Von der Leyen was born in 1958 in Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium, where she lived until she was 13 years old. In the family, she has been known since childhood as Röschen, a diminutive of Rose. Her father Ernst Albrecht worked as one of the first European civil servants from the establishment of the European Commission in 1958, first as the Chef de Cabinet to the European Commissioner for Competition Hans von der Groeben in the Hallstein Commission, and then as the Director-General of the Directorate-General for Competition from 1967 to 1970. She attended the European School, Brussels I.
Education and professional career
n 1977, she started studying economics at the University of Göttingen. At the height of the fear of communist terrorism in West Germany, she fled to London in 1978 after her family was told that the Red Army Faction (RAF) was planning to kidnap her due to her being the daughter of a prominent politician. She spent more than a year in hiding in London, where she lived with protection from Scotland Yard under the name Rose Ladson to avoid detection and enrolled at the London School of Economics. A German diminutive of Rose, Röschen, had been her nickname since childhood, while Ladson was the name of her American great-grandmother's family, originally from Northamptonshire. She said that she "lived more than she studied," and that London was "the epitome of modernity: freedom, the joy of life, trying everything" which "gave me an inner freedom that I have kept until today." She returned to Germany in 1979 but lived with a security detail at her side for several years.
In 1980, she switched to studying medicine and enrolled at the Hannover Medical School, where she graduated in 1987 and acquired her medical license. From 1988 to 1992, she worked as an assistant physician at the Women's Clinic of the Hannover Medical School. Upon completing her doctoral studies, she graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1991. Following the birth of twins, she was a housewife in Stanford, California, from 1992 to 1996, while her husband was a faculty member of Stanford University.
From 1998 to 2002, she taught at the Department of Epidemiology, Social Medicine and Health System Research at the Hannover Medical School. In 2001 she earned a Master of Public Health degree at the institution.
Ursula von der Leyen joined the CDU in 1990, and became active in local politics in Lower Saxony in 1996, shortly after she had returned to Germany after living in California. She was a member of the committee on social policy of CDU in Lower Saxony from 1996, and also became active in the association of medical doctors in the CDU party.