Michael Palin, 79, shares the secret to a happy marriage… as his wife Helen dies


Michael Palin previously shared the secret to a happy marriage and explained how ‘fate’ played a hand in his 57-year union with wife Helen whom he met as a teen.

The Monty Python star, 79, sadly announced on Tuesday Helen had sadly passed away following a battle with chronic pain and kidney failure.

The childhood sweethearts first met when they were just 16 years old during a summer holiday.

In a twist of fate, they reunited on Michael’s first day at Oxford University, where Helen was visiting her friend for the weekend and married years later in 1966 when they were in their 20s.

Michael had said: ‘I was lucky to find someone in my teens who I got on with – and it got better as time went on.’

'I was lucky to find someone in my teens who I got on with - and it got better as time went on': How 'fate' played a hand in Michael Palin's 57-year marriage to childhood sweetheart (pictured in 2009)

‘I was lucky to find someone in my teens who I got on with – and it got better as time went on’: How ‘fate’ played a hand in Michael Palin’s 57-year marriage to childhood sweetheart (pictured in 2009) 

Marriage: The childhood sweethearts first met when they were just 16 years old during a summer holiday and married years later in 1966 (pictured) when they were in their 20s

Marriage: The childhood sweethearts first met when they were just 16 years old during a summer holiday and married years later in 1966 (pictured) when they were in their 20s

During their 57-year marriage, they welcomed three children together – Thomas, 54, William, 52, and Rachel, 48 – and also have four grandchildren.

Back in 2015, the actor opened up about the secret to a happy marriage, saying it isn’t anything physical but simply wanting to spend time with one another.

He told The Telegraph: ‘What is the really important thing in a relationship, what is the main thing? Sex, or going to the theatre, or having lots of friends, or whatever?

‘None of that matters, there’s something underneath that works, that you’re happy to be with somebody for an awful lot of the time.’

‘The more time you spend together, the more things you have to share, the less likely it is that you want to throw all that away,’ he added, stressing the importance of having different interests in a marriage.

Elsewhere in the interview, Michael went on to recall the moment he met Helen for the first time when they were both 16 years old and holidaying in Southwold, Suffolk.

He explained how their families were staying in neighbouring cottages and they quickly struck up a romance, before rekindling their flame years later at university.

Recalling their first meeting, the doting husband described Helen as a ‘vision of rebellion’ when he first laid eyes on her during their seaside holiday.

But the pair didn’t live near each other, as Michael was based in Sheffield while Helen was in Cambridgeshire, but they stayed in touch by writing letters and met up the next summer.

Family: During their 57-year marriage, they welcomed three children together - Thomas, 54, William, 52, and Rachel, 48 (pictured in 1980) - and also have four grandchildren

Family: During their 57-year marriage, they welcomed three children together – Thomas, 54, William, 52, and Rachel, 48 (pictured in 1980) – and also have four grandchildren

Loss: The Monty Python star (pictured in 2005), 79, announced on Tuesday that his wife of 57 years Helen had sadly passed away after a battle with chronic pain and kidney failure

Loss: The Monty Python star (pictured in 2005), 79, announced on Tuesday that his wife of 57 years Helen had sadly passed away after a battle with chronic pain and kidney failure

Marrriage: Michael has previously given an insight into his marriage to Helen (pictured in 1993), with his loving comments resurfacing following the devastating news of his wife's death

Marrriage: Michael has previously given an insight into his marriage to Helen (pictured in 1993), with his loving comments resurfacing following the devastating news of his wife’s death

Fate: After meeting at age 16, the couple reunited at Oxford University, with Michael saying of the reunion: 'You can see fate was actually tightening the screws on us very hard at that time'

Fate: After meeting at age 16, the couple reunited at Oxford University, with Michael saying of the reunion: ‘You can see fate was actually tightening the screws on us very hard at that time’

And reuniting on Michael’s first day at Oxford University, Michael said of the extraordinary moment: ‘You can see fate was actually tightening the screws on us very hard at that time.’

The childhood sweethearts incredibly went on to tie the knot in 1966 and welcomed three children together, as well as four grandchildren.

Detailing their decades-long romance, Michael also reflected on his day-to-day marriage with his wife Helen while speaking to MailOnline in 2012.

He told how he collects stamps, drinks sensibly jogs daily on Hampstead Heath and would sooner run up and down Oxford Street with his underpants on his head than cheat on Helen.

Gushing over his wife in an intimate insight into their marriage, he said: ‘I was lucky to find somebody early on when I was in my teens who I got on with really well and still get on with really well. It sort of works better as it goes along. You build up layers of experience.’ 

