It’s always sad when a beloved celebrity dies. But knowing that they passed away just days after getting married to their long-term partner is even worse. That’s the story of Anne Jones and her husband Sir Ken Dodd, a famous British comedian who died on March 11, 2018, at the age of 90. Now, Jones has opened up about her sadness at having lost the person she loved.
Ken Dodd was a great all-round entertainer, accomplished at music, comedy and acting in equal measure. At the height of his fame in the 1960s, Dodd was as famous in Britain as The Beatles were, and like them he sold millions of records. In fact, he even managed to knock them off the number one spot in the British charts with his song “Tears.”
At that point Dodd was in a relationship with Anita Boutin, a nurse. In fact, they stayed together for 22 years and indeed were betrothed. Yes, by the time Boutin tragically succumbed to a brain tumor in 1977, the couple were engaged – although not married. Then a few years later Dodd began dating Anne Jones, a dancer who appeared in his comedy shows. And although he wasn’t actually married to her, he nonetheless always wore a wedding ring.
Dodd’s popularity as an entertainer, meanwhile, never seemed to wane. Even a high-profile tax evasion case in 1989 – in which it was revealed that the comedian had never paid the child actors he hired for his shows – didn’t put much of a dent in the public’s affection for him. In fact, after the trial finished he went straight back to the London stage – and made fun of the taxman in front of his audiences.
Dodd was given multiple awards throughout his life. In 1982 he was awarded an OBE, one of the highest British honors, and in 2017 he received a knighthood, giving him the right to use the honorific “Sir” before his name. He was also made a Freeman of Liverpool, the city where he had spent all his life, in 2001. And in 2009 a statue of him was erected at the railway station there.
Despite his fame, however, Dodd was pretty good at keeping his private life private. Little was known about his relationship with Jones, for example, other than that she also served as his stage manager. Unfortunately, though, it also came out during the 1989 tax evasion trial that the couple had been unable to conceive a child and had attempted IVF treatment to no avail.
As Dodd reached his late 80s, he still continued to play comedy shows across the U.K. But, unfortunately, his age and ill health began to catch up with him. In January 12, 2018, just a couple of weeks after playing Liverpool’s Echo Arena Auditorium, he was sent to hospital with a chest infection. He spent six weeks there and was finally discharged on February 27.
But, sadly, he only had a little time in which to enjoy being back home. Just under two weeks later, he died at his house in Liverpool, the same one that he’d lived in since childhood. He was 90 years old and had enjoyed a truly impressive life. And when the media reported on his death, there was one touching detail that they focused on in particular. Just two days before he passed away, Dodd had asked Jones to marry him.
Dodd’s publicist Robert Holmes subsequently released a statement about the wedding. “[Dodd] asked Anne if she wanted to marry. They got the registrar and were married in the house on Friday,” it read, according to the Evening Standard. “He died two days later on Mother’s Day. Anne is obviously very upset. They had been together for 40 years.” Holmes added that he considered it “a love story to beat them all.”
The day after Dodd passed away, Jones read a prepared statement to the press outside the couple’s home. Flowers had already been left outside the house by wellwishers. Her nephew held an umbrella over her as she spoke. “I have lost a most wonderful husband,” she said, according to the Daily Mirror. “I’ve had the supreme joy and privilege of working and living with him as partner for the past 40 years.”
“The world has lost the most life-enhancing, brilliant and creative comedian, with an operatically trained voice, who just wanted to make people happy,” Jones continued. “He lived to perfect his art and entertain his live and adoring audiences. I have been overwhelmed by the love and affection which I have already received from dear friends and the public, and I thank you all.”
Indeed, many big names in British comedy paid homage to Dodd on the day that he passed away. Sandi Toksvig of The Great British Bake Off was one of many who recalled an occasion when they’d been in Dodd’s presence. “Best dinner companion I ever sat next to,” she recalled. “Don’t think I said a word. Just laughed and laughed and tried not to drown in my soup. Thank you for the genius.”
Dawn French – a British TV legend known to American audiences as the Fat Lady from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – made a reference to one of Dodd’s most famous comedy routines in her Twitter tribute. She wrote, “What a wonderful day for sticking a cucumber through your neighbor’s letter box and shouting ‘the aliens have landed!’ Tatty bye Doddy. And thanks.”
And Sir Paul McCartney, one of two surviving members of The Beatles, left a message on Twitter in remembrance of his “fellow Liverpudlian.” Both men grew up in the city’s Knotty Ash neighborhood, in fact. “Beloved by many people in Britain and a great champion of his home city and comedy. We met him on a few occasions as The Beatles and always ended up in tears of laughter. Today it’s tears of sadness as well,” he wrote.
On March 13, 2018, Robert Holmes spoke to the Daily Mirror about Dodd’s possible motivations for wanting to be officially married to Jones before he died. “Ken wanted to make her Lady Anne at last, before he left her,” he said. When a knight of the realm such as Dodd gets married, you see, his wife is automatically granted the title of “Lady.”
However, the media speculated that there may have been another reason – and it was, like Dodd’s famous trial in the ’80s, all to do with taxes. Seeing as how Jones had married Dodd, she would not have to pay any inheritance tax on the estate that Dodd had left to her. “Ken Dodd has had the last laugh,” wrote the Metro.
Holmes told the Daily Mirror that the pair had made the decision to marry following Dodd’s chest infection. “When Ken came out of hospital he was still very frail and I think he knew he was going, despite all the typically upbeat talk about getting back on stage,” Holmes said. “When they got home to Knotty Ash, he asked Anne to marry him.”
Then when the wedding took place, Holmes continued, Dodd was “in bed, too frail to get up.” A registrar had to come to their house specially. “[Dodd] spoke beautifully to say his vows and he even had a glass of champagne – a tickle tonic,” said Holmes. “Anne said she was so very proud of him because he was terribly poorly.”
And, of course, just two days later “he slipped away with Anne at his bedside, as she has been throughout his illness – and just as she’s been at his side for more than 40 years.” Whether or not the key motivation for the marriage really was titles or money, it was still clear that the couple had loved each other very much.
Dodd’s funeral was held in Liverpool on March 28, 2018. It was a big deal for the city, and the streets thronged with hundreds of people. The majority of the service was also broadcast to the audience outside Liverpool Cathedral, but after that the family retreated to hold a private interment. Then, Anne Jones – now Lady Dodd – said goodbye to her new husband for the last time.