Boris Johnson’s mother died at the age of 79, according to reports. Charlotte Johnson Wahl, a professional painter, died “suddenly and peacefully” at a London hospital on Monday, according to a death notice in The Times.
The Prime Minister has previously described her as his family’s “supreme authority.” He told grassroots Tory activists at the 2019 Conservative Party conference that his mother taught him to believe in “the equal importance, dignity, and worth of every human being on the planet.”
Despite his tragic loss, Mr Johnson is expected to lead Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting and Covid press conference. Ms Johnson Wahl’s death notice mentioned all six of the Prime Minister’s known children, including Stephanie, who was embroiled in a legal battle over revealing her fatherhood.
“Mother of Alexander, Rachel, Leo, and Joseph; grandmother of Ludovic, Lara, Charlotte, Milo, Oliver, Cassia, Theodore, Rose, Lula, William, Ruby Noor, Stephanie, and Wilfred,” it says.
The Prime Minister’s first name is Alexander. On Twitter, Labour leader Keir Starmer expressed his condolences to Mr Johnson. He said: “I’m very sorry to learn of the Prime Minister’s loss. My condolences to him and his family.”
Mrs Johnson-Wahl was married to the PM’s father, ‘I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!’ star Stanley, from 1963 to 1979, when they divorced.
She had a mental breakdown during their 16-year marriage and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where she stayed for nine months. She was the mother of four Johnson children: Prime Minister Boris Johnson, former Universities Minister Jo, journalist Rachel, and environmental activist Leo.
In 1988, she married American professor Nicholas Wahl and relocated to New York. Despite being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 40, Mrs Johnson-Wahl was a well-known portrait artist.
Author Jilly Cooper and Absolute Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley were among her subjects. In 2015, Mrs Johnson-Wahl told The Telegraph, “My older sister was incredibly clever, as was my younger brother.”
“My parents didn’t know what to do with me so they gave me some paints and I turned out to be good at it. Once I started I couldn’t stop.”
She went on: “When I paint people I am trying to capture what is unique about them, what makes them and nobody else.
“Once you’ve found that you’re well on the way.”
The paper reported how she recalled deciding to give her eldest child his now famous name.
“When I was three months pregnant, we travelled to Mexico City by Greyhound bus,” she said.
“It was very uncomfortable, I was desperately sick. We stayed with a man called Boris Litwin, who drew me aside and said, ‘You can’t travel back like this, here are two first-class air tickets’.
“I was so grateful, I said, ‘Whatever the baby is, I shall call it Boris’.” But she later changed her mind and called him Alexander Boris de Pfeffel.
“At Eton, his friends discovered his foreign name and everyone started calling him Boris – even the beaks [teachers],” she recalled.
“But everyone who’s known him since childhood calls him Alexander. If I were to call him Boris it would mean something was really serious.”