than those heroic tales suggest—challenges that will likely make his past five months of campaigning seem simple.
Macron, who was barely known just a year ago, when he was President François Hollande's Economy Minister, won over many French voters as much for his jolting fresh-faced vigor and his razor-sharp intellect, as for his policies themselves. "He's our own J.F.K.," cooed one supporter during a Macron rally in late April, who said she had ditched her support for the traditional conservative Republican candidate in order to back Macron.
But youthful energy will take Macron only so far. And millions, too, voted for Macron not for what he represented, but for who he was not: His far-right rival, National Front leader Marine Le Pen.