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The Crown star Jason Watkins on the little acts of kindness that helped with grief after losing daughter Maude

Actor Jason Watkins photographed for Child Bereavement UK
Actor Jason Watkins photographed for Child Bereavement UK (ANDREW BAKER)

Jason Watkins, perhaps best known for his roles inThe Crownand Line of Duty, is a patron of Child Bereavement UK, a charity very close to his heart following the death of his daughter Maude, who died from sepsis aged two in 2011. For Big Give’s campaign, he sat down with HELLO! to discuss the incredible work they do, and how it has helped him personally to work with the charity.

The actor’s wife, Clara Francis, is also a patron and spoke at an event for the charity at Kensington Palace where the couple met Prince William. "Clara did most of the talking, probably for the first time publicly, and she was magnificent," Jason recalls of the engagement. "Prince William was there and gave her a big hug and so I think that made her [day]. She was pretty pleased about that.

"He’s the patron of the charity and I've met him a few times. He’s an Aston Villa supporter but he’s alright actually."

Jason Watkins and Clara's daughter Maude
Jason Watkins and Clara's daughter Maude died when she was two (ITV)

Jason spoke about how much good the "hard-working and sensitive" charity does, explaining: "When we lost Maude, Clara started seeing a therapist that was provided by the health service but that program ran out of money after two months and ended.

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"And at the time, we didn't have much money at all. I was about to go into the West End. I was more of a jobbing actor then I suppose, I have been very fortunate since then. The two things are not exclusive, I think. Both of our successes have been fuelled a lot by our grief, definitely.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge greets Jason Watkins as he attends the Child Bereavement 25th birthday gala dinner at Kensington Palace
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge greets Jason Watkins as he attends the Child Bereavement 25th birthday gala dinner at Kensington Palace (Chris Jackson)

"With things like bereavement, it’s such a personal thing that the charity is a wonderful place. Phone up for free, and somebody will help you through the worst thing that can happen to you."

The star opened up about how being a patron to the charity had helped him on a personal level, explaining: "Giving and helping other people is a good thing in itself, but when you're helping other people when you've been through something horrific and traumatic, it does give you a purpose, it does heal you personally by helping other people.

"It sounds such a convenient and rather sentimental thing but it is true that if you've lost a child, if you’ve lost anyone, and you’re able to help other people, it makes you stronger and you can see the help that you're giving and it's a very comforting feeling. The charity has given us that ability to be able to help people and that has helped me.

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"For me it’s little personal things that you can do as an individual, even if it’s a bit of money, because sometimes people are stumped and can’t do anything, or a kind word, or some soup brought to your doorstep."

What is Big Give?

The Christmas Challenge
The Christmas Challenge

HELLO! is joining forces with the UK’s biggest match funding organisation as it launches its week-long Christmas campaign from 28 November to 5 December, to raise £30 million for good causes! We have partnered with Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, which matches charity donations made through its platform pound for pound, doubling the amount raised.

Backed by a host of famous names, and with a pot of £15 million in matched funds available from philanthropists, foundations and companies, Big Give is supporting more than 1,000 charities andhopes this year’s Christmas campaign will be its most successful yet.

Jason opened up about the little acts of kindness that his friends and family gave him and Clara following Maude’s death. He revealed that his friend, Happy Valley star Julie Hesmondhalgh, was the first person to make them laugh.

Clara Francis and Jason Watkins attend the Virgin TV British Academy Television Awards in 2018
Clara Francis and Jason Watkins attend the Virgin TV British Academy Television Awards in 2018 (Jeff Spicer)

"She came and sat at the end of the bed after maybe a couple of weeks," he said, "And she got us to smile and that was really brave of her because it did help us. We were able just to laugh at the ridiculousness - I can't remember what it was - but that was a kind thing because it was a risk on her part. She knew that we needed to because we were just in this dark pit. She found a way of helping us so I remember that."

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He continued: "Generally from the moment we lost Maude, kindness and compassion are things that I've been obsessed with and I think Clara as well.

Child Bereavement UK is a charity helping those who have lost a child and grieving children
Child Bereavement UK is a charity helping those who have lost a child and grieving children

"Receiving it in those circumstances when you're very vulnerable is a real gift. And you really appreciate it. And you learn, as you learn in life, I think it's really important to replicate and copy and give in the same way that you've received, and if you do it enough, it becomes part of you."

Hello! is partnering with Big Give as it launches what it hopes will be its biggest ever Christmas fundraiser. Find out more and donate here.