Secrets of long-lasting celebrity marriages

23 October 2017

On 20 November, it’s 70 years since the Queen and Prince Philip tied the knot. To celebrate, we asked happily married celebrities for their tips for a long and successful relationship.



As told to Gemma Calvert, Simon Hemelryk, Caroline Hutton and Joy Persaud.

Timothy West and Prunella Scales

The 82-year-old actor married Fawlty Towers star Prunella, 85, more than 50 years ago. They front Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys.

Timothy ‘You have to remain your partner’s favourite companion and have things to talk about, so you need an active life. Pru, lately, hasn’t been able to work [she has dementia] but we both belong to various institutions, we’ve always done charity things and I’m president of a drama school. We keep at it. ‘Occasionally, we’ve been asked to do some very silly things. Give talks, say, where you arrive and find the audience don’t particularly want to listen to you, or travel a long way to an event where you discover you don’t really have much to contribute. You feel foolish, but we’ve laughed about it and it’s quite bonding. ‘Recently, we went to the theatre and it was a very good show, but rather taxing. We had a Chinese meal afterwards and I don’t think we said anything much. But it was a comfortable silence, so that’s all right.’ SH

Their book, Our Great Canal Journeys, is out in November

Katie and Desmond Fforde

Katie and Desmond Fforde

Bestselling romantic novelist Katie has been married to boat designer Desmond for 45 years.

Katie ‘I was only 19 when I married Desmond – I’d be horrified if my children wanted to get married that young – but we’ve stayed together. After all these years, I’ve finally realised that accepting your partner isn’t going to change might be the secret to a successful relationship. It would have saved me a lot of stress if I’d worked that out a long time ago! For instance, Desmond isn’t a snappy dresser and although he looks gorgeous when he does dress up, it’s just not important to him. We never agree on the right time to turn up at the airport and he’s never going to put the loo seat down.

‘I say to myself, “Katie, you’re grown up, let it go” and with a sigh (or maybe a good slam), I’ll put that seat down myself.’ CH

The Christmas Stocking and Other Stories is out on 2 November

Eamon Holmes and Ruth Langsford

Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford

The pair, both 57, have been together for 22 years and married in 2010. They present ITV’s This Morning.

Eamonn ‘Not every husband and wife can work together, even if it’s something that is being increasingly asked of us with This Morning and various Channel 5 series.

But if you can have some sort of shared objective or aspiration, then you stay relevant to each other.

‘We’ve both always worked very hard but probably haven’t been as money conscious as we should have been, so our other shared objective is to save for our pensions!’

Ruth ‘Adopting our rescue dog, Maggie, has been a lovely joint experience. But I think what bonds us most is laughter. We both have a great sense of humour – though Eamonn says mine is much bawdier than his, therefore I can’t go into detail!

‘He’s a great mimic and is particularly funny about people we dislike. He genuinely makes me cry with laughter.’ GC

This Morning is on ITV, Monday to Friday, at 10.30am

Hilary and Michael Whitehall

Hilary and Michael Whitehall

Talent agent Michael, 77, has recently found fame starring in TV shows Backchat and Travels with My Father, with his comedian son, Jack. Hilary, 56, is an actress.

Michael ‘There are several things I do or don’t do in our marriage because, after 30 years, I know the alternatives wouldn’t be worth it. I have to clingfilm everything [or, Hilary says, food ‘dries out or smells’]. I mustn’t ask questions during soap operas. When we go out, I have to leave Radio 4 on for the dog. She says it needs the company. As if it thinks to itself, “Oh, I thought the house was empty. But maybe it isn’t”.’

Hilary ‘If you want to save your marriage and the planet, always let your wife load the dishwasher. I can get three times as much in as Michael.’

Michael ‘What annoys me is that I’ll load the machine and a couple of hours later I’ll go into the kitchen, ask her what she’s up to and she’ll say, “I’m loading the dishwasher. You didn’t do it properly.”

‘I just try to be helpful. I’m a simple, easy-going man.’ SH

Michael’s memoir, Backing into the Spotlight, is out now

Elkie Brooks and Trevor Jordan

Elkie Brooks and Trevor Jordan

The 72-year-old singer has been married since 1978.

Elkie ‘We learned early on that I’m better off shopping on my own. We’d be browsing for my stage frocks and it would be a disaster because of Trevor’s impatience and the fact that we never agree on what suits me. Or we’d be in the vegetable aisle and I’d be trying to find a nice red pepper for dinner, but Trevor would be saying, “Oh, come on!” I don’t think we’ve been shopping for food or clothes since and it seems to work. Ladies, when it comes to shopping, leave your husband at home. It’s just common sense.’ GC

Pearls – The Very Best of Elkie Brooks is out now

Andy Hamilton and Libby Asher

Andy Hamilton and Libby Asher

Comedy writer Andy, 63, co-wrote the hit BBC One sitcom Outnumbered and has made many appearances on panel games, such as QI. Libby is an actress.

