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The secret agony of James Bond


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A stranger would have seen it as a happy family wedding ... a famous actor escorting his beautiful blonde daughter up the aisle of an English country church to the smiles and good wishes of friends.

No one could have guessed that behind the apparent joyfulness was almost indescribable tragedy. Two weeks after that July afternoon in 2013 Charlotte Brosnan's husband and two children would be at her bedside as she died of ovarian cancer.

And just over 29 years earlier Charlotte's father, 007 star Pierce Brosnan had cradled her mother in his arms as she died from exactly the same lethal disease.

Cassandra Brosnan, at 43, had been a year older than her daughter and it was the day after their 11th wedding anniversary.

Pierce had been happily married to his second wife Keely Shaye-Smith since 2001 but he admitted that he "thought about Cassandra every single day" and Keely understood.

Charlotte had been fighting the disease which killed both her mother and grandmother for over three years. She was determined to marry her long-term boyfriend, artist Alex Smith, by whom she had two children, and wanted it to be a happy day. Incredibly, it was. A family friend who attended said: "It was the most moving day of my life. It wasn't a day to be sad. Alex and Pierce made sure everyone had a good time. But it was hellish difficult to keep smiling..."

Ovarian cancer, dubbed "the silent killer" because it shows no symptoms in the early stages, had taken away Pierce's wife and now his daughter and, as he described it, "drawn a mark across my heart which is always part of your life."

The tragic story of love and loss had begun in the summer of 1984 when the dashing dark-haired Irishman married the stunningly beautiful bronzed Australian he had met at a party in 1978.

"I never stop counting my luck when I think about Cassie," he said. "She has dignity, beauty, humour, intelligence and humility. She is my inspiration and my support. She is also, and always will be, the love of my life." Certainly in those golden Hollywood years, life could hardly have been better for Pierce and Cassie. They became an essential part of Hollywood's social circle, found at poolside parties, beach barbecues and lavish star-studded premieres. Then in 1987 the happiness of the Brosnans was shattered for good. Cassie, complaining of tiredness, went for a routine medical check. Then came the bombshell: there was a malignant growth on her ovaries.

Pierce and Cassie asked for the truth, and got it — the cancer had spread and the chances of survival, for five years, were less than 40 per cent. The Brosnans decided that Cassie's illness was a secret they would keep to themselves. They would fight it and they would win — and for a while it seemed that they had.

Early in 1989 the cancer appeared to be in remission and Pierce told close friends: "Cassie has wonderful doctors. The situation has been addressed and she's clear." Cassie refused to allow her condition to affect her life. She went to parties and entertained their friends. It looked as though the couple's secret nightmare was over. In fact it was just beginning. In the spring of 1991 the cancer returned with a vengeance and the Brosnans realised they could no longer keep Cassie's condition a secret within the family. But Pierce still couldn't believe that he was going to lose his beloved wife.

He told a friend: "We never talk about the cancer — we are conscious of being in the here and now and every moment we spend together is precious."

Slowly Cassie grew weaker. In December 1991 she moved to a Los Angeles hospital and Pierce kept a 24-hour vigil by her side "cherishing each moment I was with her as though it was a precious jewel."

December 15 was Cassie's birthday and everyone knew it would be her last. Pierce gave her a surprise party in the ward and afterwards as they sat together holding hands she said: "I want you to marry again. I want you to have a full happy life."  Three days after Christmas Cassie died in her husband's arms. She was 50. A close friend, Charles Bronson, whose own wife had recently died of cancer, said: "Pierce and Cassandra were the most loving couple I had ever known."

For years afterwards, Pierce was inconsolable and it wasn't until 1995 that he contemplated his first serious relationship after his wife's death.

Keeley Shay-Smith, a 30-year-old model and environmental campaigner, met the Bond star in Mexico and, said Pierce, "We hit it off immediately." They married in 2001 and now have two children.

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