Friday, June 21, 2024

Inside Davina McCall’s heartbreaking upbringing – from being abandoned by her mother to her parents’ divorce and flying unattended to Paris aged 3

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Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace is back with season six tonight – and while its poignant tales often leave viewers in tears, the story of its very own co-host is just as heartbreaking.

Davina McCall, 56, who hosts the ITV programme with Nicky Campbell, has endured a chaotic childhood of her own, one which included her parents’ acrimonious divorce and an absentee socialite mother who she said ‘shouldn’t have had kids’.

The former Big Brother presenter has often recalled the heartbreak of flying unattended to Paris aged three, after which her mother Florence Kock forgot to pick her up from the airport.

Although Long Lost Family: Born Without Trace aims to reunite close relatives after years of separation, that is sadly one feat the megastar never achieved. Davina’s mother passed away in 2008 and she never attended the funeral.

Here, FEMAIL takes a look at Davina’s tumultuous upbringing – from her mother’s abandonment to being left alone alone in a club at age 12.

Davina McCall, 56, has endured a chaotic childhood, one which included her parents’ acrimonious divorce and an absentee socialite mother who often left her unattended at the airport

The former Big Brother presenter was once so appalled by her mother, Florence Kock's abandonment that she said her mother 'shouldn't have had kids' (pictured: Davina's mother Florence Kock)

The former Big Brother presenter was once so appalled by her mother, Florence Kock’s abandonment that she said her mother ‘shouldn’t have had kids’ (pictured: Davina’s mother Florence Kock)

Parents’ divorce

Davina was born to English graphic designer Andrew McCall and his French wife, glamorous socialite, Florence Kock in London in 1967. 

The mother-of-three’s memories of her parents’ marriage are few and far between, as the couple parted ways when Davina was just three years old.

But what she does recall following the divorce is her mother leaving the shores of Britain for France, never to have a permanent place in her daughter’s life again.

Florence’s actions would set off a chain of events that would forever mar Davina’s life. Speaking in BBC documentary, Who Do You Think You Are, in 2009, she spoke of her parents’ divorce leaving her ‘split in two’.

She said: ‘When you are the child of a divorced parent you are kind of split in two. I didn’t just split in two, I had two countries. I kind of lost touch with a lot of my French family as well and I feel half a person in a funny sort of way.’

By age 13, Davina finally found a mother figure in her father’s second wife, Gabby, who she now calls mum.

And perhaps in an attempt to heal from her painful past, the presenter revealed in December last year that she was pursuing citizenship in her birth mother’s native France

Following her parents' divorce, a young Davina was sent to live with her grandparents in Surrey (Davina McCall pictured with her grandfather as a kid)

Following her parents’ divorce, a young Davina was sent to live with her grandparents in Surrey (Davina McCall pictured with her grandfather as a kid)

She once expressed feelings of guilt for being looked after by her grandmother while her mother was absent (pictured: a young Davina McCall with her grandmother)

She once expressed feelings of guilt for being looked after by her grandmother while her mother was absent (pictured: a young Davina McCall with her grandmother)

Davina, who is fluent in French and considers herself ‘half French’, informed her followers: ‘Yesterday was a huge day. I went to the French embassy to start the process of getting my French passport.

‘This isn’t about just trying to make my life easier. It was a very emotional day. Culturally this feels huge for me.

‘I’ve always felt a huge affinity with France, but I had a complicated relationship with my French mum and I can’t explain why but this feels very healing. Like I’m acknowledging I am half her. And it feels good x vive la France.’

Davina’s father Andrew passed away in February 2022 following a long battle with Alzheimer’s. 

Sent to live with grandparents

The onset of Davina’s troubled childhood began with her parents’ divorce and subsequent estrangement from her mother.

Following their divorce, Florence left for Paris in the 70s, leaving a young Davina to be shipped off to live with her grandparents in Surrey.

While there, Davina stayed in contact with her father, Andrew, but saw little of her mother in France. Often school holidays and pre-arranged meetings would go unhonoured, leaving Davina upset.

