Five months ago, Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery stood up in front of a large group of people and read out the most heartbreaking words she’s ever had to say in public.
She wasn’t acting, but delivering the eulogy for her beloved fiancé John Dineen, who died of cancer the day before his 35th birthday.
During the funeral, a grief-stricken Michelle told the packed church in Waterfall, Ireland, that she was honoured to know PR executive John, and “to love him, and be loved by him. He was my friend, my king, my hero, my everything".
Michelle (34) was so distraught, she went into a period of self-imposed exile to mourn the man she’d planned on marrying. But now she has started to pick up the pieces of her life again.
She has returned to work on US TV series Good Behaviour, which she’d started filming before John died, and recently attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in Washington DC.
Michelle was accompanied by Chad Hodge, the writer and producer of Good Behaviour, who has become a good friend.
She later posted photographs on her Instagram page of herself with a series of actors, including Homeland’s Damian Lewis and Tom Hiddleston from The Night Manager.
Usually a regular user of social media, Michelle stayed away from Instagram for three months following John’s death. But she started posting work-related photos in March after returning to the set of Good Behaviour, in which she plays a con woman.
Friends say the actress, who portrayed frosty Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey, was devastated that she and John hadn’t married. “They were planning to marry before he got too ill and never managed to do that because Michelle had a bunch of work commitments. “She feels terrible that they didn’t manage to tie the knot in time.”
Michelle tried to keep their relationship under wraps, but they are believed to have started dating in 2013 after being introduced by Michelle’s Downton co-star Allen Leech, who played Tom Branson.
After Michelle and John got together, they enjoyed several romantic holidays, including a trip to Venice, where he popped the question in February 2015. But what many people didn’t know was that John was battling a rare type of brain cancer.
Shortly before Christmas last year, Michelle travelled to the US to promote the final series of Downton Abbey. While there, John’s condition worsened and she cut short her trip to fly to Ireland and be by his side.
Her fiancé passed away on December 13 and Michelle spent her 34th birthday on December 15 helping John’s family to organise his funeral. During the service, she talked about how special he had been.
“John’s charm was legendary. He could persuade anyone to do what he wanted in the least pushy way possible. Particularly the women,” Michelle said.
“He had a wicked sense of humour. He had a genuine interest in other people. I was honoured to know John.”