One of the sweetest stories to emerge after the death of Boris Johnson’s mother, Charlotte Johnson Wahl, aged 79, is how Boris came to be Boris.
It’s a story she told in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in 2015. Recently married to Stanley Johnson while still a student at Oxford, the couple went on a trip travelling around the US. She explained: “When I was three months pregnant, we travelled to Mexico City by Greyhound bus. It was very uncomfortable; I was desperately sick.
“We stayed with a man called Boris Litwin, who drew me aside and said: ‘You can’t travel back like this, here are two first-class air tickets.’ I was so grateful, I said: ‘Whatever the baby is, I shall call it Boris.'”
Her eldest son would be named Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in honour of his kindness. But when Alexander went to Eton, his teachers and peers discovered his second “foreign name” and started calling him Boris. The name has stuck.
But Charlotte went on to say: “If I were to call him Boris it would mean something was really serious.” She would have done, given the PM had previously described her the “supreme authority” of the Johnson clan.
The daughter of barrister Sir James Fawcett, Johnson Wahl met Boris’s equally famous dad, Stanley Johnson, in 1963, and made history by becoming the first married woman to finish her degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. She went on to have her own accomplished career as a painter, painting the likes of Joanna Lumley and Jilly Cooper and of course all her sons and daughters. Despite suffering from Parkinson’s she continued to paint. She also attended Boris’ first party Conservative Party conference as leader. Whether she called him Alexander or Boris we don’t know.
Our thoughts are with the Prime Minister and his family.