Fern Britton: ‘The smilier I am, the unhappier I feel inside’

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  • A break-up after a short relationship is hard at the best of times, so to decide to separate after 20 happy years together must be far from easy.

    But Fern Britton appears to be adapting well to her split, after telling the world via Twitter that she and her chef husband Phil Vickery, 58, had ‘decided to go our separate ways’, adding, ‘We will always share a great friendship and our lovely children.’ But we can reveal Fern, 62, has previously suffered after heartbreak…

    Last month – a couple of weeks after announcing her split from Phil – Fern appeared to be enjoying her new-found single life and even tweeted about a hangover. She wrote, ‘Went to a lovely party last night. SO much fun… Woken up with a headache…’

    While it’s wonderful to see Fern happy, hopefully it’s not a case of her putting on a brave face once more. As the TV star previously recalled, she’d ‘fob off’ her worried friends after suffering her teenage break-up.

    And failed relationships aren’t the only trigger – diagnosed with postnatal depression following the birth of her twins, Fern said, ‘I had what amounted to a breakdown but nobody knew because I’d become so adept at hiding it.’ Thankfully, nowadays, Fern appears mindful, raising awareness for support outlets via Twitter.

    Putting on a brave face

    From her very first break-up as a teenager, Fern vowed to never let anyone make her feel that way again. In her autobiography, Fern: My Story, she wrote, ‘If a man made it obvious I wasn’t good enough for him, I’d say, “Fine. Goodbye”.’ But during her first marriage to Clive Jones, it became clear Fern wasn’t as resistant as she thought.

    She admitted, ‘It was easier to lie: everything’s hunky-dory,’ before sharing how she masked her feelings. ‘I have a smiley, happy face and – in my case – the smilier I am, the unhappier I feel inside.’

    When it comes to Fern and relationships, things haven’t been easy, but when she tied the knot with Phil in 2000, he appeared to restore her faith. In her book, she wrote, ‘My life is full of ghosts, and it is only now, looking from this place of safety, that I can finally lay them to rest.’

    And while it’s tricky to pinpoint what she was referring to, her past relationships have been littered with disappointment. Fern claimed her first serious boyfriend let her down ‘again and again’, until she caught him with his ex and ended the relationship. Fern confessed, ‘The agony of betrayal by your first love can never be matched.’

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    She’s previously said a royal death helped her divorce her first husband, with whom she had twin sons, Jack and Harry, now 26. ‘Diana’s death gave me the strength to do it… a marriage should be a partnership and a friendship, not an endurance test,’ she recalled. Fern asked for a divorce when their third child, Grace, now 23, was 12 weeks old. And having recently lost both her parents, could that be the driving force behind her and Phil splitting?

    Broken promises

    Fern once spoke of feeling ‘incredibly lucky’ to have Phil because he regularly reminded her of ‘what he promised’ on the way to the register office. She recalled, ‘“I’ll always look after you,” he said.’ But now the pair – who have 18-year-old daughter Winnie together – have parted ways, his promise has seemingly been broken.

    Despite being Fern’s second marriage, the importance of it lasting was made clear in her book. ‘When you get married and have children, the last thing on your mind is divorce,’ she said. But even if history is repeating itself, perhaps every cloud has a silver lining. Fern has noted, ‘When I’m kicked in the balls in my private life, my career gets an unexpected boost.’