Tragic Details About Mary Berry

Behind all the TV shows and cookbooks we've enjoyed over the years from Mary Berry are some tragic life events. While you'd never know from her upbeat demeanor and her damehood that she's endured several tragedies in her life, they have shaped her life in many ways.

Her first big tragedy happened when she was only 13 years old and has had lasting physical results. One tragedy happened as the result of a jealous co-worker, and another involved a con. Two relate to her children, one of which will continue to shape her life forever. Meanwhile, the most recent caused a major health setback at age 88. Still, she's out there doing what she loves and making new TV shows for her fans to enjoy. However, if you're interested in the tragic details behind the smile, read on. You're bound to gain a newfound respect for Berry and her ability to bounce back from what life throws at her.

The polio she caught as a teen has had lasting effects

Mary Berry's bout with polio as a teen affected her both mentally and physically. If you've ever noticed that Mary Berry moves her left hand in an odd way that makes it look arthritic, it's the lasting result of polio. She was 13 years old in 1948 when she ended up hospitalized for three months during a polio outbreak. While she didn't need an iron lung like some of the other girls in the hospital, it twisted her spine, affected her left side, and left her needing rehab to learn to walk again.

During the first month, she lived isolated in a small glassed-in room without even knowing she had polio. At first, her parents could only wave to her from behind the glass. Later they were able to visit her for an hour at a time twice a month. Once, her normally unaffectionate father walked her pony four miles to visit, and she petted it from her bed. However, after living in a hospital full of sick children for so long and watching some die, the visit gave her hope for eventually leaving.

As a result of her experience, Berry has strong feelings about the vaccine. "If you're in a hospital like I was, with people in calipers, people in pain, people who weren't going to get better — I think everyone should take the vaccine, not query it, and think of others" (via Express).

She had several miscarriages early in her marriage

Mary Berry and her husband had a rocky beginning to starting a family. Berry got married later in life than a lot of women of her era, marrying Paul Hunnings in 1966 at age 31. The first time Berry found out she was expecting a baby was two years into their marriage at age 33. She was up at 2:00 in the morning sewing a tablecloth for a new table when she started to have her first miscarriage. She says in her autobiography, "Recipe for Life," "I'm thankful that it was an early miscarriage, but it was still very distressing. Paul was hugely sympathetic and did his best to cheer me up — taking me out to restaurants when we couldn't really afford it — but of course he was terribly upset too."

Berry had been diagnosed with having two uteruses (a bicornuate uterus), but the idea that it might result in pregnancy difficulties never bothered her until she had a series of three miscarriages. She decided to see a specialist, choosing one working with multiple patients with bicornuate uteruses. The doctor, George Pinker, was famous for delivering several royal babies. Berry also had a friend down the road seeing the same specialist, so she had someone to talk to about it.

After seeing the specialist, the couple ultimately had three children together: Thomas, Annabel, and William. However, those initial failed pregnancies were emotionally difficult to get through.

She got fired from a magazine job

Mary Berry endured an unfriendly work environment for years before finally getting fired from Ideal Home magazine. However, the reason she was fired isn't one you'd suspect.

Mary Berry started working as the cookery editor for Ideal Home's sister magazine, Housewife, in the 1960s. She wrote about all sorts of food-related topics, created recipes, and did her own photography. In 1968, Housewife folded and merged with Ideal Home without warning. While everyone else working for Housewife was fired, Berry and her assistant moved to Ideal Home, causing some positional shifts. Berry became the cookery editor at Ideal Home, causing the old cookery editor to be moved over to edit the homes section.

The former cookery editor made things difficult for Berry from the beginning because she resented getting shifted to the home area of the magazine. She started out insisting that she oversee Berry's work to lend her expertise. The jealous woman tried to make life difficult for Berry, going as far as to tell the magazine editor that Berry was missing deadlines. After five years, all those complaints finally got Berry fired. Her other co-workers were shocked at what had happened and spoke up about how invaluable she was to them, trying to get her job back for her. Berry says in her autobiography that, after being in such a toxic working environment for so long, "I'd had quite enough of the whole nonsense and told them, 'I'm going anyway.'"

