Who is Stanley Johnson? Boris Johnson’s father ‘nominated for a Knighthood’
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has nominated his own father for a knighthood, according to The Times. Boris, who is currently a backbencher in the House of Commons, has apparently submitted “up to” 100 names for his resignation honours list, a total which far exceeds his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron.
But the most notable nomination thus far is for Stanley Johnson, Boris’ 82-year-old former Conservative politician father, which has already drawn criticism from big names in Westminster. This isn’t the first time Boris has faced accusations of “cronyism”, either - he came under fire in 2020 when he submitted his brother, Jo Johnson, for a peerage too.
Boris succeeded in his efforts, and Jo Johnson is now Baron Johnson of Marylebone, which means Stanley Johnson’s nomination could well stand a chance. So what do we know about Boris’ half-French, anti-Brexit, environmentalist father, and are the pair as different as they seem on paper, or as similar as they look in pictures? Here’s the lowdown.
Stanley Johnson was born in Penzance, Cornwall, in 1940 to a French mother and English father. He was raised in Dorset and studied at the Sherbourne School (not Eton, like you might have assumed) ahead of his time at Oxford University, where he met “reclusive” young British painter Charlotte Fawcett at a university dinner. The pair hit it off, and she followed him to Columbia University to complete his scholarship because, in her words, “If I didn’t go with him we would definitely [have] split up.”
Quite the opposite happened - the pair married and had four children: Boris, Rachel, Leo and Jo. They appeared to be a happy family to begin with, though constantly on the move (they moved 32 times as a family set, apparently) because of Stanley Johnson’s job as an environmentalist with the World Bank. His work patterns eventually got in the way and the pair divorced, but stayed on very good terms because Charlotte “couldn’t bear not to be”.
As well as his environmental work, Johnson spent time focusing on animal conservation and writing books, the topics of which varied from climate change to fictional thrillers - one of which, The Commissioner, was even made into a feature length film starring John Hurt. By some weird twist of fate, Stanley also wrote a book called The Virus in 2015 about a deadly disease ripping through the global population.
Meanwhile, he also became a Conservative politician as a Member of European Parliament for Wight and Hampshire East from 1979 to 1984. He made an attempt to become the Conservative MP for Teignbridge in 2005 but was beaten out by another candidate. His final grab at political power came in 2008, when he planned to follow in his own son’s footsteps and become MP for Henley (a seat left open after Boris was appointed Mayor of London), but failed to be selected.
Elsewhere, Johnson was happily in love having remarried two years after divorcing his first wife, Charlotte, in 1979. He met publisher Jennifer Kidd shortly afterwards and married in 1981, with the pair going on to have two children together - Julia and Maximilian. Kidd and Johnson are still married, and he sung her praises in his second autobiography, Stanley, I Resume: Further Recollections of an Exuberant Life. "Frankly, without Jenny, I don’t know how I would have managed the past three or more decades,” Johnson wrote. "Yes, I put on a good show. I talk a good take. I add half a line each year to the CV if I’m lucky.
"But Jenny is the one who makes it all possible. And she does so while pursuing her own intellectual and professional pursuits."
So what about Stanley’s relationship with his divisive, bombastic first son, Boris? The former Prime Minister seems pretty set on giving his father honours whether the public and his fellow politicos want it or not. It seems that Boris and Stanley are cut from the same cloth: Stanley himself has been said to have “exuded a huge physical charisma” during his youth, something his son undoubtedly shares.
The pair have been very publicly supportive of each other in the past. When Stanley was on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here in 2017, while Boris was Foreign Secretary, he talked up his son on live TV, saying he was “doing a totally brilliant job”. And after Boris resigned from his position as Prime Minister in 2022, Stanley was still there talking up his son on live TV, telling GB News that Boris could easily beat Rishi Sunak in a head-to-head were he to run again for Conservative leader.
But they’re not always on the same page: Johnson was firmly in the Remain camp for most of the pre-Brexit run up, and only changed his mind after the vote, firstly “Because the British people voted for it,” he told The Times, and secondly because “The train [was] heading in a direction which may be not the right one for Britain.” Stanley also publicly spoke about his successful application for a French passport, which he obtained to maintain the same ease of movement he had pre-leaving the EU.
And Boris’ very public-facing father has proved a liability in other ways too. His first wife, Charlotte, accused him of hitting her multiple times during their relationship. Speaking to biographer Tom Bower, she even claimed that Johnson broke her nose at one point, saying: "He broke my nose. He made me feel like I deserved it. I want the truth to be told."
Stanley Johnson also faced accusations of sexual assault against MP Caroline Nokes and a female journalist in 2021, with Nokes alleging that Johnson spanked her at a 2003 Conservative Party conference and journalist Ailbhe Rea accusing Johnson of groping her at the 2019 conference. Johnson has since denied allegations and said he had “no recollection of Caroline Nokes at all.” So he might have won Boris’ favour (and a potential seat in the House of Lords) thanks to all the free PR, but when it comes to Stanley Johnson, all publicity is certainly not good publicity.