Mary Berry

Celebrity Best Home Cook star Mary Berry overcame family tragedy to become national treasure

She lost a child too soon

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Mary Berry is known for her sunny disposition but her ever-present smile masks personal tragedy within her family.

The Dame has had to go through something no parent should ever have to – the death of a child.

But how did Mary Berry’s son die?

Here’s everything you need to know about the writer, presenter and cook.

Celebrity Best Home Cook cast
The cast of Celebrity Best Home on BBC One (Credit: BBC One)

Read more: How old is Celebrity Best Home Cook host Claudia Winkleman?

How did Mary become famous?

Mary’s immense cooking knowledge and likeable personality made her the obvious choice for TV.

She hosted several TV series for the BBC and Thames Television from the 70s onwards.

Her first self-titled TV show was Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cakes in 1994, followed by Mary Berry at Home in 1997.

She became a household name to a new generation of cake lovers thanks to her role as a judge in the BBC’s popular show The Great British Bake Off.

Mary became a judge on GGBO in the first season of the show in 2010 alongside fellow celebrity chef Paul Hollywood.

In 2016, following the announcement that the popular baking competition was moving from the BBC to Channel 4, she announced her decision to step down from the show.

Mary is reportedly worth £15million – and we think she is worth every penny!

What are her cooking credentials?

Mary’s “only achievement at school was just one O-level in cookery” but that was enough.

Mary enjoyed domestic science classes at school, and went on to study catering and shipping management at college.

She trained at Bath School of Home Economics and was then classically trained at the Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Mary gained her big career break in the magazine world when she became the cookery writer of Housewife magazine in 1966.

She then joined Ideal Home in 1970 and stayed there for three years.

Mary is the author of more than 80 cookery books and they’ve sold over six million copies worldwide.

Her first book was The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook in 1970.

Because of her immense cooking knowledge, Mary went on to host several TV series for the BBC and Thames Television.

She also has a range of salad dressings and sauces in her name, as well as baking merchandise.

Hosts of Celebrity Best Home Cook
Angela Hartnett, Chris Bavin, Mary Berry and Claudia Winkleman team up on Celebrity Best Home Cook (Credit: BBC One)

Read more: Celebrity Best Home Cook 2021: Meet the judges and celeb contestants

How did Mary Berry’s son die?

In 1989, Mary and her husband Paul lost their middle child, William, in a car crash.

He was just 19.

The tragedy brought her and her husband closer together and she believes her childhood battle with polio made her stronger as a person which helped her deal with William’s death.

Commenting on her son’s death, she told the Daily Mail: “William is still a huge part of our lives. I have his photo in the kitchen where I can look at it all the time.

“When I think of William, it’s with joy and happiness.

“I miss him immeasurably, but I know how fortunate I was to have him even for that short time.

“I still have two other children. How lucky am I?”

Mary left audiences in tears when she took her grandchildren to visit the grave of her dead son in Mary Berry’s Easter Feast in 2016.

Is Mary married?

Mary is married to Paul John March Hunnings.

They wed in 1966 – the swinging Sixties!

Paul worked for Harvey’s of Bristol and sold antique books and is now retired.

Mary Berry and family
Mary Berry and family attend the UK premiere of The BFG at Odeon Leicester Square in 2016. But how did Mary Berry’s son die? (Credit: Splash)

How many children and grandchildren does she have?

Mary and her husband Paul have three children together – one daughter, and two sons, including the late William.

She is the mother of Annabel Bosher, who is also her business partner.

Her remaining son Tom is a tree surgeon.

She has five grandchildren.

How old is Mary Berry?

Mary Rosa Alleyne Berry was born on March 24 1935 in Bath, Somerset.

She is currently 85 years old.

Mary on the judging panel of The Great British Bake Off (Credit: BBC One)

Does Mary have arthritis?

Mary contracted polio when she was 13, and spent three months in hospital – partly in isolation.

The condition left Mary’s left arm and hand weak which often gets mistaken for arthritis by TV viewers.

Speaking to the Radio Times, she said: “I was immensely fortunate. I only had it on my left side, and I’ve got a funny left hand.

“Everybody thinks I’ve got arthritis.

“I look a bit funny when I’m rolling pastry, but I have no other difficulties whatsoever.”

Is Mary Berry a Dame?

Mary was awarded a CBE for services to culinary arts in 2012.

In 2020, she was made a Dame in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

She was awarded Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to broadcasting, the culinary arts and charity in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Mary says she feels “lucky” to have been able to teach others how to cook throughout her career.

She says: “I am absolutely overwhelmed to receive this great honour.

“For most of my life I have been lucky enough to follow my passion to teach cookery through books and the media.”

She has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild of Food Writers, an honorary degree from Bath Spa University and an Outstanding Achievement prize at the 2014 Specsavers National Book Awards.

Celebrity Best Home Cook continues on Tuesday January 27 at 9pm on BBC One.

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