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Why Lenny Henry and Dawn French divorced following 'very happy' 25-year marriage

The comedians held their 'fancy-schmancy' wedding at St Paul's Church in Covent Garden

Lenny Henry and Dawn French on their wedding day© Getty
Nichola Murphy
Deputy Lifestyle Editor
Updated: March 15, 2024
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Lenny Henry and Dawn French are both happily loved-up with new partners 14 years after their divorce in 2010. The Lenny Henry Show star, 65, and The Vicar of Dibley actress, 66, got married in 1984 in what they described as a "fancy-schmancy" big wedding but went their separate ways after 25 years of marriage.

The former couple have shared a few rare comments about their split. Here's everything you need to know about Lenny and Dawn's relationship, from their "one tricky last year" before divorcing to their new partners…

When did Dawn French and Lenny Henry get married?

Lenny and Dawn tied the knot in 1984 in Covent Garden, London, in what Lenny said was a lavish celebration. "To my mind, if we weren’t going to get married in the right way — big church, reception, dress suits, food, friends and family jammed into a fancy-schmancy chi-chi hall with a big band and Big Al the DJ winding up the day’s events with a big disco — then we might as well not do it at all," he said.

dawn lenny wedding
Dawn and Lenny tied the knot in October 1994

One throwback photo shows Dawn wearing a lacy, puff-sleeve wedding dress which she teamed with a boho floral headband and a veil. She was arm-in-arm with her new husband, who looked dapper in a three-piece suit and spotted tie.

Do Dawn French and Lenny Henry have children?

Dawn's daughter Billie smiling for the camera© Instagram
Dawn adopted Billie in 1991

The couple adopted their daughter Billie in 1991 after struggling to conceive naturally. 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."

Why did Dawn French and Lenny Henry split?

In 2010, the couple released a statement confirming their split, which 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."

lenny and dawn
The former couple confirmed their split in 2010

Following their separation, they have both made a few rare comments about the reason their marriage broke down. "I got divorced... it wasn’t that bad," Lenny said to The Mirror in 2012, adding he became closer to Billie. Four years later, he told the Express: "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."

WATCH: 9 of the most stunning celebrity weddings

Meanwhile, Dawn joked that her love of granny pants was the reason behind her and Lenny's split. "Maybe I should have worn more interesting pants and I'd still be married to him," she said to The Sun in 2014. 

Aside from her light-hearted comments, she has added that they have easily shifted from a "very happy marriage" to a "lasting friendship." She told The Mirror in 2017: “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.” 

Who are Lenny Henry and Dawn French's new partners?

Comedian Dawn admitted she struggled with dating following her divorce during an honest chat on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. "Obviously you don’t get divorced without a certain amount of sadness. We knew the marriage was untenable," she began.

“Dating was excruciating and difficult as I’m not an accomplished flirter. Then, bang, I met somebody else," Dawn continued, before opening up about finding love with charity executive Mark Bignell – who co-founded charity Hamoaze House – in 2013.

Lisa Makin in a black dress with Lenny Henry in a suit© Richard Young/Shutterstock
Lenny Henry is dating Lisa Makin

The couple got married in 2019 and now live in Cornwall together. Meanwhile, Lenny has been in a long-term relationship with theatre director Lisa Makin since 2013.

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