The star – who shares three children with her ex-husband Matthew Robertson – moved back in with her father at age 13 but her attempts to repair the relationship with her mother ended in failure.

Speaking in an Instagram live session in 2020, Davina reflected on the time she spent with her grandparents. She recalled the heartbreaking moment when at age four, her mum told her she was going on a ski trip, but never returned.  

‘Actually, the first time that I realised I was at my grannies and my mum left me at my grannies and said she was going on a two week ski trip, and she didn’t know how to tell me that she wasn’t coming back’, said Davina.

‘But that’s how she put it to me, and that hoped I’d forget. I was four.’ I remember the time I was in the kitchen. And I looked at my granny. I thought, I feel terrible, my mum hasn’t come to pick me up yet.’

She also shared feelings of guilt for being looked after by her grandmother while her mother was absent. 

She added: ‘She’s [my grandmother] still looking after me, she must think “oh it’s such a pain in the bum having my granddaughter here. I’m still having to look after her'”.

‘[But] actually she loved having me there, but that’s how I was playing it out in my head’. 

Absentee mother 

By age 13, Davina found a mother figure in her father's second wife, Gabby, who she now calls mum (pictured: Davina with her father Andrew McCall and stepmother Gaby McCall in 2017. (Her father passed away in 2022))

By age 13, Davina found a mother figure in her father’s second wife, Gabby, who she now calls mum (pictured: Davina with her father Andrew McCall and stepmother Gaby McCall in 2017. (Her father passed away in 2022))

Florence Kock was born to an affluent French family, while her father was a reputable doctor.

She gave birth to her first daughter – Davina’s half-sister, Millie – when she was just 16.

She moved to London in the mid-60s where she met and married graphic designer Andrew McCall. At age 22 she gave birth to Davina Lucy Pascal McCall in October 1967.

As to why the marriage fell apart after a mere three years, it has remained much of a mystery, but what seems clear is that neither of them were able to take care of a young Davina.

Since then, the presenter has rarely shied away from telling the truth about her mother’s less than gracious ways.

Many a time has Davina narrated the story of having to fly as an unaccompanied minor to see her mum in France during the school holidays. She was just aged three. 

Speaking to the Sunday Times travel supplement, she also revealed that her mother sometimes forgot to pick her up from the airport, leaving her so ‘scared’ she once wet herself.

She said: ‘The first trip I remember was very traumatic. I was three or four and too scared to ask for help. I wet myself on the flight. 

‘My mother would often forget to pick me up at the airport and I’d be waiting and waiting before somebody would call to remind her.’

Things would only go from bad to worse, when by her early teens, the socialite would drag her daughter along clubbing – and at one time left her there all alone.

Davina recalled in Who Do You Think You Are: ‘My mum was hot. She was a show stopper. Not great when you’re a teenager and your mother is hotter than you are, or when she goes clubbing with you and leaves you in the club. 

‘I was 12. She left me in a nightclub on my own, looking like a lamb dressed as mutton – young, trying to look old’. 

Davina hosts ITV programme Long Lost Family: Born without Trace with Nicky Campbell. The show aims to reunite close relatives after years of separation

Davina hosts ITV programme Long Lost Family: Born without Trace with Nicky Campbell. The show aims to reunite close relatives after years of separation

Florence’s descent into alcoholism would see her treating her daughter more like a friend than her own child, as the two would even take drugs together.

By age 12, Davina admittedly began smoking, by age 13 she was drinking, and by her early twenties was using heroin.

A troubled Davina also became anorexic and later an alcoholic herself, before spiralling into cocaine addiction for six years. She managed to turn her life around with the help of former lover Eric Clapton. 

Davina revealed her relief when her mother passed away in South Africa in 2008, and added that she had ‘forgiven’ her. However she did not attend the funeral.

She said of the situation: ‘My mother died last year and we were sort of estranged. It was just very sad. She probably shouldn’t have had kids because she was still a big kid herself.’ 

She added: ‘When she died I felt a sense of relief that I could stop swinging from side to side. And I also think, “Please God, when I die, don’t let it be a relief to anybody.” All I kept saying was, “I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you.”‘

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