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The classical singer, the Harvard graduate and the Second Gentleman of Germany: A who’s who of the G7 spouses

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Carrie and Boris Johnson

Karwai Tang / WireImage via Getty Images

As Britain is gearing up to host this year’s G7 summit on 11-13 June in Cornwall, it’s time to take a closer look at the partners of the almost exclusively male world leaders in attendance.

All eyes will be on Britain’s equivalent to a First Lady, the Prime Minister’s third wife, Carrie. Formerly known as ‘the girlfriend’ (Dominic Cummings) and ‘Princess Nut Nuts’ (Cummings again), it’s safe to say that Mrs. Johnson has raised her status several notches ahead of the global summit. But the First Lady circuit is a social minefield with spouses of all different religions, ages and backgrounds. Here’s how to navigate it smoothly.

  • The odd couple

    Among the veterans is France’s Brigitte Macron, although attendees should take care not to call her that, as Mrs. Macron is famously much older than her husband. The First Lady epithet is a bit fraught, too, as Monsieur le Président tried but failed to give his wife official powers, including her own budget. A safe topic would be how to deal with education loss post-lockdown. Brigitte is a teacher and France has, like Britain, used school closures as a measure to curb infections.

  • The golden couple

    With her flowing, strawberry blonde locks, Sophie Grégoire is a Canadian Carrie to her handsome husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (even the constantly stoney-faced Melania Trump was pictured swooning over him at the summit in Biarritz two years ago). This mother of three young children is a committed gender equality advocate and former television and radio personality. Do: Compliment her on her work for girls’ and women’s rights, particularly against eating disorders. Don’t mention: Her involvement in last year’s WE charity scandal.

  • The fellow Catholics

    Kim Jung-sook, first lady of South Korea is decades older than Mrs. Johnson, but they seem to have a lot in common. Classical singer Kim and her husband, president Moon Jae-in, are both Catholics (Kim converted). Like Mrs. Johnson, Kim Jung-sook is very fond of dogs, having adopted several abandoned pups over the years. She once received a pair of white North Korean Pungsan pups as a peace offering from dictator Kim Jong-un. The canines were transported through a heavily fortified demilitarised border zone to South Korea’s presidential Blue House. Now beat that, Dilyn.

  • The American superwoman

    America’s new First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is a working professional, allegedly the first in US history to hold a paying position while her husband is President. She is a professor of writing and has authored several books herself, including a best-selling memoir. She’s already experienced in official duties since Joe Biden’s years as Vice-President (2009-2017), when she travelled to over 40 countries advocating female education and financial empowerment. Her elderly husband may have been dubbed ‘Sleepy Joe’ by political foes, but his energetic, super-accomplished wife more than makes up for it.

  • Be sure to count those chairs…

    Ursula von der Leyen (née Albrecht), President of the European Commission, married the equally aristocratic Heiko von der Leyen in 1986. The couple went on to have seven children, a feat worthy of the Mother’s Cross. A physician like Ursula, Heiko is Medical Director of Orgenesis Inc., suitably headquartered in Germantown, USA. The company specialises in personalised cell and gene therapies (CGTs). Do discuss: The impressive speed of the German vaccine rollout, or the couple’s first grandchild, born this May (on Europe Day, no less). Don’t ask: His views on this spring’s scathing feature on Ursula in Foreign Policy magazine.

  • The ‘Second Gentleman’ of Germany

    Chancellor Angela Merkel’s husband Joachim Sauer is not likely to be satisfied with a spot of tie-shopping. A leading scientist and professor at Berlin’s Humboldt University, Sauer is a Fellow of the Royal Society in London, an honour shared with the likes of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk. His somewhat odd-sounding title is ‘Second Husband/Gentleman of Germany,’ as the partner of the German President officially comes first. Hard-working, publicity-shy and not one to wave for the cameras to support his wife, much fun has been had by German papers over the years thanks to Sauer’s surname, which does indeed translate as ‘sour’.

  • The clothes horse

    Jennifer ‘Jenny’ Morrison, wife of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a former nurse who hasn’t made much of a mark on public life Down Under, instead trying to live as normal a life as possible with the couple’s two children. Secret weapon: Jenny has a knack for fashion and is bonza at promoting Australian designers.

  • The dark horse

    Apart from stating that Mariko Suga is the wife of Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga, Mariko’s Wikipedia entry contains but one sentence: ‘She is the sister of one of her husband’s co-workers.’ Talk about an unwritten page. Japanese press offers little other information of value. (They have three adult sons. She chose the tie for the announcement of his candidacy). As opposed to many of the other power couples en route to Cornwall, her husband is described as equally reserved, so expect lots of awkward silences. If ever there was a need for the particular brand of chaos only a one-year-old child can bring, this is it. Unleash young Wilfred and perhaps things will ease up?

  • The Mona Lisa

    Discreet, aristocratic Serena Cappello, or “’Serenella’ to her closest friends, is often referred to as ‘the invisible wife’ in Italian media. She’s been married to Italy’s latest Prime Minister Mario Draghi for half a century but little is known of her personality or political preferences. A profile for Italian Vanity Fair earlier this year reveals little more of this very private lady than a passion for English literature and dogs.

  • The political animal

    Amélie Derbaudrenghien is the partner of European Council president Charles Michel. European press describe her as, you guessed it, ‘discreet’. Amélie is a high-level political advisor well versed in First Lady protocol; her husband is the former Prime Minister of Belgium (2014-2019).

  • The potential no-show

    Highly unlikely to be seen with husband Narendra Modi (expected to attend digitally due to India’s severe Covid-19 situation) is the Indian PM’s estranged wife, Jashodaben. The couple entered into an arranged marriage as teenagers in the late 1960s. Narendra left the household after a couple of years (some sources say she was the one to walk out on him). Jashodaben is a retired school teacher and highly spiritual. She refuses to speak ill of her husband, to whom she is still legally married.

  • The one and only

    A medical doctor, Harvard graduate and champion of the poor, South Africa’s first lady Dr. Tshepo Motsepe is likely to get along brilliantly with Dr. Jill Biden. Her husband Cyril Ramaphosa’s predecessor, ex-president Jacob Zuma had no less than five wives, but fortunately for the gentle folk of Carbis Bay, Tshepo doesn’t share her position with anyone.

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