Inside Lenny Henry and Dawn French’s ‘tricky final year’ before shock divorce

webnexttech | Inside Lenny Henry and Dawn French's 'tricky final year' before shock divorce

They were once the celebrated power couple in comedy but ended up just as friends. Lenny Henry and Dawn French, considered two of Britain’s funniest comedians, shocked fans when they announced they were ending their 25-year marriage. The duo once presented Comic Relief together, with tonight being Sir Lenny Henry’s last after 39 years. He founded the charity back in 1985 alongside Love Actually director Richard Curtis. Speaking of missing Dawn and his original co-stars, Lenny explained of his decision to step down: “We were like a little gang. But for a few years I’ve felt, ‘Where’s the new gang?’ [Comic Relief] is a baton to be handed on to a new group of people who are going to take on Comic Relief.” The pair were married from 1984 to 2010, and adopted a daughter together. As Lenny returns to host the fundraiser for the final time, we take a look back at their highs and lows and what led them to go their separate ways… Meeting of minds Lenny, 63, met Dawn, 64, when they were both members of Comic Strip in 1980. With its irreverent skits, the alternative comedy show launched both their careers as well as Jennifer Saunders’ and her husband Adrian Edmondson’s. Dawn encouraged Lenny to move over to alternative comedy where he built a career as a stand-up performer and character comedian. After enjoying each other’s company, while getting up to hi-jinx with their comedy pals, the couple decided to make it official and married in London’s Covent Garden in 1984. Expanding their family Dawn and Lenny adopted their daughter Billie when she was two weeks old. Before welcoming the little girl, the pair tried to have children naturally, but without success. Dawn told the Sunday Telegraph: “I had grief for a while. I did have miscarriages, so I’ve had grief about that as well. But the minute Billie arrived that was it for me. She fills everything I needed to be as a mother”. The proud parents doted on their daughter, with The Vicar of Dibley star calling Billie “the greatest achievement” of her life. Shock split After 25 years of marriage, Dawn and Lenny divorced on the grounds of his “unreasonable behaviour” in 2010. The statement issued on behalf of the couple read: “The separation is entirely amicable and they fully intend to maintain their close friendship. Their priority is to commit to the future joint parenting of their daughter.” There was no further comment made about the reason behind their split, however, Lenny told the Express in 2016: “There’s generally a situation where one partner wants the marriage to finish more than the other. “I think maybe one of us did, then the other one did, and then the other did over a period of time and then, in the end, we thought, ‘Oh, actually maybe we both do’. We knew it wasn’t possible to continue,” he added. It had been reported that Lenny cheated on Dawn in 1999, an allegation he denied. However, Dawn’s unofficial biographer Alison Boyer said the comic duo had been ‘outgrowing’ their marriage before their split. “[Dawn] and Lenny have long been moving in increasingly different directions and have spent little time together in the past two years,” she told The Mail. Best of friends After the split Dawn told The Mirror: “Remarkably, we seem to have shifted with relative ease from a 25-year marriage to a lasting friendship. I am amazed by us – there is no war, we’ve turned out to be the best of friends. “There were lots of good years but one tricky last year.” She added: “This had been a very happy marriage for a very long time and you don’t stop looking after each other or caring for each other, whatever has happened.” Dawn’s comment about a ‘tricky final year’ came after speculation flew that the couple had parted ways long before their public announcement. They were reportedly living separate lives six months prior to the split, and were reportedly waiting for their daughter to turn 18 before ending it. New beginnings and finding love again Since splitting with Lenny, Dawn – who was previously 20 stone – underwent a huge transformation and lost 7 stone. Dawn needed to lose weight urgently ahead of a hysterectomy. “The doctor told me that if I could lose some weight before the op, they would be able to do it via keyhole, and I would recover in three weeks or so. Otherwise it would be big open surgery, and three months to recover.” Dawn said that her approach was simple – low-calorie meals and upping her exercise. No magic wand, just tiny, joyless low-cal eating and lots more walking for weeks and weeks,” she explained. In 2012, the actress started dating Mark, who leads a drug and alcohol abuse charity, which was launched by Dawn’s late mum Felicity. Opening up about how she was nervous to get back in the dating game, Dawn admitted: “I thought oh God, how repulsive. I’ll have to buy new pants. “Dating was excruciating and difficult as I’m not an accomplished flirter. Then, bang, I met somebody else. I started to claim my life back. I know that I will make a good life for myself with all sorts of things as armour. Including stuff, my new chap is teaching me that I never knew. Now my life is in Cornwall with him. I hope it is a life together.” Dawn’s dreams came true when the pair got hitched in Cornwall, where Dawn was born, after only a year of dating in 2013. The intimate ceremony was attended by those closest to the star – including Lenny.

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