Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, wife Sophie separate after 18 years of marriage

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau. Photo credit: Reuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie said on Wednesday (local time) they were separating in an unexpected announcement that appeared to mark the end of the couple's 18-year high-profile marriage.

Trudeau, 51, and Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, 48, were married in late May 2005. They have three children, the eldest of whom is 15.

For Trudeau there are also painful historical parallels. His father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, separated from his wife Margaret in 1977, when he was in office.

Trudeau was only 43 when he became prime minister in late 2015 and the sharply-dressed couple quickly captured the attention of the world media.

Vogue magazine ran a glowing profile of the two in its January 2016 issue, complete with photos of them embracing. A long piece in the magazine about Trudeau said he "shocks some with his public displays of affection toward his wife".

In the early years after Trudeau took office, he and Sophie were often seen together at social functions and on foreign trips. In February 2018, during a visit to India, the two of them dressed in colorful costumes most days, prompting derisive comments back home.

Trudeau, though, made clear even before he became prime minister that the two had faced challenges, telling the Canadian Broadcasting Corp in 2014 that "our marriage isn't perfect, and we have had difficult ups and downs."

In recent years, Sophie has curtailed joint appearances with her husband and signs of stress were clear.

On their wedding anniversary last year, Sophie said in a social media post that "we have navigated through sunny days, heavy storms, and everything in between and it ain't over."

She went on: "long-term relationships are challenging in so many ways".

The two of them did travel to London in May for the coronation of King Charles and were together when US President Joe Biden visited in late March.

Trudeau gave a news conference on Monday and took a ride on the Toronto subway that night but has had no public appearances scheduled for the last two days. As recently as Monday, he was still wearing his wedding ring.

"Sophie and I would like to share the fact that after many meaningful and difficult conversations, we have made the decision to separate," Trudeau said on Instagram. Sophie posted an almost identical message on her own Instagram account.

Trudeau's office said the two had signed a legal agreement.

"They have worked to ensure that all legal and ethical steps with regards to their decision to separate have been taken, and will continue to do so moving forward," it said.

"They remain a close family and Sophie and the Prime Minister are focused on raising their kids in a safe, loving and collaborative environment," said the statement from Trudeau's office, which requested privacy. "The family will be together on vacation, beginning next week."