Bruce Forsyth Describes Meeting Wife Wilnelia Merced For The Very First Time

'It was the most romantic time in my life.'

Bruce Forsyth always said one of the luckiest things that ever happened to him - in a very lucky life - was meeting the former Miss World, Wilnelia Merced.

Sir Bruce, who has died aged 89, was married to the former beauty queen for 34 years, following their very first encounter when they were both asked to judge the competition in 1980.

Wilnelia, from Puerto Rico, had been crowned Miss World in 1975.

Bruce was Sue Lawley’s guest in 1996 on the BBC radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’, when he described the wonder of their transatlantic courtship that followed:

“It was the most romantic time in my life. I was going over to New York to see her and she was coming over here, working in Paris and maybe seeing her.

Bruce and Wilnelia were married for 34 years following that first fateful encounter
Bruce and Wilnelia were married for 34 years following that first fateful encounter
Mike Prior via Getty Images

“It was all very romantic, the phone calls, the going there and the coming here and all that sort of thing. She was the lady, our lady of song, our lady of love was Dionne Warwick.

His song of choice to remember that time was Dionne Warwick’s ‘I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again’.

Wilnelia said of falling for Bruce at that time: “He was perfect and he treated me like a queen.”

Bruce explained that he enjoyed visiting Wilnelia’s native Puerto Rico, where she was far more famous than him:

“With her being an ex Miss World, the lovely thing about me going there is that I’m Mr Nobody, so when we got married, I wasn’t Bruce Forsyth, the British entertainer and millionaire, I was Signor Mundo, Mr World.”

Bruce in 2012
Bruce in 2012
Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment

After Bruce proposed at the Turnberry Gold Club in Scotland, the couple married in 1983, and had one son together, JJ. Despite their 29-year age-gap - she was 23 when they met, he was 52 - they remained devoted through more than three decades.

Asked if his wives had difficulty with the age gap (his former wife Anthea Redfern was also quite a bit younger), Sir Bruce joked: “They keep up with me very well.

He continued: “Age is a state of mind. I honestly can say I don’t feel any different from when I was 35, 40 years of age.”

Wilnelia told the Daily Mail last year that she wasn’t prepared for life without him:

“I hope I’ll be prepared somehow, but it doesn’t feel real. He’s the man I fell in love with because his brain is there. He has a bit of a problem moving, but we still laugh and talk. I pray, I believe. The main thing is that he’s doing well. The pain is more emotional; sometimes we cry, but mostly we laugh.”

Bruce Forsyth's Life in Pictures


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