Ottawa-born Eliza Reid becomes Iceland's first lady

The people of Iceland selected a new president on Saturday — a vote that also ushered in a Canadian first lady.

History professor Gudni Johannesson won enough votes to nab the largely ceremonial position

Iceland's first lady is Canadian


5 years ago
Eliza Reid's husband Gudni Johannesson will be sworn as president in on August 1 5:09

The people of Iceland elected a new president on Saturday — a vote that also ushered in a Canadian first lady.

Gudni Johannesson, a history professor with no previous political experience, secured enough votes to be elected as the new head of state for the small Nordic country.

He is married to Ottawa-born Eliza Reid, who moved to Iceland more than a decade ago. The couple met while studying in England and have four children together.

"Our names were drawn together for a blind date so you never know where fate will take you," she told CBC News on Sunday.

Eliza Reid and her husband, Gudni Johannesson, are shown in this handout image during his campaign in Iceland. (Hakon Broder Lund/Handout/Canadian Press)

Johannesson was widely expected to win the race to replace Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who had held the office since 1996. The former president announced at the start of the year that he wouldn't be seeking another term.

Gudni, an academic expert on the country's political history and its constitution, entered the election in the spring amid public frustration with Iceland's political elite. The country's prime minister stepped aside in April after being caught up in the massive Panama Papers leak.

But the win, and its new role for Reid, still came as somewhat of a surprise.

"I've lived in Iceland for 13 years now and even in those 13 years, it hadn't been something that had been on my radar. But obviously we are both thrilled with what happened last night," she said.

Listen to a Monday interview with Reid from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Role comparable to Governor General

Reid, 40, grew up on a farm in the Ottawa Valley and now works as a writer and editor. She holds dual citizenship in both countries.

"Icelanders think very fondly of Canada and I think there's a lot of strong ties between the two countries."

Before the vote, Reid told the Canadian Press she's been "very welcomed" by Icelandic society.

"As a Canadian, my stereotype is a bit that I am grounded and regular and don't try to be something that I'm not," said Reid. "And I think those are things about us that appeal to the electorate, we're just what you see is what you get."

Both of their new roles are largely ceremonial; Iceland's president is a role comparable to Canada's Governor General.

Johannesson and Reid are now flying to France to cheer on Iceland's soccer team in their second-round match against England, taking place on Monday. Johannesson officially takes office August 1.

With files from The Canadian Press


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