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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 October, 2003, 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK
Profile: Betsy Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith and his wife Betsy
Mrs Duncan Smith is devoted to her family
Iain Duncan Smith's wife Elizabeth, or Betsy, is seen as the archetypal Tory wife.

The petite blonde is described as an "under-used asset" to the Conservative Party. She is a distant cousin of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, but is known to loathe the limelight that is attached to her husband's job.

She has been described as Mr Duncan Smith's anchor, a person he can use as a sounding board and someone who would have had the last word as he mulled over launching a leadership bid when William Hague stepped down.

At the time, Mr Duncan Smith said: "If she had said 'No', it wouldn't happen."

Betsy, is the daughter of Lord Cottesloe, a former commander in the Royal Navy and ex-Lord Lieutenant of Buckinghamshire.

Four children

Educated at St Mary's School, Wantage, she moved on to Stowe School for her A-levels, but left at 17 to work in Harrods and then as a secretary.

Through life in the same military circles, she met her husband at a London party, and in 1982 they married, when she was 23, at Swanbourne, Buckinghamshire, near her parents' home.

Their first child, Edward, was born five years later, followed by Alicia, Harry and Rosanna.

Like many fellow Tory wives, her job as her husband's diary secretary was about as close to a hands-on political role as she seemed to want to get.

Her mother Lady Cottesloe once remarked that she was "certainly not political".

"She's totally absorbed in her husband and the family. They are her whole life and I don't even think she has any hobbies," she said.

'Calming' influence

But according to family, friends and her husband, Mrs Duncan Smith is no mute and passive politician's wife.

"She makes sure he always has a home to come back to that's warm and welcoming, but she also takes him down a peg or two," one friend has said.

"He's never allowed to get above himself. She's the sort of person who would be very good in a crisis - tremendously calm."

The couple live in a 2m mansion, with a swimming pool, tennis court and orchards in Swanbourne, on her parents estate.

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