Dawn French: her daughter, weight loss, books and husband

Have a read of everything you need to know about one of Britain's most loved comediennes, Dawn French.

Dawn French

by Emily Gilbert |

We adore watching Dawn French in TV shows such as Vicar of Dibley and French and Saunders and curling up with her much-loved books. But how much do you know about the popular comedienne?

Dawn French's age

Dawn was born on 11th October 1957 and is 63-years-old.

Dawn's French's height

Dawn is 5ft (152.4 cm) tall.

Who is Dawn French's husband?

Dawn married comedian Lenny Henry in 1984 but their marriage sadly came to an end in 2010. In 2013, Dawn married Mark Bignall, co-founder of Hamoaze House, a support charity which helps recovering drug abusers and alcoholics reintegrate into society.

Dawn French's daughter

Dawn and ex-husband Lenny Henry have an adopted daughter together. Billie Henry was adopted by the former couple at just two-weeks old.

Following a long struggle with infertility in 1991. Dawn reveals that this was a very difficult time in her life and that she struggled to come to terms with it.

"I knew I wanted to definitely be a mother that was a very strong instinct," she said during Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast. "Then what happened was my body wouldn't let me be a mother and everything kept failing all the time for all sorts of reasons.

"We had to make a big decision, to put aside IVF and go for adoption."

Dawn described her daughter as ‘the greatest achievement' of her life. However, Dawn has admitted in the past that her and her daughter have had a difficult relationship: "Our relationship exists in a bizarre kind of process of peacetime, small battles, war. The peacetime is much more than the other two energies, but we have our wars."

Billie has now moved out of Dawn's home although she lives just 12 minutes away.

"We could no longer live together – there would be murder," said Dawn in an interview. "But we have to live nearby."

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders

The comedy duo met in 1978 when they were both attending the Central School of Speech and Drama where they began to collaborate on various comedy projects. Since then, they have created six series of their famous comedy sketch show, French and Saunders, which ran from 1987 - 2007. The pair continue to appear in comedy specials together for comic relief however and still make audiences laugh.

Was Dawn French in Absolutely Fabulous?

Dawn has never featured as a main character in Absolutely Fabulous but she has been heavily involved in writing the series and it was revealed that Jennifer Saunders decided to go ahead with the Absolutely Fabulous Movie after a bet with Dawn!

Dawn French opens up about her father’s death

The pain of losing a loved one at any age is difficult to come to terms with and recover from. Losing someone when you are young however can have a devastating effect on lives, and when Dawn lost her father, Denys French, when she was just 19-years-old she admits it changed the way she viewed life.

Dawn revealed to Fearne that she feared she might also die young. After celebrating her 60th birthday, Dawn has realised how her perspectives on life have changed.

"Until quite recently, I think I've always thought that I wouldn't make old bones,” she explained. “Being 19 and losing your dad made me think, 'Oh God maybe we don't live very long'."

She continued: "I grasped any opportunity I could, but I was aware that I thought, 'I need to get old enough to grow my daughter in to her twenties at least, then she'd manage without me after that'.

"I was thinking like that, which is ridiculous. It's possibly to do with losing my dad so early... Thinking life is a bit fragile and it can be a bit temporary, and we've just got to be mindful of that."

Dawn French in Vicar of Dibley

Dawn French's weight loss

Dawn began to lose weight in 2011, shortly after her divorce from Lenny Henry however Dawn has made it clear that her main motivation was her health. At just 4'11, Dawn weighed a reported 19 stone at her heaviest.

‘When you’re over 50 you have to pay attention to your health a bit,’ she said to The Mirror in 2012.

Furthermore, in 2014 following a cancer scare, Dawn had to go through a hysterectomy which also prompted her to lose weight.

‘When I was due to have my hysterectomy the doc 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,’ she explained.

‘Otherwise it would be big open surgery, and three months to recover. So, I set about dropping a few stone.’

The Vicar of Dibley returns

If you loved The Vicar of Dibley as much as we did, you'll be thrilled to know the show is returning... kind of!

Dawn is set to reprise her role as vicar Geraldine Grainger for three lockdown-inspired episodes.

The 10-minute specials will see how Geraldine has been delivering monthly sermons to her parishioners via Zoom... when she can make it work that is!

Creator of the show Richard Curtis said: "Like every village in the country, there's been a lot happening in Dibley this year - and Dawn has got a lot to say about it."

The three short episodes will air weekly, with a 30-minute compilation episode then airing around Christmas

Dawn is delighted to be playing Geraldine again.

“Back in the dog collar, back in Dibley and back on your telly at Xmas,” she said as the news was announced. “I couldn't be happier. Bless you.”

Vicar of Dibley
©BBC

Dawn French's books

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Dawn has been writing professionally since 2011 when she released her autobiography and the Sunday Times number one bestseller, Dear Fatty. This was then followed up by several fiction novels, the newest of which is Because of You.

“The novel is about motherhood and what it means to be a mum – biologically or not,” says Dawn. “What are the ties that bind a mother and child? Who does a child belong to? The person whose blood and genes they share or the person who loves and raises them? It’s about identity. I know a bit about this because I adopted a child myself with my former husband Lenny Henry and, before she arrived, I wondered about connecting with and loving this child as much as a biological mother would.

I talked about it at great length with Jennifer (Dawn’s comedy partner, Jennifer Saunders) who said, ‘Dawn, I’ve had three daughters and I don’t recognise any of them – they’re all completely different. Rest assured that you will.’ And I did. Billie (now 29) arrived and it was the biggest love I’d ever known. I love my daughter more than I love anyone in the world.”

Writing a novel is a famously insular process but it’s one Dawn says she loves.

“I am actually a bit of a hermit,” she laughs. “I call myself a functioning introvert! I write long hand on lined paper with a freshly sharpened pencil. More books have been written like this than on computer or typewriter. I’m quite old-fashioned although I have given up on the tablet and chisel! I like the smell of the pencil and the sound it makes on the page as I write.

The fact that my book is written in my own handwriting is also very important to me. It’s like seeing my personality on the page. I have a darling PA who types up all my books. I’m quite strict when I’m writing and only allow myself to have two looks per week at a thesaurus, which is in book form naturally. It stops me getting too flowery and showing off with words!”

Is Dawn French on Twitter

While she is not on Instagram, you can follow Dawn and insights into her personal life on Twitter here.

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