She began her career as a magician’s assistant, but yesterday Penny Mordaunt had a starring role amidst the glorious majesty of the King’s Coronation.
The Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council carried the Sword of State before presenting the jewelled Sword of Offering to King Charles in Westminster Abbey.
Ms Mordaunt, 50, who was praised by many for her assured performance, took centre stage after twice losing out in the Tory leadership contests that took place last year.
She has risen from featuring on ITV‘s diving show Splash!, being voted Britain’s ‘sexist MP’ and serving as a Royal Navy reservist.
And after the death of Queen Elizabeth II last September, Ms Mordaunt led the Accession Council meeting in which Charles was formally proclaimed King.
But there has been controversy too, including her stance on trans rights and a 2014 Commons speech in which she repeatedly said ‘c**k’ after a bet with navy colleagues.
She began her career as a magician’s assistant, but yesterday Penny Mordaunt had a starring role amidst the glorious majesty of the King’s Coronation. Above: Ms Mordaunt on ITV diving show Splash! in 2014 and yesterday, carrying the Sword of State in Westminster Abbey
Ms Mordaunt, one of twins, was born in Torquay to a paratrooper father and teacher mother.
Fittingly, she was named after a battleship – HMS Penelope – and moved with her family to Portsmouth when she was two, due to her father’s job.
Tragically, when she was 15, both of Ms Mordaunt’s parents were diagnosed with cancer, plunging her into the role of ‘child carer’.
She told DailyMail in 2014: ‘All the women on my mother’s side of family have died of breast cancer.’
Shortly after her mother passed away, her twin brother dropped out of school and went to work in a factory.
As he battled his own cancer, Ms Mordaunt’s father worked round the clock to pay the bills.
Ms Mordaunt’s younger brother was aged just nine at the time and so she took up caring duties when still a teenager.
She explained: ‘We didn’t get any help. It was very, very challenging and pretty tough trying to do everything.’
Ms Mordaunt has risen from featuring on ITV’s diving show Splash!, being voted Britain’s ‘sexist MP’ and serving as a Royal Navy reservist. Above: Outside Downing Street in 2019
Ms Mordaunt’s profile received a major boost in 2014 when she featured on diving show Splash! and was named ‘Britain’s sexist MP’ after a poll
Ms Mordaun served as director of communications for Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council (left, in the role) before becoming an MP. Above: Ms Mordaunt in camouflage gear during her time as Armed Forces minister in 2016
Ms Mordaunt took up a role as an assistant to a Portsmouth magician called Will Ayling – once president of the prestigious Magic Circle – to pay her way through sixth-form college.
She joined him in performances at Army barracks and golf clubs, where she was ‘sawn in half and chopped to bits’.
Ayling’s signature trick – called ‘Zigzag’ – saw him push large steel blades through various ‘body parts’, giving illusion that the assistant’s stomach was taken out.
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘I cut my leg a few times and got the odd nick under my chest, but no ambulances were required. It was fun and it relieved the pressures at home a bit.’
By the time she had passed her A-levels and ‘got the house back to normal’, Ms Mordaunt’s father had begun life with a new partner and she was able to ‘really focus’ on her life.
She had a ‘life-changing’ year working in Romanian orphanages before studying philosophy at Reading University, where she forayed into student politics and rose to become president of the Students’ Union.
Whilst there, she helped to secure the acquittal of one of her university lecturers after he was wrongly accused of indecently assaulting two students.
John Cottingham, now the emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Reading University, had been accused of trying to seduce the pair by discussing bondage and the work of the Marquis de Sade during a garden party.
Camilla, Queen Consort looks on as Penny Mordaunt leads King Charles III wearing St Edward’s Crown during his Coronation in Westminster Abbey
Lord President of the Council Penny Mordaunt carries the jewelled Sword of Offering
Ms Mordaunt is seen carrying the Sword of State at yesterday’s Coronation service in Westminster Abbey
Ms Mordaunt presents the Sword of Offering to King Charles as he sits in the Coronation Chair
In 1997, he walked free from court after a trial in which Ms Mordaunt, then 24, said she had ‘no hesitation’ in coming forward to support him.
After university, Ms Mordaunt worked under Prime Minister John major as head of youth for the Conservative Party.
She then briefly served as Head of Foreign Press for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000 and also worked as director of communications for Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council.
Meanwhile, there was upheaval in Ms Mordaunt’s private life as a year-long marriage to partner Paul Murray ended in 2000.
She would go on to split from long-term partner Paul Murray in 2016. The couple reportedly had eight cats but no children.
