His father is half Russian and his aristocratic grandmother fled from St Petersburg when the tsar was ousted. His mother, who is Dutch, was held in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Indonesia before escaping to Britain aged 12. Hardly conventional parents. Then again, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is no conventional man.
The youngest of the party leaders on the 2010 general election trail, Nicholas William Peter Clegg was born on January 7, 1967, in Buckinghamshire, the third of four children. He was educated at the prestigious Westminster School, and quickly excelled – though somewhat tarnished his name when he was arrested following a “drunken prank” during an exchange trip to Munich aged 16. He has since said he is “not proud” of the episode, which left him spending the summer doing community service.
After securing a place to study archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge, the intrepid youngster set out on a gap year – working as a ski instructor in Austria and then taking up a post at a Helsinki bank. He clearly developed a taste for other cultures – as, after graduating from Cambridge, he waved goodbye to Britain again, this time to study the political philosophy of green campaigners at the University of Minnesota, which he followed with an internship at a politics magazine in New York.
Next up was a period in Hungary, before he headed to Brussels to work for European Commissioner Leon Brittan. He then undertook a second Masters degree, this time at the College of Europe in Bruges. It was here he met his future wife Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, a former Middle East expert at the foreign office and the daughter of an ex conservative senator in the Spanish parliament. They tied the knot in 2000 and three children Antonio, Alberto and Miguel followed.
Upon his return to Britain, Nick had a brief spell as a lecturer at Sheffield University before becoming a Liberal Democrat MEP. He made the move to the Commons in 2005, and after former leader Charles Kennedy stepped down following revelations about his drinking, he was tipped for the top spot. On December 18, 2007, he was appointed party leader.
Despite a high-flying political career and a family, fun-loving Nick has a varied social life, too. He loves to ski and has celebrity friends – notably TV star Louis Theroux, who he has holidayed with in the past. He even acted alongside Hollywood actress Helena Bonham Carter while a student.
Nick drummed up a lot of publicity for the Liberal Democrats during the 2010 election campaign. Thanks in part to the new, live TV debates, he gained a high-profile stance and sparked what the press dubbed 'Cleggmania', as a new generation of voters sat up and took notice of the charismatic party leader.
However, the publicity failed to translate into votes. The Lib Dems secured 1% of the vote and 57 seats. "We simply haven't achieved what we had hoped," acknowledged the dejected leader.
But all was not lost. As a hung parliament was declared, Nick entered talks with both the Conservatives and Labour to explore the possibility of forming a coallition government. And while talks with Gordon Brown faltered, he struck a deal with David Cameron - and begun May 12, 2010 as the UK's deputy prime minister.
"We are now going to form a new government," he announced. "More importantly we are going to get a new kind of government. I hope that this is the start of the new politics I always believed in."