Royal Family

Mightier than the sword: Who is Penny Mordaunt, the surprise star of King Charles’ coronation?

Penny Mordaunt, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Privy Council, is now also the surprise star of King Charles III’s coronation.

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 sword, which weighs eight pounds, at right angles to her body before exchanging it for the jewelled sword of offering and presenting that to Charles.

Follow live updates, as Coronation Day unfolds, 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?”

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 & 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.”

In honour of her show-stealing sword bearing, here’s everything you need to know about the senior UK politician:

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.

Following Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister over the Partygate scandal last July, Mordaunt launched her bid to become the leader of the Conservative Party – eventually losing to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss in the fifth round.

After Truss resigned, the PM hopeful once again announced her candidacy but failed to gain the necessary endorsement of 100 MPs.

Mordaunt was born in Torquay on 4 March 1973. Her father John Mordaunt served in the Parachute Regiment before becoming a teacher and youth worker. Mordaunt’s mother was a special needs teacher and died from breast cancer when she was 15. She has a twin brother James and a younger brother Edward.

The Tory politican, who was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve, said she was named after Navy Cruiser HMS Penelope.

During her early years, Mordaunt worked in a Johnson & Johnson factory and was a magician’s assistant to Will Ayling, past president of the Portsmouth Magical Society and of The British Ring.

Mordaunt met her ex-husband Paul Murray while she was studying philosophy at the University of Reading. The couple got married in 1999 before divorcing the following year.

Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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