Up until this week, Penny Mordaunt’s only public display of athleticism was a belly flop on ITV game show Splash! But the Tory minister was the surprise star of the coronation after wielding the mighty sword of state for a whopping 51 minutes without breaking a sweat.

In the interests of science, the Guardian wanted to find out how much of an endurance feat Mordaunt’s performance was.

The ceremonial sword is the heaviest in the royal collection, weighing 8 pounds in its gold-encrusted scabbard.

In an attempt to recreate the scene, I searched the house for a suitable test subject. Our only sword is an 85 gram foam that my daughter bought at Legoland, so instead I opted for an oversized plastic pitcher that I bought for a kid’s birthday party. It’s not a shiny gold sword, but packed full it would reach the right weight.

Related: In a nutshell: Penny Mordaunt seizes the moment of coronation

As I struggled to highlight the full pitcher under the faucet, I realized this was going to be more difficult than I thought.

Mordaunt said she “did a few push-ups” and worked out with a weighted replica to prepare for wielding the sword. My few hours of prep were a little less rigorous and mostly consisted of sitting at a laptop and raising cups of coffee.

My only hope for remaining strength in my arms was having a three year old who still doesn’t like to walk. Surely carting a wayward preschooler around was harder than standing still with a glittering sword?

In less than 30 seconds it became clear how wrong I was. My arm tremors were already rippling the surface of the mug, making it look like the mugs in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex arrived.

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt became the coronation’s breakout star, holding the sword of state for nearly an hour without shaking his arms. Photo: Yui Mok/AP

The burn was extreme. I tried to press my arms against my hips to support the weight, but it didn’t work for long and I didn’t see Penny do it.

As time passed and the arm shake increased, I used language that would not be appropriate in Westminster Abbey. After seven minutes the water started sloshing over the side as my arms became uncontrollable.

Why did Mordaunt look so composed? There was no sign of trembling or beading of sweat as she strode through the abbey in her specially made power dress and cloak, sword held at a perfect right angle.

At 8 minutes and 42 seconds, as the arm spasms reached their peak, I succumbed to the inevitable and let go of my state mug, soaking my feet. The pitcher did not survive the experiment, which made me grateful that it wasn’t a priceless artifact handcrafted for Charles II.

Mordaunt was given the role of Lord President of the Privy Council as a demotion by Liz Truss after losing in the race for leadership, but in less than an hour of sword-wielding she used it to pull off a PR coup.

Even former Labor spin doctor Alastair Campbell gushed, saying: “Let no one ever say I never say anything positive about Tories… I’m in awe of Penny Mordaunt’s arm and shoulder strength!”

At almost 40, I’m 10 years younger than Mordaunt, but I’m not sure my weapons will ever match theirs. In the words of Labor MP Chris Bryant: “The penny is mightier than the sword.”


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