Lenny Henry and Dawn French to separate after 25 years

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The Independent Online

They were the power couple of British comedy, national treasures in their own right and part of a 25-year marriage that was deemed one of the strongest in showbusiness.

But last night it was over as Lenny Henry and Dawn French announced that they are to separate.

"Lenny Henry and Dawn French are sad to announce they have decided to separate after 25 years of marriage," a statement said yesterday. "They made the decision last October and since then have been living together in constant, open and honest discussion. The separation is entirely amicable and they fully intend to maintain their close friendship.

"Their priority is to commit to the future joint parenting of their daughter. They ask that the media respects the privacy of their family."

Henry, 51, and French, 52, first met in 1981 at the Comic Strip club, when Henry was a star of BBC1's Three of A Kind. They married in 1984 and seven years later adopted a girl, Billie, now 18.

Despite the intense public pressures of showbusiness, their marriage had survived numerous bullets of tabloid speculation of Henry's infidelity that were strenuously denied.

French, best known for the sketch show French & Saunders, wrote in her autobiography that their marriage had been "buffeted by a tornado" by the reports, adding that her husband had made "grave errors of judgement" which led to a joint decision to "pull tighter, hold each other, unite, hold hands and walk through the storm together".

Henry rose to fame in the 1970s talent contest New Faces and children's show Tiswas. He later starred in a string of TV comedies such as Chef and The Lenny Henry Show. He reignited his career last year with his theatrical debut as Shakespeare's Othello in London. The critically acclaimed reception marked a new milestone for Henry winning numerous plaudits, including the Milton Shulman Award for outstanding newcomer at The Evening Standard Theatre Awards in January, where the pair were seen together in public.

French is and for playing The Rev Geraldine Grainger in The Vicar Of Dibley.