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The cover of The Times from shortly before the last election. Photograph by Andrew Parsons.
Although there is no formal role for the Prime Minister's wife (or husband) in the UK, there are always going to be times when they are expected to be on display in public and act as a confidante in private. And thus far, Samantha Cameron has been a model consort, steering clear of controversy, pursuing her own career, yet also fulfilling family duties and providing much-appreciated support to her husband.
The elder daughter of North Lincolnshire landowner, Sir Reginald Sheffield (8th Baronet), she enjoyed a privileged upbringing - although has been known to play down her background by simply remarking that she comes from Scunthorpe. She won an art scholarship to Marlborough College and pursued her studies in that area further at Camberwell Collge of Arts and then Bristol Polytechnic, where she often found herself mixing in quite bohemian crowd - and it was around that time that she got a dolphin tattooed on her ankle.
She was to meet her future husband through her friendship with his younger sister, Clare, and romance blossomed during a Cameron family holiday in Tuscany in 1992 when he was approaching 26 and she just 21. They soon became an item and were married in 1996, by which time her career was taking off and before long she had become creative director of Smythsons, the Bond Street stationer; she remained in that post until her husband entered Downing Street, since when she has retained a part-time consultancy there.
Their marriage doubtless suffered additional strains as they coped with the severe disabilities of eldest son, Ivan, who died in February 2009, but they have been blessed with three other children - Nancy, Elwen and Florence - the last of whom was born in Cornwall during the family summer holiday a few months after entering Downing Street.
“SamCam” - as the tabloids have christened her - has opted to be a Prime Ministerial spouse more in the Norma Major mould than that of Cherie Blair, staying out of the limelight and definitely keeping out of public politics. But she did make regular appearances during the general election campaign, in particular getting involved in the promotion of social action projects, about which she blogged on the party website and talked about online for “WebSamCameron”. She has also involved herself in charity work and hosted receptions for good causes at Downing Street. Most recently she has become an ambassador for Save the Children.
But that's not to say she does not have views which she impresses upon the Prime Minister. In a rare interview with The Sunday Times she let some of her views slip. She told Eleanor Mills that her sympathies lie a long way from Sarah Palin and America's "far right". David Cameron's biographers, Francis Elliott and James Hanning, wrote that she is a “powerful influence” on him who “accepted the Tory modernising message before her husband”, whilst his close friend Andrew Feldman is quoted as describing her as “a good barometer” who is “tremendously grounded”, with “a good sense of what is important and what's not, but also of what's important to other people”.
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