French exchange pals who met following trip to Northampton marry after 41 years

Emma and Vincent tied the knot in Paris earlier this year.
Emma and Vincent tied the knot in Paris earlier this year.

A middle-aged couple, who first met during a French exchange trip as children, have married 41 years later.

Emma van Laun of Longtown, Herefordshire, "developed a crush" on Vincent Valbret when he travelled to her village in the summer of 1976 after he stayed in Northampton with an exchange pal.

At the end of his trip, Vincent, who was 15, asked the 11-year-old Emma if she would like to become penpals with his sister who was the same age as her.

Emma, 11, pictured with Vincent, then 15 years old.

Emma, 11, pictured with Vincent, then 15 years old.

Emma, now 52, said: "My parents ran an outwards bounds centre in Herefordshire and he came over to do rock climbing and horse riding.

"I know Vincent didn't really speak good English at the time and I didn't speak much French either. I think it would have been an 11-year-old wandering around her home area and a 15-year-old boy far from home - we were both sort of at a loose end at the same place.

"At the end of his stay, we had spoken a number of times and Vincent suggested that I could write to his sister, Helene, who was the same age as me. He came back to the centre the next year with Helene and they returned every year after that until I was 16.

"I stayed with them for three weeks in the summer and Helene stayed with us for two. We had an exchange for the next three or four years. His sister and I are the same age and he is four years older than me. We lost touch when we grew up and I moved to London but our parents stayed loosely in touch."

They both went on to marry different people with Emma having two children while Vincent had four of his own with his French wife.

But they got back in touch four years ago when Vincent phoned Emma suggesting their respective children could become penpals.

They both discovered they were both divorced and after Emma visited Vincent in France, they fell for each other.

Just months after getting together, Vincent popped the question and the couple tied the knot in a church ceremony in Paris last month.