When Boris Johnson entered the famous black door of No. 10 Downing Street as Britain’s new prime minister, he was the first for nearly half a century to do so unaccompanied by a spouse.
Instead of walking through the door with him, his girlfriend Carrie Symonds, former head of communications for his Conservative Party, stood nearby with his staff – a sign of a colourful private life that arguably represents modern Britain better than the traditional picture.
For decades, the new prime minister has been expected to take part in the somewhat contrived set-piece of giving a cheery wave to the massed ranks of the media on crossing the threshold of No.10 for the first time – with a spouse, and perhaps their children.
But Johnson, 55, and his wife Marina Wheeler, who have four children together, announced in September that they had separated and would divorce after 25 years.
This was twice the length of the average marriage in England and Wales, where there are 64 divorces each year for every 100 marriages.
The highly visible role of Britain’s national leaders has generally meant they are held, however anachronistically, to a somewhat different standard.
“It is difficult for him to walk into Downing Street with another woman when you are still technically married to someone else. That would be considered indiscreet,” said Nicholas Allen, lecturer in politics at London’s Royal Holloway University.
“Boris’s colourful personal life makes the traditional photo call problematic.”
But Symonds’ presence before the cameras, on the sidelines if not by his side, suggests things may slowly be changing.
If Symonds joins Johnson in his official residence, at 31 she will be the youngest partner of a prime minister in 173 years.