29 December 2023

Roald Dahl’s widow Felicity Dahl ‘amazed and grateful’ to be made Dame

29 December 2023

Felicity Dahl, widow of Roald Dahl, has said she is “amazed and grateful” to be given a damehood in the New Year Honours List.

The 85-year-old, who founded The Roald Dahl Museum And Story Centre and co-founded Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, is recognised for services to philanthropy, literature and young people.

Dame Felicity said in a statement to the PA news agency: “I am amazed and grateful for this extraordinary honour.

Being the founder of two charities and helping to keep my late husband’s work alive has been a pleasure

“Being the founder of two charities and helping to keep my late husband’s work alive has been a pleasure.

“Of course, I have been supported by so many wonderful people to achieve this”

Dame Felicity set up the children’s charity in 1991 in memory of her late husband Roald Dahl, who died on November 23 1990 aged 74, and was known for writing books including The BFG, The Witches and Fantastic Mr Fox.

Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity works in partnership with the NHS to provide specialist nurses and support for seriously ill children with lifelong conditions.

In 2001, Dame Felicity established the charity The Roald Dahl Museum And Story Centre, a museum and literature centre, based around Dahl’s works, that was set up for educational purposes.

In 2020, a set of stained glass windows were unveiled at a hospital in Birmingham featuring famous characters from Dahl’s books, following a collaboration between Dame Felicity and the illustrator Sir Quentin Blake.

Roald Dahl and Dame Felicity had wed in 1983 when the author was in his late 60s.

They had both been married before and Dame Felicity had three children from a previous marriage while Dahl had five, shared with his first wife, American actress Patricia Neal, whom he wed in 1953.

Since his death, Dame Felicity has been involved in the adaptations of Dahl’s work, and co-produced the film Matilda, released in 1996.

In recent years, Dahl’s body of work has hit the headlines following conversations around offensive language and censorship.

While he has previously topped lists of the nation’s favourite authors and his stories continued to be beloved by children around the world, anti-Semitic comments he made have cast a shadow over his personal legacy.

In 2020 his family apologised for his antisemitism and a statement was posted to the website of The Roald Dahl Story Company under the title: “Apology for anti-Semitic comments made by Roald Dahl.”

It said: “The Dahl family and the Roald Dahl Story Company deeply apologise for the lasting and understandable hurt caused by some of Roald Dahl’s statements.

“Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations.

“We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”

Earlier this year it was revealed that books by the much-loved, but controversial children’s author have been rewritten to cater for the sensitivities of modern audiences.

The Roald Dahl Story Company and Puffin Books confirmed they had carried out a review of Dahl’s classics to ensure they can be enjoyed by all children.

This meant the removal or rewriting of content deemed offensive, such as references to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race.

Critics including acclaimed author Sir Salman Rushdie and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak were among those who condemned the changes, with Sir Salman writing on X, formerly Twitter: “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship.”

Puffin UK then announced that The Roald Dahl Classic Collection would sit alongside the newly released Puffin Roald Dahl books for young readers and readers will be free to choose which version of Dahl’s stories they prefer.

A statement from the publisher said: “By making both Puffin and Penguin versions available, we are offering readers the choice to decide how they experience Roald Dahl’s magical, marvellous stories.”

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