Biography of Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen was born Ursula Gertrud Albrecht on 8 October 1958 in Ixelles, Brussels to German parents; Ernst Albrecht and Heidi-Adele. 

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Her father, Ernst Albrecht worked as one of the first European civil servants from the establishment of the European Commission in 1958; first as chef de cabinet to the European commissioner for competition Hans von der Groeben in the Hallstein Commission, and then as director-general of the Directorate-General for Competition from 1967 to 1970. She was brought up bilingually in French and German and moved to Hanover in 1971 when her father entered politics to become Minister-President of the state of Lower Saxony in 1976.


In 1977, Ursula von der Leyen started studying Economics at the University of Göttingen but fled after a year at the height of the fear of communist terrorism in West Germany. She enrolled at the London School of Economics in 1978 and had to live under the name Rose Ladson, the family name of her American great-grandmother from Charleston, South Carolina at the time due to fears of being kidnapped by Red Army Faction leftist militants who were targeting German politicians and their families.

In 1980 however, she switched to Medicine and went back to Germany to study where she graduated as a physician from the Hannover Medical School in 1987, specialising in Women’s Health. Between 1988 and 1992, she worked as an assistant physician at the Women’s Clinic of the Hannover Medical School.  She graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1991.  


Ursula von der Leyen’s involvement in politics began in the late 1990s in Hannover where she served as a cabinet minister in the state government of Lower Saxony from 2003 to 2005.  She served in the cabinet of Christian Wulff where she was responsible for social affairs, women, family, and health. 

Subsequently, in 2005, she joined the Federal Cabinet, first as Minister of Family Affairs and Youth (2005 to 2009), then as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs (2009 to 2013), and finally as Minister of Defence (2013 to 2019); becoming the first woman to serve as German defence minister. 

On 2nd July 2019, Ursula von der Leyen was proposed by the European Council as their candidate for the office of President of the European Commission. She won with 383 to 327 votes in the election that took place on 16 July. She is notably the first woman to be the President of the European Commission, and the first German since the Commission’s first president, Walter Hallstein. 


Ursula Von der Leyen is included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. 

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