They were divorced on the grounds of Henry’s “unreasonable behavior”. But what exactly that behavior entailed is unclear. Neither Dawn French nor Lenny Henry has really spoken about the reasons behind their divorce. French once said that perhaps her granny underpants were responsible, but that didn’t sound as if she were entirely serious.
Unsexy underwear can certainly stand in the way of intimacies once the clothes come off, but a divorce can’t be blamed on that. It would suggest a rather shallow marriage and a certain incapacity of partners talking to each other about sexy underwear.
All that aside let’s look at the allegation that emerged in 1999, when it was said that Henry had cheated on French. It amounted to quite a scandal that left Dawn French heartbroken at the time. Photos showed Lenny Henry in the company of young Australian receptionist Meredith Cheyne.
They were merely photographed together; there was no indication of intimacy between them in the images. But Dawn French reportedly felt betrayed and Henry had to make every effort to win his wife back and prevent a divorce back then. Dawn French also pulled herself together, mostly for the sake of their adopted daughter, who was not even ten years old at the time.
Interestingly Meredith Cheyne spoke out about the incident after news of French’s and Henry’s separation broke. Among other things it had been claimed that Dawn had never been able to forgive Henry for his indiscretion and that it was one of the reasons that the couple had finally decided to split. It was Lenny Henry, though, who instigated the separation.
Meredith denied that she ever slept or even kissed Lenny Henry. She said that their relationship had been purely paternal on his part. She claimed that he was merely interested in her, because she had been new to London and was largely on her own at the time and their encounter had been mere chance. Lenny just wanted to be a friend and offer some company.
Meredith Cheyne is now living with her partner back in Melbourne with her three kids. She does not believe that the alleged affair had anything to do with the split of Dawn French and Lenny Henry. She also said that had it caused a separation, it would have happened back in 1999.
She didn’t have a reason to lie about what had happened. Dawn has always been very certain that Lenny Henry has a very defined type, which Meredith Cheyne certainly doesn’t fit at all. Looking at his new partner Lisa Makin, who has a rather close resemblance to Dawn French, one is inclined to agree.
That still means, though, that we’re no closer to finding out what Lenny Henry’s “unreasonable behavior” entails. There has been speculation that their careers got the better of them. Dawn French and Lenny Henry are both workaholics. They’re career driven and both of them don’t have what one would call a small ego.
In the end it remains speculation. The divorce was granted quickly and both Dawn and Lenny have professed their ongoing friendship and respect for one another. The split was overall amicable and aimed to look after their daughter’s interests as well.
In April 2013 Dawn married Mark Bignell after she thought she would not find happiness again. Her divorce had hit her hard, no matter how amicably it had ended. She had lost a significant amount of weight and happiness as well. Dating had been a horrifying prospect and when she met her new husband, she had known right away that there was something about him.
Lenny Henry on the other hand met Lisa Makin shortly after the divorce from Dawn and apparently things clicked between them as well. He threw himself into his career, which was a successful move and he also ended up spending more time with his daughter.
Overall it would seem that Dawn and Lenny managed to pull themselves together after they went their separate ways. They each found happiness again, didn’t ruin their friendship entirely and continued with their respective careers. And that matters more than trying to figure out why they divorced to begin with.