Ann Romney

It's easy to pigeonhole Ann Romney. The coiffed, beatific appearance, a husband with a $250 million fortune and her string of dressage ponies all seem to say genteel American socialite. But the wife of Mitt Romney, the Republican Party's pick for the White House, possesses a core of steel, behind the velvet exterior.

Born Ann Lois Davies on April 16, 1949, she was the granddaughter of a Welsh miner.

Her father Edward emigrated to the US, aged 15 and went on to become a self-made businessman and mayor of their town, Bloomfield, Michigan.

Her family's wealth meant Ann could attend the private all-girls Kingswood School, where she caught the eye of her future spouse at a dance with their brother school.

Her first impression of Mitt, the son of the state governor, was that he was "tall, nervous and laughed a lot".

"And he was nice to my parents but he was really glad when my parents weren't around. That's a good thing. And he made me laugh."

In 1969, the boy who made her laugh asked her to become Mrs Romney, and the college sweethearts married, with congratulations coming from President Nixon.

Ann raised a young family, while still a student, completing her university degree as the third of their five sons was born.

The couple's unusually healthy bank balance, swelled by his Midas touch in the private equity industry, meant the politicial wife has faced criticisms of being out of touch and naïve.

But now a grandmother of 18, she won plaudits too. For being the politician's most articulate and impassioned advocate, even though his critics sometimes made her want to "come out of my seat and clock somebody".

And for her dignified fight against ill health. In 1997, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and a decade later battled breast cancer.

Ann, who credits her passion for horseriding with aiding her recovery, remembers devoted Mitt telling her: "I don't care if you're in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.

"'I don't care whether you make dinner; I can eat cold cereal and toast. As long as we're together, as long as you're here, we're going to be OK."

And they have remained solid through the trials and tribulations of his political career – including his failed bid to take a senate seat in 1994, a stint in the governor's mansion of Massachusetts, and presidential bids in 2008 and 2012.
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