Worst Ladies; TONY MAY BE EMBARRASSED BUT CHERIE BLAIR HAS NOTHING ON HISTORY'S

The Mirror (London, England), December 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Worst Ladies; TONY MAY BE EMBARRASSED BUT CHERIE BLAIR HAS NOTHING ON HISTORY'S


Byline: RUKI SAYID and REBECCA SMITH

THE Peter Foster scandal has heaped embarrassment on Tony Blair... and it's all thanks to his wife Cherie.

But if the Prime Minister is cursing his wife, our list of some of the other mischief-making First Ladies could give him pause for thought. After all, Cherie might have invited a conman into the heart of No 10, be guilty of misleading the press and the public, and be made to look ridiculous with her entourage of weirdo hangers-on but at least she's no Winnie Mandela...

Here' are some of the other First Ladies of history that make Cherie look like a saint.

WINNIE MANDELA

Wife of Nelson Mandela

WINNIE was the "Mother of the Nation" as she carried on the anti-apartheid fight started by her imprisoned husband.

Signs that she was losing touch with reality came in 1986, when she told a rally: "Together, hand in hand, with matches and necklaces, we shall liberate this country." The necklaces were tyres, placed around a victim's neck, filled with petrol and then torched.

Two years later, she was implicated in the abduction and murder of teenager Stompie Seipei.

But when Nelson was freed in 1990, he stood by Winnie and even got her a seat on the ANC's National Executive. She rewarded his loyalty by having an affair.

In 1991, she was convicted of kidnapping Stompie. Her marriage collapsed and Nelson divorced her in 1996. She was sacked from her ANC post and this year faced fraud charges.

JIANG QING Wife of Mao Tse Tung

MAO'S missus was a spiteful, power-hungry woman who wanted to live in a cultural desert. So she led the Chinese Cultural Revolution, which sought to exile poets, writers and intellectuals.

She joined the Communists in 1937 and became close to Mao. In 1961 she was active in art and culture and headed the reviled Gang of Four hard-core group.

She despised the West and called Richard Nixon the "American Imperialist Devil".

Following Mao's death in 1976, she and her gang were sentenced to death. This was later reduced to life imprisonment but, ravaged by throat cancer, she committed suicide in 1991, aged 77.

MARIE ANTOINETTE

Wife of King Louis XVI

THE Austrian-born queen of France was despised by her deprived 18th century subjects.

She became known for frivolity and excess, indulging in affairs and spending a fortune on gowns.

Her reputation was damaged by the notorious "Diamond Necklace Affair", in which she was caught up in a massive fraud.

Meanwhile, her country's people continued to starve and her ill-judged remark "Let them eat cake" made her seem even more remote from the public.

By 1789, the state was bankrupt and the French Revolution swept the monarchy from power. In 1793, first Louis XVI then Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine, convicted of treason.

EVA PERON

Wife of Juan Peron

ASPIRING actress Eva came from the wrong side of the tracks but didn't let that stop her getting what she wanted.

She slept with various producers to climb the acting ladder before meeting Colonel Peron in 1944 and becoming his lover. After the Argentine revolution, Peron became President... and five weeks later Eva married the new leader. She became a political fanatic but her love of luxury was unrivalled. In a suite of rooms she kept dozens of gowns, fur coats, hats and shoes and a notoriously extravagant jewel collection.

Crusading Eva justified it all with the words: "Poor people don't want someone dowdy. They have their dreams about me and I don't want to let them down."

MIRA MILOSEVIC

Wife of Slobodan

THE Marxist professor and New Age mystic is said to have been the driving force behind her husband's bloody career and the conflict in Bosnia. The "Red Witch" remains the former Yugoslav president's most trusted adviser, even as he fights charges of being a war criminal.

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