When he married the niece of the late President J F Kennedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger's standing in US high society seemed assured.
For 25 years, he and wife Maria Shriver - whose mother was JFK's sister - were lynchpins of American political scene, ultimately occupying the governor's mansion in California for two terms.Now, though, all they achieved as a couple has been undermined by revelations that the Terminator star-turned-politician fathered a child with a member of the family's household staff more than a decade ago.The news comes after their shock separation earlier this month.
Maria moved out of the family home - where the couple had raised their four children, Katherine 21, Christina, 19, Patrick, 17 and 13-year-old Christopher - after the 'Governator' acknowledged paternity.The staff member had worked for the family for 20 years and retired in January.In the statement issued to the LA Times, the 63-year-old said: " "After leaving the governor's office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago.""I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused."
"I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry. I ask that the media respect my wife and children through this extremely difficult time.
The statement concluded: "While I deserve your attention and criticism, my family does not. "
A spokesman for his 55-year-old wife had no comment.
The former staff member - who cannot be named for privacy reasons - voluntarily retired after two decades of work.
On Monday, before Arnold released his statement, she told the LA Times that another man - her then-husband - was the child's father. She has not commented since his public apology.Although the pair displayed a united front throughout much of their 25 years together, the Austrian-American actor was dogged by various rumours of infidelity.
Since his term as governor of California ended in January this year, he has thrust himself back into the limelight.Signing up to various movie deals as well as fashioning himself as a global spokesman for green energy are just a few of his ventures.Meanwhile, while Maria, a respected former TV journalist, known for her confidence has taken a backseat - forging a more private existence for herself outside of the spotlight.