Nigella Lawson’s tragic first husband – his final words and incredible gift to wife

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Nigella Lawson wouldn't have become the domestic goddess we know today without the backing of her first husband.

John Diamond has often been credited with helping Nigella develop her brand and help transform her from a journalist into a national treasure.

The pair met while both working at The Telegraph in 1989, then married just three years later in Venice, Italy.

"I was a journalist – not a food journalist, but I did do quite a bit of cooking. As a consequence I cooked for editors quite a bit," Nigella explained to BBC Radio 2

"John, my late husband, said to me, 'You always talk about food in this really confident way. You should write about it!' So I did."

At the launch of Nigella's first cook book in 1998, beaming John proudly held his wife in his arms as they celebrate her success.

But just three years later, after a hellish ordeal, John tragically passed away.

Nigella and her first husband John at the launch of her first book, How to Eat, in 1998
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

John was diagnosed with oral cancer in 1995 – and found it therapeutic to write about his illness in his column for The Times and in his best-selling book C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too.

The popular journalist, who is the father of Nigella's children Cosima and Bruno, was praised for his witty and thought-provoking articles.

But he also had desire for Nigella, who has admitted she is naturally shy, to be a success and pushed her further into the limelight.

He wrote down a heartbreaking final message to his wife, confessing he was immensely proud of her.

"How proud I am of you and what you have become. The great thing about us is that we have made us who we are," read John's emotional message.

Nigella and John were both journalists when they met
(Image: PA)

Sadly, John passed away in March 2001 while his wife had been filming her TV show, Nigella Bites.

Devastated Nigella wanted to keep busy, so took just two weeks to grieve before going back to work.

"I took a fortnight off. But I'm not a great believer in breaks," she told The Telegraph in May 2001.

"I don't want to be rattling around inside my own head. I did feel I was spiralling into a Kathy Burke character and tried going out, but I prefer it here. Filming keeps me busy. It absorbs me."

"Of course it is displacing certain thoughts but, in a way, I don't think grieving should be your full-time job. That seems a rather modern idea. To act as if you don't have a life is probably not sensible, especially when you have children."

John wrote a powerful final message to Nigella
(Image: REX/Shutterstock)

There was a tremendous response to John's death, with most newspapers devoting many pages to the journalist.

Nigella wasn't focused on the public sympathy, but kept press clippings about her husband in what she described as her 'Morbidobox'.

"I was pleased because I hadn't foreseen any of it, in the sense that I didn't know John was going to die when he did," she said.

Private Eye published a cartoon showing the amount of newspaper space devoted to the deaths of an artist, a scientist and a journalist – with the journalist winning by a long way.

Nigella added: "John would have found that funny. He was always for being public. I was married to someone who liked all that. I never did. It wouldn't be my way of doing it. I gave into it."

Nigella has opened up on the loss of John
(Image: Getty)

On the 20th anniversary of the release of her first cook book, How To Eat, Nigella said she was yearning to be with her first husband again.

What should be a happy occasion has instead been marred by sadness with the TV chef longing for John, who was by her side at the launch two decades ago.

"This time 20 years ago, I was at the launch party for my first book, How To Eat. Looking at this photo makes me happy, but also very sad. I wish I could be in John’s arms now," wrote Nigella.

Paying tribute to her late first husband, Nigella shared a recipe for her apple and walnut crumble – one of John's favourites.

"I’ve chosen this in particular as it was a real favourite of my husband John’s," she tweeted.

"And How To Eat would never have existed without his urging and encouragement in the first place."

Nigella feels grateful to be alive after losing John, her mother and her sister
(Image: Rex)

Having celebrated her 60th birthday this year, Nigella admitted she was grateful to reach the milestone because so many of her loved ones died so young.

As well as the heartbreak of losing John, Nigella tragically lost her mother and sister when they were very young.

Her sister Thomasina died from breast cancer in 1993, while her mum Vanessa passed away from liver cancer in 1985 when Nigella was just 25.

As a result, Nigella did not make any plans to mark her 60th birthday.

“I’m not a planner – apart from when it comes to food," she told  Good Housekeeping.

“But to be completely honest, I’ve never been able to take for granted that I’d be alive by this age.

“My mother died at 48 and my sister at 32. And then John at 47. So, even if I were the sort of person who planned ahead, I don’t think I would have seen myself here….”

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