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Why Penny Mordaunt Was the Star of King Charles III’s Coronation

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In a sea of royals and celebrities, an unlikely star emerged at King Charles III’s coronation on Saturday.

British Conservative politician and Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt, dazzled viewers as she performed her ceremonial role. As part of her additional position as lord president of the privy council, a team of advisors to the monarch, Mordaunt was required to carry an 8 lbs. 17th-Century Sword of State into Westminster Abbey during the King’s Procession.

Now, the 49-year-old politician is being lauded for her stylish appearance and for graceful conduct while holding the 4 ft. sword throughout the ceremony. Mordaunt wore a sleek teal midi dress that she commissioned for the occasion, as well as a matching cape and Jane Taylor hat with gold fern embroidery. The fern design was a nod to the Privy Council uniform motif.

Their Majesties King Charles III And Queen Camilla - Coronation Day
Camilla, Queen Consort looks on as Penny Mordaunt leads King Charles III wearing the St Edward's Crown during his coronation ceremony in Westminster Abbey on May 6, 2023.Yui Mok—WPA Pool/Getty Images
Their Majesties King Charles III And Queen Camilla - Coronation Day
Lord President of the Council, Penny Mordaunt, presents the Sword of State to King Charles III during his coronation ceremony.Victoria Jones—WPA Pool/Getty Images

“[I] will be carrying the Sword of State, which is the heaviest sword, so I’ve been doing some press-ups to train for that,” she told The Times Red Box podcast of her role before the historic day. Mordaunt was required to keep the sword—which represents the king’s authority—at a right angle to her body. “We practiced with some replicas that were weighted, and it’s a huge honor to do it,” she added, noting that her navy background came in handy when preparing.

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The quirky tradition saw a hundred newly-minted 50 pence coins bearing the King’s image, exchanged for the sword. Ms. Mordaunt redeemed the sword for the bag of coins at the Abbey’s altar.

She also made history as the first woman to perform this royal duty. As such, Mordaunt told Politico that she “felt it wasn’t right” to wear the traditional black-and-gold court dress of the privy council, as the Marquess of Salisbury during Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953.

King Charles III coronation
Penny Mordaunt holds the Swords of State at the coronation ceremony of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.PA Wire/AP

Mordaunt first took on royal responsibilities just four days after she was appointed as leader of the House of Commons on Sept. 6, by former Prime Minister Liz Truss. She presided over the accession council after the Queen died in September and Charles ascended the throne.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North is also known for her unsuccessful bid to become leader of the Conservative party. She ran against current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in 2022, and finished in third place before backing Truss and earning a place in her short-lived government.

Previously, Mordaunt has served as Minister of State at the Department for International Trade from from 2021 to 2022. She racked up a previous first when she became the first woman to serve as Secretary of State for Defence in 2019. She is also a former Governor at the World Bank.

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Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com