Celebrities filled a country church today for ‘one final show’ and to celebrate the life of much-loved actress Lynda Bellingham.
Familiar faces from television – including many of her Loose Women co-stars – paid tribute to the ‘Oxo Mum’ who lost her battle with bowel cancer last month aged 66.
They included included Maureen Lipman, Lynda La Plante, Lisa Maxwell, Robert Lindsay, Downton Abbey author Julian Fellowes, Christopher Biggins – in a bright pink suit – and Giles Brandreth.
As he headed to the noon service Bandreth tweeted “Pale grey skies and a day of sadness and celebration as we set off to say goodbye to lovely Lynda Bellingham.”
Friends and family huddled under umbrellas as they filed into the 15th Century Parish Church of St Bartholomew, in Crewkerne, Somerset where the bells tolled.
The order of service – billed as ‘one final show’ – had a smiling photo of Linda proudly holding her OBE on the cover.
It was due to include tributes and stories of the star’s varied career from her sister Jean Bellingham and actresses Lynda La Plante and Maureen Lipman.
More tributes were set to be paid by co-stars Carol McGiffin and Jane McDonald and her agent Sue Latimer.
Fittingly though the final words were due to come from her sons Michael and Robbie Peluso and husband Michael Pattemore, 59.
Denise Welsh, Nicholas Grace and Sue Holderness were also expected to speak.
Lynda had battled colon cancer since being diagnosed in July 2013 and died in her husband’s’ arms on October 19 at London Hospital.
She decided to stop having chemotherapy to limit her family’s suffering after her cancer spread to her lungs and liver.
Speaking shortly before her death she said giving up the treatment was “a huge relief because I took back some control of myself”.
The funeral is being held in Crewkerne because it is the home town of her husband.
The tolling bells were silenced as two beautiful floral tributes of white chrysanthemums spelling the words ‘Mum’ and ‘Lynda’ were carried into the church.
Grieving husband Michael and Lynda’s sons Michael and Robbie Peluso were among the pallbearers who carried her casket into the church.
The flower-topped coffin was followed by family members – each carrying a white flower – through the huge open doors.
Broadcaster Gyles Brandreth raised a hearty laugh from the congregation with a tribute to his ‘funny and sexy’ friend.
In the first tribute he said he met her 40 years ago after he was introduced to her by her best pal Christopher Biggins.
He said: “I liked her at once. I couldn’t not. She was so funny and so sexy. Every guy who met her fancied her.
“In fact I say especially gay men fancied her. She would be the first to admit that when she came to men she didn’t always get it right.
“Her first marriage was a blip, her second was a trauma, although it brought her her greatest gifts in life – her two sons.
“Then came Mike. We were suspicious at first. Some of us were jealous. But then there was that lovely happy wedding day and we met you.
“We were so happy that you made Lynda so happy, and we were so happy therefore for you both.”
He added: “I don’t think I’ve known anyone who was more happy than Lynda.
“She showed us how to live, and then in her last months she showed us how to die; with grace and courage and humour and acceptance.
“About three weeks ago she called me and she said ‘I’m in a good place you know, I really am’.”
Speaking on behalf of her Loose Women co-stars, Jane McDonald fought back tears as she recalled her pal.
She thanked her ‘beautiful boys’ and her husband Michael for the ‘love’ they gave her.
Jane added: “She loved you so much. That’s what Lynda had in abundance, she had love.
“You only had to ring Lynda and she would bring you out of it. We all know that Lynda was a great actress but she was so much more.
“I just wanted to say how much she brought to our little show. She hated it with a passion to be honest. She did. She couldn’t stand it you know, but we all loved her.
“She just had this passion for life and the thing about Lynda Bellingham – Lynda Bellingham Pattemore OBE – she lived three lives more than any of us.
“She knew how to live. She really did.”
Wearing a pretty red flower in her hair, which matched her bright tights and heeled boots, Absolutely Fabulous star Julia Sawalha attended the service.
The rain poured down as Hollywood A-lister Stanley Tucci also filed into the church.
The diverse group of mourners also contained Sir Marcus Setchell, the surgeon who delivered Prince George, who is understood to be representing a health charity Lynda was part.
Following the funeral, the interment will take place at Townsend Cemetery, in Mount Pleasant, Crewkerne, before a reception at luxury Georgian hotel, Haselbury Mill.
A ‘service of thanksgiving’ for Lynda will also take place on February 11 at noon at St Stephen Walbrook in London.
The order of service asked mourners to donate to charity Action Against Cancer.