How PM's high society ex turned into Sister Joan Mary: How Cameron's former love turned to God following substance abuse
She dated Cameron in the 1990s while working at Conservative Party HQ
Now she devotes herself to worship as a nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut
She turned to God after she became overwhelmed by problems with substance abuse
22:41 GMT, 29 April 2012
High life: Laura Adshead at a charity event at Tiffany's in New York in 2003 before she turned to the convent
Standing in her pearls on the diamond floor at Tiffany’s, Laura Adshead looks every inch the socialite.
Given her privileged upbringing, it certainly wouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that the high-flyer, educated at Oxford and Cheltenham Ladies’ College, was once the girlfriend of David Cameron.
But it might come as a bit of a jolt to discover that a few years after this picture was taken she decided to reject her life of worldly ambition – and become a Benedictine nun.
The curious story of Miss Adshead, 44 – now Sister John Mary – has been revealed following her appearance in a recent documentary about the convent she joined.
In it she reveals how she turned to Christ after becoming lost in drink and drug addiction during years of hard partying in New York.
She said: ‘I did think my life would progress on the normal tracks of meeting someone, marrying, having children, but that’s not the path that God has led me.’
Reflecting on photographs from her wild years she added: ‘I feel like I tried most things in life that are supposed to make you happy. That journey took me down into alcoholism and drug addiction.’
These days she devotes herself to worship and work with the other nuns of the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut.
As a novice, her chores include mopping the chapel floors and tending cattle in the abbey grounds.
Born in New Zealand to British parents, Miss Adshead studied at 24,000-a-year Cheltenham before winning a place at Christchurch, Oxford, and meeting fellow undergraduate Mr Cameron.
/04/29/article-2137111-12CB0D9B000005DC-185_306x423.jpg” width=”306″ height=”423″ alt=”Party girl: Laura's old life” class=”blkBorder” />
Early lives: Laura Adshead in her old life and David Cameron during his time at Brasenose College, Oxford University
It had been claimed she briefly spent some time in a Catholic retreat in America in the early 1990s, but at the same time went on to gain an MBA.
She then worked in a senior role for advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather – the inspiration for the Mad Men TV series – helping to sell everything from mops to cat food.
Miss Adshead attended charity balls in New York alongside Prince Albert of Monaco, and holidayed at the exclusive Hamptons resort nearby on the coast, staying in a 4,000-a-week summer home with high-flying friends.
She boasted in newspaper interviews of
attending polo matches, just like in England, except ‘the weather is
better here and the people are more attractive’.
The ex who found God: Sister John Mary features in new documentary God is the Bigger Elvis
She has publicly admitted that she was increasingly abusing alcohol and drugs. First she joined Alcoholics Anonymous – then, in 2008, decided to wed herself to Christ.
Miss Adshead says in the documentary: ‘I remember having to tell my mother, “I’m going to join the abbey,’’ and she said, “Yes, I can see this world has no real meaning for you any more.’’ I looked at this place and saw women who had what I wanted.
‘You make a decision here to surrender
your life to God. This is the only place I could see myself being –
because this is where it’s at.
New life: Laura at the abbey, in smart dress and pearls, before becoming Sister John Mary
‘A monastic life, this is where the struggle is. There’s no way out. You don’t get to leave and go to a movie. You don’t get distraction from all the human emotions. It’s like this hothouse where things get worked out.’
The film shows a ceremony in which she swaps her outfit of a fuchsia dress and pearls for a wimple, which covers the blonde hair her religious sisters cut back for her.
Reports on the short film – God is the Bigger Elvis – have focused on the prioress at the abbey, Mother Dolores, 73. She used to be known as Dolores Hart, and was a Hollywood starlet who kissed Elvis Presley when she acted alongside him in King Creole and Lovin’ You.
Speaking about her appearance in the film, Miss Adshead said: ‘Everyone has a story before we came here.’
Married life: After his relationship with Laura Adshead Prime Minister David Cameron went on to marry Samantha Cameron