Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

HOW THEY KEEP ROMANCE ALIVE Rod's So Romantic. Keeping the Passion Alive Is Important ; IT'S 17 YEARS SINCE PENNY LANCASTER WON THE HEART OF ROCK STAR, SIR ROD STEWART, AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME. SHE TELLS GABRIELLE FAGAN HOW THEY KEEP ROMANCE ALIVE

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

HOW THEY KEEP ROMANCE ALIVE Rod's So Romantic. Keeping the Passion Alive Is Important ; IT'S 17 YEARS SINCE PENNY LANCASTER WON THE HEART OF ROCK STAR, SIR ROD STEWART, AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME. SHE TELLS GABRIELLE FAGAN HOW THEY KEEP ROMANCE ALIVE

Article excerpt

WHEN they met in 1999, cynics dismissed Penny Lancaster as just another leggy blonde in the turbulent romantic life of Sir Rod Stewart - especially considering the 26-year age gap between the two - but as the couple prepare to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary next year, she declares proudly: "We're happier than ever."

They've already renewed their vows - in a ceremony last month at their home, an 18th century estate in Essex - but the re-staging of their 2007 wedding in Portofino, Italy, will be the grandest romantic gesture by the rock idol for the woman he describes as his 'soul mate'.

"Rod's extremely romantic. I'm so very lucky. Keeping the passion alive is very important to both of us," says Penny, 45, who met her 71-year-old husband (who already had two previous marriages and six children) when she was a 27-year-old model and aspiring photographer.

Such a complex personal life would have daunted many women. Instead, Penny embraced it and now describes herself as the extended family's "sort of Mother Hen - a fixer and problem solver". She and Sir Rod also have two sons together, Alastair, 10 and Aiden, five.

"Rod and I still have the same great connection we had when we met.

We're particularly good at communicating and very open about how we feel. We're never shy about expressing our opinions to one another, and that prevents having rows," she reveals.

"We also make a dedicated effort to connect as a couple in the midst of the madness of our life, which is crazy busy sometimes with his career. It might be breakfast or dinner or a weekend away together, and it's very important."

Penny even insists their age gap is part of the secret of their success. "It helps that Rod's older - I've always preferred older, more mature men, and he's such a gentleman," says Penny, who became Lady Stewart when her husband received his knighthood this month, although she says her title will be reserved for formal occasions.

"It was an unforgettable day, and I'm so proud of him. You initially fall in love with someone and have an idea of your ideal man. Rod's fulfilled all and more of what I wanted. He's in his 70s, but when you say that age, you don't picture a person like him who travels the world, producing albums and being an amazing father.

"He works out, plays football with our boys and certainly isn't like an old dad who can't keep up.

Retirement's not in his vocabulary - he loves what he does - if he has more than five days off he starts crawling up the walls! He's vigilant about his health and is younger and fitter than most men my age. Also, he's so goofy at times - like a schoolboy - and I joke I have three boys to look after."

Her care and support extends to the wider family she inherited when they got together. Rod's marriage to model Rachel Hunter, with whom he has two children, Renee, 24 and Liam, 22, crumbled after eight years, just months before he and Penny met in 1999. …

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