Michael also told how his wife has always been supportive of his love for travel, which he took into his career with his 2020 TV show Travels of a Lifetime.

He said: ‘Helen’s always been really tolerant of my travels. If she said, ‘You’ve got to stay home’ she’d just have a frustrated man kicking chairs in the kitchen and looking at atlases. 

‘So she’s always been very happy to let me go. I see no reason to rupture such an extraordinary relationship. I don’t like a life that’s edgy and uncomfortable. I’m restless in other ways – in terms of work.’

However, things weren’t always been plain sailing for the couple as Michael recently spoke about how he had to have heart surgery in 2019 and the struggles that came with it.

But he candidly spoke about how his family house in Hampstead Heath was a huge comfort for him, as he admitted the ‘best part’ of his recovery after the operation was returning home.

Speaking to Radio Times, he said of his surgery: ‘Coming home has always been the best part of the process. We live near Hampstead Heath in London and near friends.’

‘The great surprise is that I’ve been extremely content to be in the same place for some time,’ he added.

Candid: Back in 2015, the actor (pictured in 1989) opened up about the secret to a happy marriage, saying it isn't anything physical but simply wanting to spend time with one another

Candid: Back in 2015, the actor (pictured in 1989) opened up about the secret to a happy marriage, saying it isn’t anything physical but simply wanting to spend time with one another

Sweet: Of his marriage (they are pictured in 2015), he said: 'The more time you spend together, the more things you have to share, the less likely it is that you want to throw all that away'

Sweet: Of his marriage (they are pictured in 2015), he said: ‘The more time you spend together, the more things you have to share, the less likely it is that you want to throw all that away’

Family life: Announcing Helen's death, Michael described her as the 'bedrock of my life' in an emotional tribute (he is pictured with his kids William and Tom in September 1973)

Family life: Announcing Helen’s death, Michael described her as the ‘bedrock of my life’ in an emotional tribute (he is pictured with his kids William and Tom in September 1973)

Careers: While Michael worked in comedy and acting (pictured in The Complete and Utter History of Britain), Helen worked as a teacher before becoming a bereavement counsellor

Careers: While Michael worked in comedy and acting (pictured in The Complete and Utter History of Britain), Helen worked as a teacher before becoming a bereavement counsellor

While Michael launched a career in comedy and acting, Helen worked as a teacher before becoming a bereavement counsellor.

On Tuesday, Michael announced the sad news that his wife Helen had passed away just weeks after they celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. 

He described her as the ‘bedrock of my life’ and said her death was an ‘indescribable loss’ for himself and their three kids – Thomas, William and Rachel.

The Monty Python star told how Helen had been suffering with chronic pain for a few years previously and had been diagnosed with kidney failure before her death.

Announcing the news on his blog, Michael shared a selfie of them together and wrote: ‘My dearest wife Helen died peacefully in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

‘She had been suffering with chronic pain for several years, which was compounded a few years ago by a diagnosis of kidney failure.

‘We first met on a summer holiday on the Suffolk coast when we were both sixteen and we married in our early twenties. Two and a half weeks ago we celebrated our 57th wedding anniversary.

‘Her death is an indescribable loss for myself, our three children and four grandchildren.

‘Helen was the bedrock of my life. Her quietly wise judgment informed all my decisions and her humour and practical good sense was was at the heart of our life together.

‘The family ask that their privacy be respected at this time.’

Last September, Michael spoke about Helen’s ill-health as he shared that she had been moved into respite care from the home they had shared for 50 years.

He explained that she had not been responding to medication for her chronic pain, saying they had moved her to help her ‘manage’ her symptoms.

The comedian told the Telegraph at the time: ‘I don’t think you can cure it, but they will help her manage it. 

Loss: On Tuesday, Michael announced the sad news that his wife Helen had passed away just weeks after they celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary

Loss: On Tuesday, Michael announced the sad news that his wife Helen had passed away just weeks after they celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary

Comedy: Michael is known for being a member of Monty Python and also won acclaim for A Fish Called Wanda (pictured with co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese and Kevin Kline in 1995)

Comedy: Michael is known for being a member of Monty Python and also won acclaim for A Fish Called Wanda (pictured with co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, John Cleese and Kevin Kline in 1995)

‘It’s such a bore. She was so active and still is mentally. But the body is declining. We live life with our fingers crossed.’

Michael is best known for being a member of the Monty Python comedy group alongside Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones.

They rose to fame on the sketch comedy series Monty Python’s Flying Circus and went on to find success with the Monty Python film series – including 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

The comedy genius also picked up a BAFTA Award for his role as Ken Pile in cult 80s movie A Fish Called Wanda. 



Read More

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More