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Helen McCrory was a Titan of British theatre. But I mostly knew her as a mum

Emily Sheffield
·2-min read
<p>Helen McCrory died yesterday, aged 52</p> (Getty Images)

Helen McCrory died yesterday, aged 52

(Getty Images)

Helen McCrory was a titan of our British theatre and our screens. Without question.

And God, she was glamorous too, we certainly shared a love of frocks. But I mostly knew her as a mum.

Her life as one half of a fabulously charismatic celebrity marriage was rarely discussed - though we did both talk about our work. She was serious and passionate about every job she took on.

Our two sons have been best friends from the age of four. School gate, school run, play dates and sports picnics.

Phone calls in the middle of the night as one of the boys decided home was where the heart was. And parents were scrambled into cars at 1am.

Long cold afternoons watching the boys toboggan up and down London hills until Helen turned blue. This was the real centre of her and Damian’s life as much as the photographs and their huge careers painted a different picture.

I always considered her as one of the smartest women I knew. Sharp humour; big heart.

This is classic Helen in an interview on her and Damian juggling their careers: “We do everything very badly,” she laughed when asked about how they organised their lives at home in Tufnell Park.

“I don’t know how we juggle. There is a lot of unsexy diary time. I’m continually trying to work out what we’re doing tomorrow and if the kids are now old enough to drive themselves to school.”

I had been looking forward to a dose of that characteristic dry wit; to seeing you again. A colossal character in a marriage of two colossal characters. Together they zinged.

But Helen wore her star presence lightly, never tried to dominate the room at the expense of others, instead thoughtfully drawing you in.

Our last chat, like many, was in her lovely kitchen. Struggling then, with her usual grace, humility and selflessness with hugely challenging health issues.

She was very private and none of us intruded on that unless invited. Fearsomely brave, her fragility also made her immensely human. No bitterness or sadness as she faced her illness. Only heroic generosity towards those she loved, giving them the strength to go on.

Damian, Manon and Gully were the very centre of her life. And for them she was the burning light they circulated around. I am heartbroken for them. My son is planning his support for his best friend.

Her husband described her to us as a meteor. She has left this world. But she will forever shine on.

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