Her teen son died in a car accident

Of all the tragic things that have happened in Mary Berry's life, the one that has affected her most, is the death of her teen son, William, in January 1989. William, was home for a weekend visit from his university studies when it happened. He and his sister Annabel had stayed up the night before laughing, looking through old photographs and reminiscing. And the next morning, he asked her to drive with him to get a newspaper he needed for a class.

Berry had become anxious when they hadn't returned home for lunch by 1:20 p.m. A policeman came to deliver the news that William and Anabel had been in a wreck. William had been joking around driving his sportscar erratically, hit a wet spot, started aiming for a hedge, and flipped the car. While Annabel had just a few scratches, 19-year-old William died instantly. Berry says in her autobiography, "Nevertheless, once the initial shock subsides you realize that the bottom has fallen out of your world. I couldn't cook, I struggled to sleep; we lived on soup for a long time and I ended up losing [21 pounds]."

It changed her life by making her more religious, causing her not to worry as much about the little things, changing her attitude toward life and death, and bringing the remaining family members closer together. She's now a founder patron and raises money for the Child Bereavement U.K., helping parents in similar situations.

She was arrested in a U.S. airport for drug smuggling

Being arrested in an airport in another country is a nightmare for anyone, but it happened to Mary Berry when she flew into the U.S. to do a cooking demonstration in the early 1990s.

Because she wanted to be prepared and didn't want her demonstration ruined by flight delays, she did her best to have everything ready to go the minute she popped in the door of the demonstration. This level of preparedness meant that she premeasured all her ingredients and put them into separate bags to take with her in her luggage. After she touched down in the U.S., she was surprised when the airport cleared and dogs showed up to sniff out what they thought were drugs in her luggage. They then separated Berry and her travel companion, Lucy, into separate containment cells.

An officer questioned her about whether she had plans for making money from the bags of what he assumed were drugs, and she told him, "Oh, I do, and my fee has already been agreed" (via YouTube). Despite a bit of miscommunication and false assumptions, it eventually became clear that the packets of white powder contained ordinary flour rather than drugs. It turns out that her overpreparedness caused her a nerve-wracking delay rather than saving her time.

Her name and face has been used in online scams

Celebrity names can carry a lot of weight, and Mary Berry was mortified in 2020 to learn that her name and face had been used to support a scam. Not only were customers buying products on what they thought was Berry's recommendation, but the company hit their bank accounts with extra charges.

Two companies used her as an endorsement for selling facial lotion and CBD oil. Through computer magic, it appeared to be holding one of the CBD oil bottles in her hand in ads. Berry told the Watchdog on BBC's "The One Show," "'We began to get emails, 'There's a cream and you recommend it. If you say it's good, we thought it was worth spending the money.' I was absolutely shattered that people could be conned" (via The Daily Mail). Because the commercials claimed relief from chronic pain, she guessed people believed she used it for arthritis.

One of the companies, Bionic Bliss, said that it would never knowingly use a celebrity to endorse its product and that the ads had come from third-party advertisers using third-party marketers. It denied charging customers unexpected bogus amounts. However, one man who signed up for buy-one-get-one-free CBD oil for the equivalent of about $69, was charged an additional $150 and $89 with more unexpected fees scheduled for the future. Despite its claims of innocence, Bionic Bliss ended up dissolving its company in 2020.

She broke her hip in a gardening mishap

Gardening should be a way to relax, but it went badly for Mary Berry in August of 2021. She took a tumble over bricks in her raised beds while picking sweet peas and broke her hip. Her son-in-law, Dan, picked up her phone call for help, and then she endured a three-hour wait before the ambulance came to take her to the hospital. She needed surgery the next morning to repair it. Then she spent 10 days in the hospital as the first part of her recovery.

Berry told the Mirror, "It's quite frightening to break your hip because it's painful and you think you're never going to get better. You can't do your shoelaces up, you certainly can't get your trousers on and you think, 'Gosh, am I going to be like this all the time?'" She had a noticeable limp even after surgery. Plus, she needed a walking cane to get around, which is disheartening at any age.

She was determined to get back to work and off the couch, and her physiotherapy helped make it possible in just a little over a year. While she could stand just fine, her main goal was to be able to walk straight before filming started. She was able to get back to work with the launch of a new show in September 2022 called "Mary Berry – Cook & Share," in which she travels around the U.K. cooking and sampling food.