Before entering Parliament in 2010, she also had communications roles at the National Lottery and Diabetes UK.
Despite her true blue Tory allegiances, Ms Mordaunt’s family ties were all to the Labour party.
She is even related to first Labour chancellor Philip Snowden, as well as George Lansbury, who ran the party in the 1930s and whose granddaughter is the actress Angela Lansbury.
Ms Mordaunt is seen leading the meeting of the Accession Council last September, when King Charles was formally proclaimed the monarch after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth
Ms Mordaunt signs the Proclamation of Accession as Prince William, Queen Consort Camilla and then PM Liz Truss look on
Ms Mordaunt did admit that she went to ‘check out’ Labour at an education conference in Skegness in the late 1990s but returned home unimpressed.
She explained: ‘The people I met were very nice people. But no, I wanted to get things done.’
In the year that she began her role as MP for Portsmouth North, Ms Mordaunt was commissioned into the Royal Naval Reserve, a post she remained in until 2019.
Ms Mordaunt had entered Parliament after standing in Portsmouth North at the 2005 General Election, where she narrowly lost to Labour.
She received a letter from former PM Margaret Thatcher telling her to ‘get back on the horse’.
After doing exactly that, she won her seat in 2010 with an 8.6 per cent swing, becoming one of ‘Cameron’s Cuties’ – the women fast-tracked into Tory seats by then leader David Cameron as part of efforts to modernise the party’s image.
Ms Mordaunt’s profile received a major boost in 2014 when she featured on diving show Splash! and was named ‘Britain’s sexist MP’ after a poll.
Her stint on TV, alongside B-list celebrities including Gemma Collins from The Only Way Is Essex, saw her train under celebrity diver Tom Daley.
She became the ninth celebrity to be eliminated after the likes of Paul Young and stand-up comedian Patrick Monahan.
Ms Mordaunt also provoked controversy when, as Communities Minister, she said ‘c**k’ six times in a Commons speech after she was dared to say an obscene word at a dinner with Navy officer friends.
Her speech, during a debate about poultry welfare, received a formal reply from a fellow minister, who believed she was being genuine.
In 2015, Ms Mordaunt was appointed the first female defence minister for the armed forces in UK history.
She backed Andrea Leadsom in her unsuccessful bid to succeed Mr Cameron in 2016 but was appointed minister for disabled people after Theresa May won the contest.
Ms Mordaunt’s career then received a further boost when she was appointed as Defence Secretary under Mrs May.
Penny Mordaunt competes during the 27th annual tug of war between House of Lords and House of Commons at Westminster College Gardens in 2014
Ms Mordaunt is seen leaving Downing Street after being appointed a junior Communities minister in 2014
But she only served in the role for less than three months when Boris Johnson became PM and fired her.
She went on to make waves in the Tory leadership contest after Mr Johnson was forced to resign last summer.
Despite being hugely popular with Tory party members, Mrs Mordaunt missed out on the top job after being eliminated in the final round of voting among Tory MPs.
She had however been criticised for her stance on trans issues. She had previously said that trans women are women, but changed her stance after coming under fire.
After Liz Truss’s victory in the contest, Ms Mordaunt served in her short-lived cabinet as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council when Liz Truss began her disastrous 50 days in Downing Street.
Despite the fact that Ms Truss’s premiership lasted for just 50 days, Ms Mordaunt did end up having a starring role on the nation’s history when, after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, she led the Accession ceremony at St James’s Palace in her role as Lord President.
Ms Mordaunt did then run against Rishi Sunak to replace Ms Truss but eventually conceded after he became the clear favourite among MPs.
She kept her role as Commons Leader and Lord President under the new PM and it was in the latter post that she starred in the King’s Coronation yesterday.
Ms Mordaunt admitted that she had been ‘doing some press-ups’ in preparation for having to carry the Sword of State and present the jewelled Sword of Offering to the King.
Ms Mordaunt is seen being greeted by Liz Trus during last summer’s Tory leadership contest
Dressed in a custom-made teal outfit with a matching cape and headband with gold feather embroidery, Mordaunt held the pieces for the majority of the service.
Notable figures including a number of fellow MPs praised her, with Labour MP Emily Thornberry tweeting: ‘Got to say it, @PennyMordaunt looks damn fine! The sword bearer steals the show.’
Author and columnist Caitlin Moran also commented on the social media buzz around Ms Mordaunt’s role, saying: ‘Penny Mordaunt’s sword is the ‘Pippa Middleton’s Bum’ of the Coronation.’
Labour MP Chris Bryant said in a tweet: ‘The Penny is mightier than the sword.’