‘My family’s big secret’ Fern Britton reveals the scandal that rocked her entire family

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  • Fern Britton is enjoying a quieter life in Cornwall after turning the holiday home she shared with husband Phil Vickery into her permanent base following their shock split earlier this year.

    And she’s using the downtime for her writing, with the Cornish retreat providing the perfect haven to inspire creativity.

    But not all of Fern’s inspiration is as bright and bubbly as the TV star herself, with Fern, 62, recently opening up about the family scandal that forms the basis of her latest novel, Daughters of Cornwall.

    Here, Fern reveals more about the illegitimate son her grandmother kept hidden for decades…

    The big family secret

    Fern has been harbouring a secret since the 80s that has only emerged as her new book, Daughters of Cornwall, is inspired by it.

    Telling the story of her grandmother Beryl’s ‘secret child’, Fern reveals, ‘Just before World War One, my mother’s mother fell in love with somebody. We’re not sure who, but she had a baby.’

    Although Fern’s grandmother was forced to give the baby away as it was out of wedlock, Fern admits he later reached out after seeing her on television. ‘He came into our lives in the 80s,’ she explains. ‘He wrote to me when I was on television, asking, “Is this your mother…” and “is this your grandmother?”’

    Given the high-profile nature of Fern’s then-job on telly, she asked for proof that this man was who he said he was.

    ‘I said you’ll have to show me proof and he sent me a bundle of letters and photos. I then had to tell my mother but she took it very well. Then she and her half-brother met. So I had an uncle John.’

    She adds, ‘The stranger was telling me that my late grandmother, Beryl, had given birth to him out of wedlock before the First World War, and he had spent years searching for his mother.’

    No stranger to scandal

    Fern now lives a low-key life in Cornwall, but she’s had a few run-ins with her former This Morning co-host, Phillip Schofield.

    The pair previously fronted the show together for 10 years, but things turned sour when Fern left the show amid claims she felt ‘undervalued’ by ITV and was ‘in Phil’s shadow’. There were also claims she was paid £250,000 a year less than him.

    MORE: Fern Britton opens up about life in lockdown

    Their feud was reignited back in 2018 when Fern was invited for an interview on This Morning’s 30th anniversary show.

    But things became awkward when Fern revealed she hadn’t been invited to This Morning’s BAFTA ceremony. Phillip later took to Twitter to deny her claims.

    It later turned out that in fact Fern had been invited but her agent had turned it down on her behalf. Troika Talent tweeted, ‘HUGE apologies from Troika to @ThisMorning. An invitation to @Fern_Britton from #BAFTA did arrive, but as she was touring with #CalendarGirls we assumed she wouldn’t be able to attend, and we declined. Fern had no idea that she had been invited.’

    A happier time

    Thankfully Fern seems to have moved on from the drama and is in the happiest place she’s been in a while, despite the breakdown of her marriage to Phil Vickery. ‘At this moment in my life I’m feeling really confident, strong and quite indestructible,’ she reflects.

    And part of that is finding a place she truly feels at home –

    Cornwall. ‘It’s always felt like home. It’s just in my heart and my soul. I’ve recently moved there permanently – my girls have got jobs there! It’s really fab and I can write in the place I love.’