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Inside JK. Rowling's 23-year marriage she keeps out of the spotlight

The author has been married to Neil Murray since 2001

J.K. Rowling and Neil Murray arrives at the RFK Ripple of Hope Awards at New York Hilton Midtown on December 12, 2019
Emmy Griffiths
TV & Film Editor
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JK Rowling has recently made headlines following her comments on X, formerly known as Twitter, regarding Scotland’s new Hate Crime Act - but how much do you know about the author’s life behind closed doors? The writer of the Harry Potter series resides in Scotland with her husband, Neil Murray. Find out more about their relationship here… 

JK Rowling’s first marriage 

Neil is Joanne’s second husband, with the 58-year-old previously being wed to TV reporter Jorge Arantes. The pair were married for three years before divorcing and share one child, Jessica, 30. The author has since spoken out about the abusive marriage, claiming that her husband hit her, and that she had to photocopy pages of her novel in case he tried to hide them from her if she left. 

WATCH: Evanna Lynch reveals why JK Rowling wasn't included in the Harry Potter reunion

Speaking on The Witch Trials of JK Rowling podcast about her decision to leave Jorge, she explained: “There came a night where he became very angry with me and I cracked and I said, ‘I want to leave.’ He became very violent and he said, ‘You can leave but you’re not getting Jessica, I’m keeping her, I will hide her.’ So I put up a fight and I paid the price. There was a violent scene which terminated with me lying in the street.” 

JK Rowling with her second husband, Neil© Luca Teuchmann
JK Rowling with her second husband, Neil

When asked about the claims that he would destroy the book, he told the Mail Online that he was involved in writing the first one. He said: “I deny it. It doesn’t make any sense. Why would I do something like that? Maybe you should ask her. When she was writing the book, I was participating in it, she was reading it out to me, and I was reading it to her… The project was for seven books, and I was very involved with the first one and she knows that. She started writing it when we were together.”

J.K. Rowling and her companion Neil Murray arrive for the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets world premiere © Scott Barbour
J.K. Rowling and her companion Neil Murray arrive for the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets world premiere

He also told The Sun: “I slapped Joanne – but there was not sustained abuse. I’m not sorry for slapping her… She refused to go without Jessica and, despite my saying she could come back for her in the morning, there was a violent struggle. I had to drag her out of the house… and I admit I slapped her very hard in the street.” 

Joanne also revealed that she was forced to leave her home purchased with her money from the first Harry Potter book after Jorge broke in. She explained: “I was so ill-equipped for what happened to me. It was changing faster than I could deal with and all the time I had this lurking fear because I know there is someone out there who does not wish me well.

JK Rowling and husband Neil Murray during Raisa Gorbachev Foundation Party © Fred Duval
JK Rowling and husband Neil Murray during Raisa Gorbachev Foundation Party

“The reason we left the first place was my ex-husband arrived and broke in. Moving became quite a pressing issue. I was trying to reconcile suddenly having a lot of press interest with really, really wanting to live under the radar for very concrete reasons. I was living in a state of real tension I couldn’t express to many people.” 

Marriage to Neil Murray 

Joanne tied the knot with Dr Neil Murray in 2001, and the pair share two children, David, 21 and Mackenzie, 19. While they keep their relationship private, Joanne will occasionally share tweets about him, including a recent revelation about Neil’s voting during the Eurovision Song Contest. Posting on X/Twitter, she wrote: “My husband just told me he voted for Poland while I was making tea. A reminder that you never *really* know another human being.”

The pair wed in 2001© Bennett Raglin
The pair wed in 2001

In another post, she revealed that he had made her a mug that read: “It’s whatev, do your thing Row-Row,” adding: “Neil put this in my stocking for those days when I look up from the laptop in search of inspiration.” She later revealed that he doesn’t actually call her that, joking that she wouldn’t reveal her nickname. “I can see no downside whatsoever to revealing that information over Twitter. None,” she shared. 

Dr. Neil Murray and J.K. Rowling arrive at the World Premiere of 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2' in 2011© Dave M. Benett
Dr. Neil Murray and J.K. Rowling arrive at the World Premiere of 'Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2' in 2011

Joanne also opened up about her relationship with Neil during the Tracks Of My Years segment on Ken Bruce's Radio 2 show back in 2020. 

Speaking about Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers, she explained: “I think of all the love songs written, this might be my favourite. It's such a beautiful, simple sentiment, but I have an additional reason for choosing it, which is that it took lockdown for my husband to say to me.

Joanne told a sweet story about her husband © WPA Pool
Joanne told a sweet story about her husband

“I was playing it in the kitchen while cooking something; he walked in, he said, ‘This always makes me think of you when you're down in London,’ and that was a very moving marital moment so now it has an extra layer of meaning for me.” 

Speaking about spending time with family during the COVID lockdown, she added: “Well, I hope that all listeners have had the happy experience that I've had of it being quite a special time. We also have teenage kids and it's been kind of wonderful to spend that extra time with them.” 

J.K. Rowling and Neil Murray attend the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards in 2017© Jeff Spicer
J.K. Rowling and Neil Murray attend the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards in 2017

Neil has also previously worked alongside Joanne at her children’s charity Lumos. In a blog post from 2017, the doctor wrote about his experience visiting Moldova on behalf of the charity, which read: “I’m married to J.K. Rowling (Jo), who founded Lumos in 2005. Over the past 12 years I’ve been fortunate to meet some of the phenomenal people who work for Lumos, and heard about the life-changing achievements of the charity. 

“But, until this year, I hadn’t visited the countries where Lumos operates to see this for myself. As a doctor working in the UK for over 20 years, I’ve cared for many children and young adults with severe disabilities and complex care needs. 

“I’ve also seen patients with some of the rarer infectious diseases, including leprosy, in different parts of the world. A trip to Moldova in Eastern Europe was something new for me, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, I was privileged to have Georgette Mulheir (CEO of Lumos) as my guide.” 

JK Rowling's three children

Very little is known about Joanne's three children, and the writer has always been dedicated to maintaining their privacy. However, she has dedicated her Harry Potter books to all three of them over the years. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone's dedication reads: "For Jessica, who loves stories, for Anne, who loved them too, and for Di, who heard this one first," Order of the Pheonix's dedication reads: "Neil, Jessica and David, who make my world magical," while Half-Blood Prince's reads: "To Mackenzie, my beautiful daughter, I dedicate her ink and paper twin." 

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