She is best known outside of Westminster for appearing on diving show Splash! almost 10 years ago. But Penny Mordaunt’s biggest breakout to date came on Saturday as she wielded ceremonial swords at the King’s Coronation in front of a 2,300-strong congregation at Westminster Abbey and a TV audience of 20 million Britons.
As Lord President of the Council, she was responsible for bearing The Sword of State and presenting The Jewelled Sword of Offering to Charles – the first time it has been carried out by a woman.
Ms Mordaunt, dressed in a custom-made teal outfit, immediately began to trend on Twitter and sparked comparisons with Pippa Middleton who stole the show as a bridesmaid at her sister Kate’s royal wedding.
She was praised by the left and right, with Labour MP Emily Thornberry saying she looked “damn fine”, while Tory Alicia Kearns added that she had “slayed it”.
Ms Mordaunt even wowed Sir Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who admitted he was “in awe” of her upper body strength.
And after a number of failed Tory leadership bids, her impressive efforts appear to have boosted her chances at a future run for the job.
Bookmakers Coral and Ladbrokes have both slashed her odds from 8/1 to 13/2 to replace Rishi Sunak as the next leader of the Conservative Party, with just Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch ahead of her.
Coral’s John Hill said: “Penny Mordaunt has done her chances of becoming the next Conservative leader no harm at all during the Coronation celebrations.
“She has been praised across the House for her role in the Abbey where she shone with a sword.”
Ahead of the historic ceremony, Ms Mordaunt, a Royal Navy Reservist, revealed she had done press-ups to prepare for the gruelling role.
And despite the viral reaction to her sword-carrying, she was modest as she broke her silence hours after the crowning of Charles and Camilla.
Ms Mordaunt, who is also the Leader of the House of Commons, said on Saturday night: “Honoured to be part of the Coronation with thousands of others who played their part.
“I’m very aware that our armed forces, police officers and others have been marching or standing for hours as part of the ceremony or to keep us all safe. In comparison, my job was rather easier.
“Huge and heartfelt thanks to all who made this so remarkable. I’m so proud of you all and the King and Queen today.”
Ms Mordaunt, was Conservative head of youth under Sir John Major, was first elected to Parliament as MP for Portsmouth North in 2010 after an unsuccessful attempt in 2005.
She was given her first ministerial job in 2014 under David Cameron and she has since held a number of posts, including becoming the first female defence secretary.
Ms Mordaunt, who worked as a magician’s assistant when she was a student, supported Brexit in the 2016 referendum on EU membership.
The politician – who was once voted Britain’s sexiest female MP – donned her swimming costume to take part in ITV reality show Splash! in 2014, where she was among celebrities trained by Olympian Tom Daley.
Ms Mordaunt threw her hat into the ring at two Tory leadership contests last year, with the first won by Liz Truss and Mr Sunak being crowned in the second.
She was handed her current job by then-prime minister Ms Truss in what was widely viewed as a demotion to sideline her rival. Mr Sunak kept her in the relatively junior role when he took the keys to No 10.
But it ultimately led to her stealing the show at the Coronation and, if the bookies are right, could boost a third bid to be Tory leader.