Andy ‘Libby and I will have been married for three decades next year, and the fact that we both have bad memories has been a great help in getting us this far. It’s not as though we’re not resentful or begrudging people, it’s just that we tend to forget what we both did that was so annoying, so can’t keep a grudge going for long.

‘We laugh about our memories – what other option is there? – but they did once cause a huge row. We were at a dinner party and I was telling the story of the time Libby and I rode an elephant in Nepal. “We’ve never done that,” Libby contradicted me, and it all got a bit animated across the table.

‘I mean, if you’d ever ridden an elephant, you’d tend to remember, wouldn’t you?’ CH

Andy’s novel, The Star Witness, is out now

Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan

Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan

The legendary news broadcaster, 79, and his Canadian journalist wife, 73, have been married since 1976.

Ann ‘Peter and I have very different personalities and come from different countries, but we’ve learnt to complement each other brilliantly. I’m used to the wide-open spaces of Canada, for instance, and love to ski. Peter didn’t start until he was 16 and 6’5”, so he’s not the keenest, but he puts up with it. He’s also enjoyed seeing my home country – and learnt to canoe! – and I’ve loved the culture and antiquity in London.’

Peter ‘I get very excited about things like railways and exploring country houses and strange palaces. Occasionally, I rather resent the fact that she doesn’t get quite so enthusiastic. But if I think of some wild idea, she pulls me back to halfway, and she’s been marvellous about doing things [such as going sailing every year]. ‘I like to go to pubs where they have steak and kidney pie, and she sort of reluctantly comes along to that, too. The great word is compromise.’ SH

War Stories: Gripping Tales of Courage, Cunning and Compassion by Peter Snow and Ann MacMillan is out now

Tim and Judy Bentinck

Tim and Judy Bentinck

Better known to millions as David Archer from Radio 4’s The Archers, the 64-year-old married Judy, also 64, in 1979.

Tim ‘Judy is one of the top hat-makers in the country and has even written a book about her techniques. So I admire and respect her as a professional and as an equal. It’s similar with David and Ruth Archer [who have been married for almost 30 years].

‘Ruth’s very feisty and a strong feminist, and a farmer just as much as David is. But what also helps Judy and me is that we have different jobs. It’s difficult when you have two actors, because often somebody is working when the other one isn’t and jealousy comes in.

‘We really do love each other, too – probably now more than ever. That said, we had our first row in years recently, when my book was going out without a crucial correction. The duration of her labour for our first born wasn’t, as I implied, 20 minutes. It was “TEN XXXX HOURS!”’ JP

Being David Archer by Tim Bentinck is available now

Ingrid Seward and Ross Benson

Ingrid Seward and Ross Benson

Royal biographer Ingrid is the widow of war reporter and newspaper columnist Ross Benson.

Ingrid ‘Prince Phillip has said a successful marriage is down to tolerance. I think it’s about really loving someone but being able to be apart. Ross was often away, so I had a married life, but we kept the excitement and I had personal space. I couldn’t be with someone who didn’t work and was home at lunchtime!’ SH

My Husband and I, chronicling the Queen and Prince Phillip’s marriage, is out this month

Nancy Sorrell and Vic Reeves

TV presenter and actress Nancy, 43, is married to comedian Jim Moir (aka Vic Reeves, 58)

Nancy ‘Spontaneity definitely keeps our marriage alive. Every wedding anniversary, for instance, we go away for a couple of days to celebrate and for our 14th, last January, we went for Zurich. It was a fantastic trip. We got a train up to the mountains and were like children, playing in the snow and building a snowman.

‘And we recently decided on the spot to buy a home by the sea in Deal, Kent, after falling in love with the town when filming Celebrity Antiques Roadshow. We’ve done the interior design together, making the house quirky and fun.

‘We also talk to each other, Jim surprises me with thoughtful gifts and we still hold hands. Also, he’s done Coronation Street – a show I’ve watched since I was little – I’m getting all the juicy details. Definitely a marriage bonus!’ GC

Nancy is an ambassador for The Harley Street Clinic (theharleystreetclinic.com)

Susannah Constantine and Sten Bertelsen

The writer and fashion broadcaster, 55, has three children with her husband of 22 years, businessman Sten Bertelsen.

Susannah ‘Any shared interest can boost your relationship. But with some of the outdoor pursuits we enjoy, such as sailing, we have to really pull together – dealing with a strong wind, say. It’s the same with children. A storm can rage with them, too. SH

After the Snow, Susannah’s new novel, is out on 2 November

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