It’s the beaming photo that Barnaby Joyce hoped would continue the impression that all was well with his 24-year marriage to wife Natalie.
Standing side-by-side at the Mid Winter Ball at Parliament House, Mr and Mrs Joyce looked every bit the united couple as the then deputy Prime Minister posed for cameras, holding a whip and donning his trademark Akubra.
But in the wake of their marriage breakdown, and Barnaby’s controversial tell-all interview with his former media adviser and mother of his newborn son, Vikki Campion, Ms Joyce has lifted the lid on what was happening behind closed doors when that photo was taken in June last year.
With their marriage hanging on by a thread, the mother-of-four said she was instructed by her husband’s new media adviser to put on a happy face and attend the Canberra event.
“The photos of us smiling couldn’t be further from the truth,” she told Australian Women’s Weekly.
“Barney and I love to dance, but that night he never asked – he hardly spoke to me.”
One month later, she joined her husband on an official trip to the UK, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands – with Ms Campion’s permission.
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The 48-year-old said she agreed on the sole condition that he didn’t contact his mistress for two weeks – a promise that was immediately broken.
“She (Ms Campion) was relentless and called sometimes 20 times a day,” she added.
It was then she knew her marriage to a man she shared four daughters with was over.
The couple were at Sydney Airport where she was due to fly back home to Tamworth while Mr Joyce headed to Canberra straight into the arms of a woman who Ms Joyce claims set out to steal her life.
“I stood there paralysed, my stomach wrenched in a million knots, and I knew then the marriage was all but over,” Ms Joyce said, adding that she felt stupid for ever thinking they had a chance.
She and her four daughters, Bridgette, 21, Julia, 20, Caroline, 18 and Odette, 15, all sat down together to watch their husband and father speak openly alongside Ms Campion about their new baby, Sebastian – a name that Ms Joyce says they had always longed to give a son.
“It felt like another malicious taunt in a very long line of appalling behaviour,” she said, adding that the girls are yet to meet their half-brother.