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Maggie and Pierre: The secret wedding

The Story

The Trudeaumania bubble bursts as Canada's most eligible bachelor announces he has secretly married Margaret Sinclair, a woman 28 years younger. Only 12 people attended the Vancouver ceremony. The Sinclairs believed they were gathering for a family portrait. Trudeau's aides thought the couple was skiing. CBC Radio talks about the wedding that started a new chapter for Trudeau - the family man. 

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: March 5, 1971
Guest(s): John Diefenbaker, Tommy Douglas, Mitchell Sharp, Jimmy Sinclair, Kathleen Sinclair
Host: Bruce Rogers, George Finstad
Reporter: Mike McCourt, Tim Ralfe
Duration: 10:00
Photo: Photo courtesy of the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, York University.

Did You know?

• Pierre Trudeau met Margaret Sinclair while on vacation in Tahiti in 1967. "I was 18, sitting with my parents, probably in my little bikini," Margaret told the Globe and Mail's Jan Wong in 1997. Her father was a former Liberal cabinet minister.

• Justin was born nine months after the wedding, on Dec. 25, 1971. Alexandre (known as Sacha) was born on Dec. 25, 1973, and Michel was born on Oct. 2, 1975.

• Over time, the marriage fell apart. Margaret wrote in her 1979 autobiography Beyond Reason that she had an affair with a U.S. senator, rumoured to have been Ted Kennedy. Geraldo Rivera claimed in a book that he had an affair with her.

• On the Trudeaus' sixth wedding anniversary, in 1977, Margaret left to see a Rolling Stones concert at the El Mocambo, a Toronto club. She also hung out at New York disco Studio 54 and with Jack Nicholson, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ryan O'Neil.

• In Memoirs (1993), Trudeau said 1974-79 were years of "great domestic difficulty for me." Trudeau wrote: "The bare facts are that in March 1977, Margaret and I separated. Eventually in 1984, we were divorced. Anyone who has gone through the breakdown of a marriage -- perhaps without three small children, and perhaps not in the glare of the public spotlight -- will understand why I choose to write no more on the matter."

• Trudeau dated many women before and after the marriage, including Barbra Streisand, Margot Kidder, Kim Cattrall and guitarist Liona Boyd.

• In Nancy Southam's book, Pierre (2005), Streisand said Trudeau "reminded me of the father I lost -- intellectual, yet physical, loving sports and information, that great connection of mind and body."

• In the same book, Kidder said, "Years later, whenever I saw Shirley MacLaine - she'd lean into me and ask, 'How's our boy Pierre?' ...We were kind of a club, we ladies, la crème de la crème if you ask me." But Kidder said she only heard Trudeau use the word love when referring to Margaret and his kids.

• After the divorce, the three boys moved in with Trudeau, who oversaw their homework and banned television, Margaret told Wong in 1997. On weekends, Margaret gave them pizza and rented videos, she said.

• Friends said Trudeau was a loving, dedicated father. Jeff Gillin, an elementary school friend of Justin, fondly remembered the kids' birthday parties at 24 Sussex Drive. "They always seemed to end up with several adults - including Mr. Trudeau - being thrown in to the pool fully clothed," Gillin said in Pierre. "Often this party game began with Mr. Trudeau pushing a Mountie in."

• "I spent a great deal of time with the three boys as a child and never remember wondering where Mr. Trudeau was," Gillin said. "He always seemed to be available [...] Whether it was our occasional afternoon visit to his office on Parliament Hill, playing on the trampoline in the backyard, hiking in the woods [...] playing broomball games [or] trick-or-treating at Halloween."

• Margaret married Ottawa realtor Fried Kemper in 1984, two weeks after her divorce from Trudeau. They had two children, Kyle and Alicia. The couple ultimately divorced.
• In 1991, Trudeau, then 71, had a daughter named Sarah with 36-year-old lawyer Deborah Coyne.

• Michel Trudeau, 23, an experienced mountaineer, died when was swept by an avalanche into an alpine lake in British Columbia on Nov. 13, 1998. In the months after his son's death, the former prime minister became increasingly frail.

• Justin was a teacher in B.C. for several years. He is now pursuing a Master's degree and is currently a member of the board of Katimavik, a youth volunteer organization (2007). On May 28, 2005, he married Sophie Grégoire in Montreal. They left the ceremony in Trudeau's 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster.

• In April 2006, the Liberals asked Justin to lead a task force on renewing the party.

• Sacha is a journalist and documentary filmmaker.


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