Ursula von der Leyen, the EU chief stood between Boris Johnson and a Brexit deal

As a ‘child of Europe’, the commission president wants to bring the bloc closer together, writes Sean O’Grady

Saturday 12 December 2020 13:34
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<p>Von der Leyen has fond memories of her time spent in the UK in the late 1970s: ‘For me, London was the epitome of modernity: freedom, the joy of life, trying everything. This gave me an inner freedom that I have kept until today’</p>

Von der Leyen has fond memories of her time spent in the UK in the late 1970s: ‘For me, London was the epitome of modernity: freedom, the joy of life, trying everything. This gave me an inner freedom that I have kept until today’

Did you know that the president of the Commission of the European Union was once a teen singing star? Back in the Seventies, the young Von der Leyen was a member of a Von Trapp-style troupe, Die Albrecht Familie (her maiden name of course). Her father, who also happened to be the minister-president (prime minister) of the German state of Lower Saxony, was on guitar and mum Heidi and various of their seven children knocked out folk songs for undemanding audiences. They released some records and even, in 1978, a single – “Wohlauf in Gottes schöne Welt” (“Welcome to God’s Beautiful World”), the B-side of which is the track “Alle Birken grünen In Moor und Heid” (“All birches are green in the moor and heather”). As you can probably tell, the family was Christian (Lutheran, that is), and rather traditional. OK, ABBA and Boney M kicked the hell out of them chart-wise, but they at least got into some German variety shows, and her dad did run the place where they make the Volkswagens, so not bad really.  

The Albrechts were not just good at singing. The family is what the British would term “gentry”, and UvdL, as she is known, has some distinguished kin. One brother, Hans-Holger, is CEO of the French media group Deezer. Uncle George was a distinguished conductor and grandfather Carl a psychotherapist keen on mystical consciousness who invented a new method of meditation based on something called “autogenic training”, which might or might not be of use before, during and after Ursula’s difficult conversations with Viktor Orban, semi-tyrant of Hungary. Further back, her antecedents include cotton merchants and plantation (ie slave) owners in South Carolina, by the name of Ladson, one of whom served as a senator and governor in the time of George Washington. Another cotton trader, Ludwig Knoop, set himself up in Russia and was made a baron by Tsar Alexander II.  

The single cover for Die Albrecht Familie’s ‘Welcome to God’s Beautiful World’

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