Jane Hawking: There were fourof usin our marriage


Motor neurone disease and physics both played a part in her split from her husband Stephen Hawking, she says. She talks about the challenges they faced in their 30-year marriage and about how close The Theory of Everything was to reality

Here is Stephen Hawkings verdict on the movie about his marriage: it needed more science. And here is Jane Hawkings verdict: it needed more emotion. Those opposing views on The Theory of Everything, which brought Eddie Redmayne an Oscar and a Bafta for his portrayal of Stephen and Felicity Jones Oscar and Bafta nominations for her portrayal of Jane, reveal a great deal about not only the personalities of the worlds most famous scientist and his former wife, but also one of the major strands of difference in their relationship.

But the truth is that science is probably more absent from the film than emotion, because what the film represents is a triumph of Janes experience and persona after decades in which the family was viewed solely through the prism of Stephens genius, who as well as being the worlds best-known scientist is also the worlds best-known sufferer of motor neurone disease (MND).

Today there is an aura of unassuming achievement around Jane, who is sitting in the conservatory overlooking her garden in a quiet corner of Cambridge. Meeting her feels like fast-forwarding through time to meet an older Felicity Jones, so accurately did the actor represent her subject. But then, talking to Jane, it all turns on itself again: the reality was, she says, that she and Stephen met Jones and Redmayne when they were researching their roles, and was later astounded to realise how closely her mannerisms, gestures and speech patterns had been noted. When I saw the film, I thought: shes stolen my personality!

Jane
Jane Hawking: The difficulties of dealing with Stephens disease were much greater than they appear in the film.

Her relationship with Stephen started when both refused to be daunted by the fact that Stephen had just been diagnosed with terminal motor neurone disease. They ploughed into marriage in the face of his parents pessimism about its chances of success, and had three children. In the face of pressures that were almost too much to bear, and alongside her friendship with another man, they somehow kept their marriage together for a quarter of a century before ending it with a remarkable degree of equanimity.

Does the film present an accurate portrait of their marriage, which began at Trinity Hall in Cambridge in 1965?

The important thing is that the feelings, where they are there, are very much true to our experiences. So from an emotional point of view, its spot on. The only thing is that theyve had to minimise the strains and struggles, because in our real life the difficulties of dealing with Stephens disease were much greater than they appear in the film.

And, yes, the impression given in the film that she and Stephen managed to split up without too much acrimony and that Janes new partner and now husband, musician Jonathan Hellyer Jones, became part of their immediate family is indeed an accurate one (although for a long time after they met, their relationship was platonic).

Jane met Jonathan when, to give her a break from the constant demands of caring for Stephen, a friend suggested she should take up singing in the local church choir, run by Jonathan. It was 1977. The Hawkings, then parents of two young children, were living in Cambridge, where he was garnering a reputation as one of the most glittering scientists of his generation. Jane, though, was isolated and overwrought. How much were the demands on their marriage the product of Stephens disease without it, might they still be married today? Jane isnt sure: although his health was a huge strain, there were others. From the outset, Stephens eccentric family made no secret of the fact that they didnt think the marriage would survive.

Stephens mother once said to me, We dont like you because you dont fit into our family. On another occasion she learned by chance that the Hawkings were planning to move to Cambridge so they could be there when the marriage foundered, as they were sure it eventually would.

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Jane and Stephen Hawking in 1974.

But it wasnt just about a lack of support from the wider family. The truth was, there were four partners in our marriage, says Jane. Stephen and me, motor neurone disease and physics. If you took out motor neurone disease, you are still left with physics. Mrs Einstein, you know, cited physics as a difference for her divorce …

During their marriage, she says, Stephen would retreat into himself. And, though he tried to explain physics to her, she always felt shut out of the world that was so crucial to him. But the stresses of MND were not solely or even mostly down to the physical difficulties of the condition; what brought even greater disruption to their lives was the advent of the carers who shared their home, who disapproved of aspects of their lives, and whose presence meant they could never have the privacy that every family needs to thrive.

They whispered about us and they undermined me, says Jane. Its clear the pain is still there. One of those nurses, Elaine Mason, went on to become his second wife, though the two later divorced. This is an episode of their lives Jane is reluctant to rake over, although it was this relationship that tipped the Hawkings into splitting up, rather than her relationship with Jonathan. Why did they carry on for so long, even after she had met Jonathan and become close to him? She says it never felt like a choice: she loved Jonathan and depended on him for support, but she absolutely loved Stephen as well.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/16/jane-hawking-there-were-four-of-us-in-marriage-stephen-hawking-theory-of-everything

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