Dame Esther Rantzen

Esther Rantzen: Living with Grief – how did husband Demond Wilcox die and has she remarried?

The Dame speaks to others about their loss for C5

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Esther Rantzen examines grief and loss in the Channel 5 documentary Living with Grief, but what happened to her husband? And has she remarried?

The veteran TV presenter – now a Dame – opens up about her experiences of widowhood on the show.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Esther Rantzen presents Living with Grief on C5
Dame Esther Rantzen presents Living with Grief on C5 (Credit: Channel 5)

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What is Esther Rantzen famous for?

Esther is an English journalist and television presenter, who fronted the BBC TV series That’s Life! for 21 years.

The show ran from 1973 until 1994 and was one of the most watched shows of the time.

She founded the charity ChildLine in 1986, and is well known for her charity work.

Esther set up The Silver Line, designed to combat loneliness in older people’s lives, in November 2012.

The Queen recognised Esther for her contribution to television and society by awarding her an OBE for services to broadcasting in 1991.

In 2006, she was awarded a CBE for services to children.

In the 2015 New Year Honours, Esther was made a Dame for services to children and older people through ChildLine and The Silver Line.

Esther also created the TV series Hearts of Gold, which celebrated people who had performed unsung acts of outstanding kindness or courage.

She presented her own talk show, Esther, on BBC Two from 1996 to 2002.

She appeared in the 2008 series of ITV show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, and was the fifth celebrity to leave the camp.

How old is she?

Esther Louise Rantzen was born on June 22 1940 in Berkhamsted, Herts.

She is currently 80 years old.

Esther Rantzen presents Living with Grief on C5
Dame Esther Rantzen with her daughters Becca (left) and Miriam (right) – before watching Esther’s late husband’s memorial (Credit: Channel 5)

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Esther Rantzen husband: what happened to him?

After an affair with the married Scottish politician Nicholas Fairbairn, Esther went on to find love with filmmaker Desmond Wilcox.

At the time, he was married to her colleague and friend Patsy, who at first refused to divorce him.

However, after a difficult start, they eventually married in December 1977.

They were married for 23 years until his death in 2000 and had three children together.

Desmond Wilcox died of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 69.

Esther says: “When Dessie died I felt like the sun had left the sky.

“One of the things about death is there is so much to do. I must have been tearing around in a mad frenzy.

“I was now the bread winner, a single parent, and there were all these things that needed dealing with.”

Esther has three children – Miriam, Rebecca and Joshua – and five grandchildren Benji, seven, Xander and Teddy, five, and Florence and Romilly, two.

She has campaigned to raise awareness of ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), as her eldest daughter Emily has suffered from the condition.

Esther Rantzen on Celebrity First Dates
Esther Rantzen on Celebrity First Dates (Credit: C4)

Esther Rantzen husband: Has she remarried?

The TV presenter has not remarried since the death of Derek, and is not thought to be dating.

In 2016, she was in the first episode of Celebrity First Dates.

The Channel 4 dating show pairs celebrities with ‘ordinary’ people.

She was matched with 68-year-old lawyer John on the show.

Esther and John’s date seemed to go well until he made a comment about her age.

He said: “For a lady of your advancing years, you make splendid company.”

Understandably, Esther did not take the comment well, and the pair were not meant to be!

Esther Rantzen presents Living with Grief on C5
Esther lost her own husband more than 20 years ago (Credit: Channel 5)

Esther Rantzen and Jimmy Savile

The TV presenter faced criticism for her actions over the Jimmy Savile child abuse allegations.

Although she supported the women allegedly abused by Jimmy Savile, she told Channel 4 News: “If anybody had had concrete evidence, I think and hope the police would have been called in.

“But all they had was gossip – and gossip isn’t evidence.”

Abuse campaigner Shy Keenan subsequently claimed that, using a different name, she had told Esther Rantzen 18 years earlier of allegations that she had heard about Jimmy Savile.

Esther has denied hearing specific allegations and said she had no recollection of a conversation with Shy Keenan.

Writing for The Daily Telegraph, comedian Katy Brand criticised Esther for failing to act on rumours she had heard about Jimmy Savile.

Living with Grief on Channel 5

Esther Rantzen presents this moving documentary about death, grief and loss.

Although her husband Desmond Wilcox died 20 years ago, she admits widowhood is still challenging, while her family say she’s in denial.

In this one-off, Esther examines her own feelings as well as hearing from six people who talk unflinchingly about their experiences of loss.

Esther meets a woman who lost her husband to Covid-19 and a mother whose child drowned.

A young man shares the story of his brother’s murder when he was just 11.

Esther Rantzen: Living with Grief airs on Channel 5 at 10pm on Thursday February 18 2021.

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