An unlikely star emerged from the King’s coronation earlier this month – Conservative politician Penny Mordaunt who caused an online frenzy after appearing at the event.
The Portsmouth North MP, who was perhaps previously best known to many for losing both of her party’s 2022 leadership contests – first to Liz Truss, then to Rishi Sunak – has been described as the most popular Tory politician since her scene stealing appearance at the royal service.
In her ceremonial role as lord president of the privy council and bearer of the Sword of State, her duties during the big day included carrying the Sword of State, which weighs 3.6 kg (8 lb) for 51 minutes straight.
Then, a few minutes after surrendering the first sword, she was handed the (slightly lighter) Jewelled Sword of Offering, which she also held upright — her elbows tucked into her body, her forearms and biceps taking the strain — for the rest of the two-hour ceremony. It marked the first time the sword was carried and presented by a woman.
Now, in an interview with the Times, Penny, who described herself as a ‘workaholic with four cats’ has spoken about her role in the coronation, why she took a pair of fluffy slippers to the Abbey, and single life.
Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt (pictured in the House of Commons in February this year) has opened up about being single, the coronation, and being made into a meme
Amid her revelations about the coronation, the 50-year-old has discussed how she tried to ease some of the physical strain, including taking pre-emptive painkillers for the inevitable muscle ache.
In addition, she reveals how she opted for less than glamorous footwear for as much of the day as possible, donning fluffy slippers as she sat in the cloisters, before slipping on her heels at the last possible minute.
It wasn’t until she was on her way home that Penny realised the impression she had made on the public, with tweets starting to emerge which made the MP into a meme.
Notably, one joke suggested she had been ‘sponsored by Poundland’, as her teal outfit bore a gold laurel motif, not dissimilar to the discount outlet’s logo.
Another meme saw the politician’s sword Photoshopped out and replaced by a kebab, which Penny says she ‘loved’, noting that events like the coronation are above day-to-day politics, and bring people together.
Despite the jokes, the MP was praised for her outfit, sporting a £2,000 fitted teal dress and cape by atelier Safiyaa, and matching padded headband embroidered with gold leaves.
During her interview with the Times, the 50-year-old, who never remarried after splitting from husband Paul Murray in 2000 following a one-year-marriage, also opened up about being single.
She says she ‘feels complete’ without a partner, adding that while she has no need for ‘another half’, she wouldn’t be ideologically opposed to meeting someone.
The 50-year-old impressed the public with her impressive show of upper body strength during the coronation at Westminster Abbey earlier this month (pictured
Joking, she added: ‘It is, of course, a mystery why a workaholic with no social life and four cats is not a massive draw.’
While she has long kept her personal life very private, the politician has been working in public life for many years, and has been involved in Conservative circles since her days at the University of Reading.
There, she worked for John Major and William Hague at CCHQ and in communications before getting elected in 2010 as MP for Portsmouth North – where she lived during a childhood beset by family tragedy and financial struggles.
Her 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 was the ninth celebrity eliminated after the likes of Paul Young and stand-up comedian Patrick Monahan.
Despite an upturn in her career in 2015, when she became the first woman to hold the job of Armed Forces minister, relations with then PM David Cameron disintegrated the following year, as she became a vocal proponent of Brexit.
When Andrea Leadsom unsuccessfully bid to replace David Cameron that year, Penny supported her. Despite Andrea losing out to Theresa May, Penny managed to cling on to ministerial office, becoming minister for disabled people.
She entered the Cabinet the following year as Development Secretary, thanks to the sacking of Priti Patel, and was elevated to Defence Secretary in 2019 following the resignation of Gavin Williamson over alleged national security leaks.
The politician became the subject of numerous memes after the royal service, including one comparing her outfit to the Poundland logo
However, after backing Jeremy Hunt to become Tory leader that year, she was sacked by eventual winner Boris Johnson, when he became PM – only returning to the Cabinet after his massive election victory that Christmas.
After her unsuccessful bids to become Tory leader, she was installed as Commons Leader by Liz Truss, which saw her lead the Accession Council after the death of Queen Elizabeth II last September.
Thanks to the publicity this role has brought her, Penny is now considered a favourite to take over from Rishi Sunak as Tory leader, behind only Kemi Badenoch.
However, when asked by the Times if she might go for a third leadership bid, she denied she would.
Penny said: ‘It’s a controversial view, but I think a period of stability, calmness and effective government are what’s needed.’