Celine Dion's husband René Angelil has died 'after a long and courageous battle against cancer'

Mulenga Hornsby

René Angélil, the husband of Celine Dion, has lost his battle against cancer, aged 73. As he wished, the music executive died peacefully in Las Vegas watched over by his 47-year-old superstar wife. René leaves behind the couple’s three children, René-Charles, 14, and five-year-old twins Nelson and Eddy, as well as his three grown up children from two previous marriages, Patrick, Jean-Pierre and Anne-Marie.

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A statement published on the singer's Facebook page said: "Rene Angelil, 73, passed away this morning at his home in Las Vegas after a long and courageous battle against cancer. The family requests that their privacy be respected at the moment; more details will be provided at a later time."

A talented singer himself, René began managing artists after his pop group The Baronets folded. He discovered Celine, who was 12 at the time, in 1980, mortgaging his house to finance her career, so convinced was he that she would become a star.

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When she was 19 Celine found the courage to confess her feelings for him and their professional relationship turned romantic. René asked for the hand of his protégé in 1991, marrying her in a lavish wedding three years later when she was 26 amid the splendour of Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica.

Towards the end of his life their roles were reversed with the My Heart Will Go On singer taking care of her one-time mentor. After her husband was diagnosed with cancer for a second time in December 2013, Celine decided to take a year-long hiatus from her residency in Las Vegas to nurse him.

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Bravely opening up about how she was coping, the songbird said they had spoken about his death. "I'll say, 'You're scared? I understand. Talk to me about it,'" Celine confided. "And René says to me, 'I want to die in your arms.' OK, fine, I'll be there, you'll die in my arms."

She said that he had kept going because of the support of family and well-wishers. "The support, the prayers, the strength (of fans), the emails, the messages, the letters... It plays a big role in telling him 'One more day, let's do it'. It helps tremendously."

Her focus was on reassuring him that she was strong enough to look after their young sons."My biggest job is to tell my husband, we're fine,” she said. “I'll take care of our kids. You'll watch us from another spot."

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