Power couples: the 50 over 50

Maybe it’s because we’re in our fifties now, but there seem to be ever more of such turbo-pairings

May 20, 2013 | By: High50

We name the dynamic duos over 50: the 50 influential public figures with equally prominent partners, whose stars collide to make them shine even brighter. Go straight to the list

Power couples_Bono and Ali Hewson-620 Corbis

Found what they were looking for: Bono and his wife Ali Hewson

So we were talking in the office about Lean In, and the way Facebook’s CEO Sheryl Sandberg is exploring the new feminism in this book, and what a great helpmeet her husband – SurveyMonkey’s CEO David Goldberg – must be.

Then someone chipped in: “You know, he’s redefining masculinity, too. In fact, they’re both redefining the way men and women operate – and co-operate – together. Sandberg and Goldberg. They’re a real power couple.”

The words hung in the air. Power couples. Maybe it’s because we’re in our fifties now, but it does seem that, ever since we reached these sunlit uplands where nurturing offspring has become at least a manageable shared task, and where women can re-assert themselves in the workplace, there seem to be ever more of such turbo-pairings. Go straight to the power couples list.

Power couples_Rebecca Miller and Daniel Day Lewis_Oscars-620

Acting powerhouse, Daniel Day Lewis (left) and playwright/filmmaker Rebecca Miller

Of course, there are good sociological reasons for this. If you’ve looked at Alison Wolf’s new book, The XX Factor, you’ll know that professional, educated women are getting ever more high-powered. Behaving more like their male peers, if you will, and more often marrying them, too. (In the reverse of a 20th-century trend, female graduates are now more likely to tie the knot than their school-leaver sisters.)


If these elite females bear children at all, they are having smaller families than average, starting them later, and leaving them to a nanny or childminder earlier. They are a new breed of women who are as good as their men – and as well equipped for the big wide world – and it’s such a relief.

Haven’t we tired of those creepy men with their trophy wives, those swinging dicks with doormats in tow? (Likewise, to be fair, those ballsy women with their drippy house husbands fussing over the drinks.)

Give us a couple on equal terms: each as interesting as the other, working in a team, both getting equal satisfaction – with achievements to show for it.

Defining a power couple

But, we wondered, what achievements, exactly? And how does one define power? And what – the sunlit upland theory notwithstanding – makes this a 50-plus phenomenon?

By now, we were formulating a feature in our minds, and niggling about the detail. How can one compare the power of, say, a politician to that of a brain surgeon – if one even knows enough about politics or brain-surgery to comment on its key players?

And are we talking British or worldwide? (If the former, do non-doms count?) And how about Brits based abroad?

That’s the trouble with making rules: all the damned exceptions. For example, how about couples where one is in their sixties, or one is a few years shy of 50? How about those like our own 50-year-old Mariella Frostrup, with her younger (by three years) husband?

Do David Bowie, David Gilmour and Geoffrey Roberston QC miss the cut just because they’ve got a few years on their partners Iman, Polly Samson and Kathy Lette?

And how would one rank them all, anyway?

It was at this point that we remembered the old journalists’ adage: never let the facts stand in the way of a good story. Talking about 50-plus power couples is a bit like discussing God: we all have different definitions, but we all know what we mean.

They’re people around our age, one of each couple is in their fifties and, in most cases, both of them are.

They’re those couples at dinner where you wouldn’t mind which you were put next to; the ones who, when they enter a room, bring value squared. For historical, biological and sociological reasons (and people being the way they are) a few of the men are a fair bit older than their partners, yes; but none could be called dominant.

As for being definitive, lists were invented for people to disagree with. Besides, it’s the age of the web: we live in shifting patterns; nothing’s set in stone. We’re in permanent beta, particularly in life’s second act.

So we’ve got 50 names together – that’s 25 couples (below) – and are inviting you, the high50 community, to join in with your own nominees.

Forgive us if there’s a bias towards the media and the creative sector, towards London and the social world. We have tried to pick the most visible trailblazers. We don’t think these people are better than anyone else; simply better known.

But help us out, too: post a comment in the box below and tell us who your nominees would be and why. Or email us at high50.

If you or your friends should you be on the list yourselves, then alert us, too. You’ve got the power, after all. So why not use it?

Britain’s power couples over 50

Grayson and Philippa Perry, artist and therapist

Richard Curtis and Emma Freud, writer-producer and broadcaster

Ian and Victoria Hislop, editor-pundit and novelist

Adam Nicolson and Sarah Raven, writer and gardener

Theo and Louise Fennell, jeweller and novelist

Will Self and Deborah Orr, writer and journalist

Bob Geldof and Jeanne Marine, businessman/performer and actress

Anthony Sher and Greg Doran, both actor-directors

William Seighart and Molly Dineen, peacemaker/publisher and filmmaker

Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway, designer-polymath pairing

Helen and Colin David, formidable fashionistas

Crispin Odey and Nicola Pease, hedgie and fund manager

Jennifer Saunders and Ade Edmondson, comic acting partnership

Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller, actor and filmmaker

Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn, musical coupling

Robert Harris and Gill Hornby, writers in co-residence

Emma Bridgewater and Matthew Rice, pottery panjandrums

Richard and Clara Furse, financial double act

Dawn Airey and Jacquie Lawrence, TV executive and producer

David MacMillan and Bella Pollen, publisher and novelist

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, both film producers

Lee Hall and Beeban Kidron, playwright and director

Mark Knopfler and Kitty Aldridge, musician and actor-novelist

Bono and Ali Hewson, singer/businessman and businesswoman/activist

Alastair Campbell and Fiona Millar, media player and activist