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Friday, December 19, 1997 Published at 20:37 GMT


Ffion Jenkins: a passionate Welsh patriot
image: [ Anti-Welsh devolution Tory leader marries passionately patriotic Celt ]
Anti-Welsh devolution Tory leader marries passionately patriotic Celt

Ffion Jenkins, who married the Tory leader William Hague at the Palace of Westminster on Friday, has an impeccable Welsh pedigree.

Her father is chief executive of the Arts Council of Wales. Her mother is a former Welsh tutor and magistrate. Commentators say they are archetypal members of the Crachach, the Welsh-speaking elite who run Wales's public institutions and bodies, sometimes known as the "Taffia".

Singing in the sunset

Ffion, known to her friends as "Jolly" Jenkins, met William Hague in 1995 when he was Secretary of State for Wales and she was his private secretary.

[ image: At the Notting Hill Carnival]
At the Notting Hill Carnival
The seeds of their relationship were apparently planted when Ms Jenkins decided to teach her boss the Welsh National Anthem, not wanting him to repeat the mistake of his predecessor, John Redwood, who had embarrassed himself by having to mouth the words and even making a mess of that.

They were both in Wales at the time, and Mr Hague was due to to go to the Royal National Eisteddfod.

"Before dinner we thought I had better learn the Welsh national anthem," Mr Hague was quoted as saying in the Sunday Express.

"So we went and sat on the wall overlooking the mountains and she sang to me for about two hours until I could sing back the words. It was on a beautiful summer evening with the sun going down."

But it was another 16 months before he plucked up the courage to ask her out. Four months after that, and three months before the election, he proposed to her.

Ms Jenkins is described by her friends as very discreet. Their courtship was kept a virtual secret until the engagement was announced.

She is still not giving interviews, but it is believed that unlike her husband-to-be she is persuaded by the idea of Welsh devolution.

Welsh is her first language, and she has allegedly made her fiancé learn it, and agree that if they were to have children they would be brought up bi-lingually.

A glittering background

As a schoolgirl, Ffion relaxed by playing the clarinet with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and singing in the National Youth Choir.

She got three A grades in her A-Levels and distinctions in two special papers in English and Welsh at her Cardiff comprehensive school, Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf. She then studied English at Jesus College, Oxford, where her thesis on the writer Thomas Gray was written in Welsh.

After graduating, she joined the fast-track stream of the Civil Service.

Although known as something of a swot at school and at Oxford, she became a prominent member of the Welsh London singles club SWS - Single, Welsh and Sexy.

It is said that for years Ffion Jenkins was in competition with her older sister, Manon. The elder Ms Jenkins is assistant private secretary to the Prince of Wales.

According to one Ffion's friends, when Manon rang her father and found that her sister was engaged to William, she said "OK, fair enough. That's the end of sibling rivalry."

At 29 and seven years younger than her groom, she will be the youngest wife of a party leader in history.

She has given up her career in the civil service, but has been appointed Director of Operations at the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, the body that brings together business and the arts.

Determined not to sacrifice her career for the life of a politician's wife, Ms Jenkins will keep her own name after her marriage.

[ image: The £2,000 black dress]
The £2,000 black dress
Being a modern couple is definitely the image to which Mr Hague and his bride aspire. They have already shocked many Conservatives, including a disapproving Lady Thatcher, by sleeping in the same room during the party conference this year.

She also famously wore a black lace dress costing £2,000 at the same Blackpool get-together, causing party aides to herald her as the new Liz Hurley.

But not all their photo-opportunities have had such a good reception. When the couple visited the Notting Hill Carnival, blowing whistles and with William dressed casually but much too impeccably, there was wide agreement that he in particular looked out of place.


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