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Sunday, 21 November, 1999, 22:19 GMT
Love is: Marriage to Jeffrey
Mary and Jeffrey are back in the spotlight

Tory wives are well-known for their stiff upper lips but Mary Archer has had to put up with more than most.

I don't stand by him because of a sense of duty. I do it because I want to
Mary Archer
Being married to Jeffrey Archer for more than 30 years has been something of a rollercoaster ride.

On Saturday she drove Lord Archer to their family home in Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, after he had ended his political career for the third time by standing down as candidate for London mayor.

It is not the first time that Mary has been left to sweep up the mess under the full glare of the media spotlight.

She was recently quoted as saying: "I've never expected to escape from it all, that is simply the way our life is. You have to take the rough with the smooth."

She met Archer when she was a 19-year-old chemistry student at Oxford University.

Since their marriage in 1966, the couple have remained very much their own people professionally, he pursuing his business ambitions and she continuing her research.

But Lady Archer, who is one of Britain's top solar experts, has often accompanied her husband on his many high profile book launches and charity platforms.

The couple in happier times
And in times of crisis the couple have been second to none in their displays of unity.

Lady Archer's patience has been sorely tested over the years.

While she was pregnant with their second son, her husband informed her that he had lost hundreds of thousands of pounds of their savings in a failed investment.

She stood by him as he resigned from Parliament and struggled to recoup the money by writing a best-selling novel.

She watched as his political career was resurrected when he was appointed as deputy chairman of the Tory party in 1985.

But the reversal of his fortunes proved shortlived when the News of the World claimed he had paid Monica Coghlan 2,000 to prevent her talking about their relationship.

'Fragrant witness'

In the weeks following Lord Archer's resignation as deputy Tory Party chairman in the wake of the Monica Coghlan allegations, his wife was depicted as a silent yet firm standard-bearer for her husband.

It was during the following year's libel case that she truly came into her own as the rock on which the foundations of the Archer family rested.

It was the poetic tribute she garnered from Mr Justice Caulfield at the end of her husband's 1987 libel action against the Daily Star which immortalised her forever in the public's mind.

Summing-up the case, he described the politician's wife as a vision of "elegance, fragrance and radiance".

He said that the "vision of Mary in the witness box would never disappear".

She admitted in later interviews the comments had made her "wince".

Shares focus

But there was more embarrassment to come.

When questions were raised about the lightning 77,219 profit Lord Archer made by buying and selling Anglia shares days before it was targeted in a takeover bid, his business affairs came uncomfortably close to home for his wife.

As a non-executive director of the company, her own integrity could have been called into doubt, but somehow she rose above it, once more standing defiantly at her husband's shoulder.

While Lady Archer may always have remained loyal, she has never been afraid to speak her mind.

On several occasions she has talked candidly about her marriage to the Sunday supplements, often repeating similar, frank, insights.

In July 1987, following the successful conclusion of his libel suit, she famously said: "You cannot be in love with your husband after 21 years of marriage, but I do love Jeffrey very much indeed."

Indifference 'worse than infidelity'

Later that same year, she spoke liberally of sexual infidelity to the News of the World's Sunday magazine, saying: "It can be tolerated more than indifference. That is the absolute killer for any marriage."

On another occasion she wryly, and somewhat affectionately, described her husband's "gift for inaccurate precis".

But above all, what stands out about Mary Archer the wife is her apparently undiminished dedication to his cause.

She maintains: "I don't stand by him because of a sense of duty. I do it because I want to."

It is far a more loyal response than her husband can expect to receive from the rest of the Tory party.

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See also:
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Police consider charges against Archer
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Hague under pressure over Archer
20 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Profile: Jeffrey Archer
21 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Q&A: Archer's legal dilemma

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