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From Germany's weakest link to EU president: Before vaccine shambles, Ursula von der Leyen - daughter of a Brussels official - was a disastrous defence minister, survived academic scandal.. and loved meeting celebs

Von der Leyen is carried by Australian actor Hugh Jackman on an episode of a German TV show in December 2008, when she was families minister in Angela Merkel's first cabinet


  • Von der Leyen was the surprise choice to lead the European Commission in 2019
  • Her selection raised eyebrows in Germany after patchy term as defence minister 
  • The mother of seven followed her father, a former Brussels official, into politics
  • She lived in London under a false name in the 1970s to evade terrorist threats


Ursula von der Leyen - the EU chief being savaged across the continent for the bloc's shambolic vaccine roll-out - was parachuted into the job in 2019 after an erratic spell in the German cabinet which saw her labelled 'the government's weakest minister'.  

A trained gynaecologist, keen equestrian and mother of seven who once lived in London under a fake name because of terrorist threats against her father in West Germany, von der Leyen followed him into politics and quickly rose up the ranks. 

But there were raised eyebrows in Germany when she was vaulted from Berlin's defence ministry into Europe's top job in 2019, with her own coalition partners releasing a dossier accusing her of leaving the German military in a 'shabby state'.

Now von der Leyen, 62, faces fury across Europe over missing vaccine supplies and a roll-out trailing far behind Britain and the US, as well as a bungled move to impose export controls in Ireland which united London and Dublin in opposition.

Von der Leyen with her seven children - Donata, Egmont, David, Johanna, Gracia, Sophie and Victoria - in 2003 when she was a state minister in Lower Saxony  


Born in 1958, von der Leyen is the daughter of Ernst Albrecht, a Brussels official and chocolate biscuit executive who later became the state premier of Lower Saxony. 

As a member of the conservative CDU, he was seen as a potential target for the far-left Baader-Meinhof terrorists who were plaguing West Germany at the time. 

Amid fears that the young Ursula would be targeted, she adopted the false name 'Rose Ladson' while studying at the London School of Economics in the 1970s. 

Having also lived in Belgium and the United States, she eventually moved back to West Germany and trained as a gynaecologist.

She was awarded a PhD from Hanover Medical School - although this later came under scrutiny when a law professor accused her of plagiarism in 2015. 

The university eventually cleared her, saying her copied passages were 'a mistake, not misconduct' - saving her from the ignominy of being the third Merkel minister in four years to resign because of academic plagiarism.   

Her political career began after German reunification as an official in the CDU and subsequently a health minister in Lower Saxony, where her father had been premier.  

In 2005, she became Germany's family affairs minister in Angela Merkel's first cabinet, a role in which she often discussed her own large family - having had seven children between 1987 and 1999 with her husband Heiko von der Leyen. 

Read More Here: Daily Mail 

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