Profile: Vicar's daughter and safe pair of hands with a love of high fashion
Published 12/07/2016 | 02:30
Theresa May earned a reputation as a safe pair of hands as she navigated a job often seen as a poisoned chalice to become the longest-serving Home Secretary for more than a century.
Now the 59-year-old vicar's daughter faces the toughest challenge of her political career at No.10 Downing Street.
She started out stuffing envelopes at her local Conservative Association and will now be expected to stamp her authority on the party in the wake of the EU referendum.
Although she was signed up to the Remain campaign, Ms May kept a very low profile during the lead-up to the vote.
But her reputation as a 'reluctant Remainer' has not saved her from attacks by rivals who insist that Brexit-backing voters will want a PM who actively campaigned to leave.
She has sparked controversy by saying she could not guarantee that EU citizens living in the UK would be allowed to stay after Brexit, insisting their fate must be part of negotiations with former EU partners.
She will now take charge of a party she once described as "nasty" when she tried, as party chairman, to oversee modernisation.
It is not the only time she has doled out harsh truths with little sugar-coating. Members of the Police Federation were stunned into silence when Ms May attacked the organisation in a blistering speech.
Hanging on for six years to the Home Secretary brief, which is notorious for ruining political careers, shows her ability to navigate stormy political waters.
However, she has held the post at a time when net migration has reached record levels of around a third of a million, leaving the British government under intense pressure over its target of reducing the figure to below 100,000
While her long track record in British politics is well-documented, the famously private Tory lets little slip about her personal life. Earlier this month she revealed she and her husband Philip were affected by not being able to have children but said it was just "one of those things".
Ms May also told of her "shock" three years ago after being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes, which means she must inject herself with insulin twice a day for the rest of her life.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4's 'Desert Island Discs', Abba's 'Dancing Queen' and 'Walk Like A Man' from the musical 'Jersey Boys' were among her picks.
The fashion-conscious politician, known for her love of kitten heel shoes and designer outfits, chose a lifetime's subscription to 'Vogue' as her luxury item to take to the island.
Politics is a "way of life" that leaves little time for relaxing, but occasional mountain walks and culinary experimentation - she owns more than 100 cookbooks - are among her outside interests.
Educated at St Hugh's College, Oxford, where she read geography, she embarked on a career in finance, including a six-year stint at the Bank of England.
Elected to Merton Council in 1986, she later headed to Westminster as MP for Maidenhead in 1997.