Francois Hollande Julie Gayet photos elysee palace
French president Francois Hollande and actress Julie Gayet have been photographed together. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

France's president Francois Hollande is facing fresh controversy over his private life, after the publication of photos depicting his reported lover, Julie Gayet, apparently enjoying state security.

Closer, the glossy magazine that first reported evidence of the rumoured affair last year, has printed images it said show Gayet entering a state-owned car accompanied by two security officials.

"She is protected as a first lady," the weekly commented, underscoring that the relationship between the 60-year-old president and the actress almost 20 years his junior has never been made official.

The photos were taken on 5 January in the north-western city of Rennes, where Gayet was overseeing the shooting of a movie she is producing.

One of the two pictured bodyguards has been identified by media as Michel M. - a member of Hollande's personal security staff.

In the first set of photos published by Closer in January 2014, Michel M was shown taking a bag of croissants to a flat near the presidential palace in Paris, where the president and the actress were said to have spent a secret nocturnal encounter.

The publication caused great embarrassment to Hollande, eventually triggering a turbulent break-up with his then official partner, Valerie Trierweiler.

The new photos have sparked a debate on providing Gayet with taxpayer-funded security since she is not officially the president's partner.

"If Ms. Gayet is the official partner of the President of the Republic then it is normal for the state to ensure her protection. But if she is not there is no reason to use public funds to accompany, carry, and protect [her]," Sébastien Huyghe, a spokesperson for the opposition UMP party, told BFM TV.

Finance minister Michel Sapin suggested the escort could have been necessary due to unspecified threats against the actress.

"The Republic is there to protect anyone who has received a threat," he told iTele, suggesting that Gayet could have been exposed to threats because of her fame. Sapin however added he was not aware of any specific threat against the actress.

The renewed scrutiny of Hollande's well-guarded private life comes months after another magazine splashed a picture on its cover of the president and the actress sitting at a table on a terrace of the Elysée Palace.

Top public figures' private lives are usually a taboo for media in France. After its January 2014 scoop, Closer was ordered to pay €15,000 (£12,400) in damages to Gayet by a Paris court for breach of privacy.