Mightier than the sword: How Penny Mordaunt became the surprise star of King Charles’ coronation
Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Privy Council, was the surprise star of King Charles III’s coronation with her fierce outfit and stoney-faced sword-bearing.
Mordaunt on Saturday 6 May became the first woman to carry the sword of state – a symbol of the new king’s authority – during the procession at Westminster Abbey.
Her part in the ceremony included carrying the heavy sword for a full 51 minutes, which weighs eight pounds (3.6kg), before exchanging it for the jewelled sword of offering and presenting that to Charles. Mordaunt kept a serious face and did not break a sweat while she was watched by thousands of people.
Read our live coverage of the coronation weekend here.
As part of an ancient custom, Mordaunt then “bought back” the glittering sword – part of the new King’s regalia or collection of objects which symbolise his responsibilities as monarch – from the Archbishop of Canterbury in exchange for 100 newly-minted 50p pieces bearing an effigy of Charles.
Her appearance at the crowning ceremony impressed royal fans on Twitter, with one person wondering: “Who had ‘Penny Mordaunt overshadowing everything’ on their bingo card?”
Tony Blair’s former spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, tweeted during the event: “Don’t let anyone ever say I never say anything positive about Tories . . . I am in awe of Penny Mordaunt’s arm and shoulder strength!”
Mordaunt addressed her role in the coronation on Twitter, where she wrote: “Honoured to be part of the #coronation with thousands of others who played their part. I’m very aware that our armed forces, police officers and others have been marching or standing for hours as part of the ceremony or to keep us all safe. In comparison, my job was rather easier.
“Huge and heartfelt thanks to all who made this so remarkable. I’m so proud of you all and the King and Queen today.”
Mordaunt previously told Matt Chorley on Times Radio that she had been doing press-ups ahead of the big day and had practised using a weighted replica.
Fans of Mordaunt have also pointed to the irony of her viral moment at the coronation given her day job as the Leader of the House of Commons – a role given to her by former Prime Minister Liz Truss, often given to MPs to keep them “quiet”. And, as President of the Privy Council, she became the first woman in UK history to proclaim a new monarch.
In honour of her show-stealing sword bearing, here’s everything you need to know about the senior UK politician:
The politician wore a teal caped dress designed by luxury ready-to-wear brand Safiyaa, embroidered with a fern motif, which is a nod to the privy council. The teal colour, called “Poseidon”, is a reference to her Portsmouth constituency. She arrived wearing ballerina flats, with studded bows and later changed into a pair of nude stilettos.
A source told The Sunday Times last month: “She is paying for [her outfit] herself as there is no budget for it, and no question that any taxpayers’ money should be spent on it. Penny has said that after the coronation she might sell it and use the money to fund future uniforms for women.”
Fans of fantasy TV and film, like Game of Thrones to Star Wars watchers, grew excited on social media, comparing her look to a fictional warrior princess in “gladiator robes”.
Mordaunt has served as member of Parliament for Portsmouth North since 2010.
In 2015, she was appointed Minister for the Armed Forces – making her the first woman to ever hold this position in government. She was also the first woman to be appointed Secretary of State for Defence in 2019, after Mordaunt replaced Gavin Williamson.
The appointment lasted 85 days, after Boris Johnson removed her from the position after he became prime minister.
The 50-year-old politician was chosen Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Privy Council, a formal body of advisers to the sovereign, on 6 September 2022.