“She's one of those secret weapons that will have a pretty clear view how she wants to be deployed.” That's how Prime Minister David Cameron described his pretty wife Samantha – known in the media as SamCam – ahead of his campaign for the 2010 general election. And with her warm personality, successful career and style-savvy appearance, he wasn't wrong. The youngest ‘First Lady’ of Britain for 50 years has injected a breath of fresh air into Downing Street.
Born to Sir Reginald Sheffield, 8th Baronet, and Annabel Jones on April 18, 1971, Samantha had a privileged upbringing on a 300-acre estate in north Lincolnshire. And her family has links to aristocracy, too – indeed, research into her ancestry has shown she is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great granddaughter of Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwyn.
She was privately educated – first at The School of St Helen & St Katharine in Oxfordshire, then at the esteemed Marlborough College in Wiltshire.
After completing an art foundation course, the ambitious youngster enrolled at Bristol Polytechnic – now UWE – to do a degree course in Fine Art. She gained a reputation for being something of a rebel, though this appears to have been exaggerated by the media. She does, however, have a tattoo of a dolphin on her ankle.
It was while she was a student that she met the then 25-year-old David Cameron. She was close friends with his little sister Clare, and though the pair had met on numerous occasions, it wasn’t until a holiday in Tuscany in 1992 – the 30th wedding anniversary celebrations of David and Clare’s parents – that romance blossomed. “She turned me down for a while,” David has admitted. “She didn't want to tell anyone she was dating a Tory."
However, Sam herself has revealed she was smitten from the word go.
“He was quite different from any of my friends and anyone I’d met before,” she said during her first-ever TV interview in 2010. “I found him fascinating. He was incredibly funny, interesting and clever. We got on from day one.”
The couple wed four years later, in 1996 – by which time she had been made creative director of Smythson, the upmarket Bond Street stationery company.
In 2002 their first child, Ivan, was born. But all was not well. Ivan suffered from a rare combination of cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy, and required round-the-clock care. “The news hits you like a freight train,” said David. “You are depressed for a while because you are grieving for the difference between your hopes and the reality. But then you get over that, because he's wonderful.”
They went on to have two more children, Nancy, born in January 2004, and Arthur, born in February 2006. But tragedy hit in 2009, when Ivan sadly passed away in hospital.
The couple worked through their loss together, and in 2010 – just before David’s election campaign – announced the happy news that they were expecting their fourth child. “We were very keen to have another baby after Ivan died and sometimes it takes a while before the stork drops one down the chimney,” said David.
The baby girl, who arrived a month early while the family were holidaying in Cornwall in August 2010, is only the second child born to a prime minister in office in 150 years.
"We woke up this morning and thought she was having contractions and it was all beginning to get going, so we thought we would come to the hospital just to get everything checked out," revealed the delighted dad. "And then things sort of sped up and it all happened very, very quickly and the baby popped out at about 12 o'clock.'