Minnie Driver: A Hollywood actress with a fascinating history that could be straight from a film plot...
Well known actress and singer-songwriter, Minnie Driver, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film Good Will Hunting, and an Emmy Award plus a Golden Globe for her work in the television series The Riches.
Amelia Fiona Driver was born in London in 1970 to successful Swansea businessman and financial advisor, Ronnie Driver and his girlfriend, Gaynor Millington. Ronnie’s company, London United Investments gave financial advice to the Royal Family and other high society clients. Ronnie was married at the time to his first wife Annie and led a secret double life. Annie had given birth to another daughter Kate in 1969 but both families were unaware of each other’s existence.
Here is a copy of Minnie’s birth record found on TheGenealogist.
Minnie’s mother was Gaynor MIllington, a designer and couture model. Her father lived a life of divided loyalties for years. Minnie says: “My parents met in 1962 and were together for 13 years. They broke up when I was six. During that entire time, my dad was married to someone else and had another family. I didn’t know my parents weren’t married until I was 12 or 13 – my dad lived a very split life. We just did not talk about where he came from.”
Minnie’s father Ronnie, or Charles Ronald Driver to give his full name, was born in 1921 in Swansea. Here is a copy of his birth record on TheGenealogist.
Ronnie’s mother, Jessie McGregor, was the mistress of his father in a circumstance that would ironically repeat itself in Ronnie’s later life. At the time of Ronnie’s birth in 1921, Charles was married to Ada Wood Stancliffe.
On the 1911 Census, here is Charles and Ada living together with their son, Leslie (Ronnie’s half-brother) in South Yardley, Birmingham. Leslie went on to later become an actor, like Minnie. Sadly Leslie died at the relatively young age of 38.
Ada herself died in 1932 and Charles married Jessie in 1936. To the right, you can see Charles and Jessie pictured together in the 1940s.
Jessie had been married before. Her first husband was Robert C. Kelley, a ship steward from Liverpool. They married in 1917, during the First World War.
However, their marriage was tragically cut short when Private Robert Kelly died serving with the Army during 1918. He was a Private in the 8th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment. His death record can be found at TheGenealogist.co.uk.
It appears Jessie later began a relationship with the married Charles Driver and Ronnie was born in 1921.
In the next War, Ronnie was one of the first to ‘do their bit’ for their country on active service. Ronnie was serving in the RAF from the beginning of the Second World War. He was a gunner on a Wellington bomber and took part in the first major aerial battle of the war, the Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1939, as the RAF attacked a German airbase.
The raid was a disaster and Ronnie’s aircraft was damaged. He put out a fire on board with his hands and then launched the dinghy when the aircraft ditched in the sea and helped out other injured members of the crew. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal for bravery. Below he is pictured with his mother, Jessie, showing her the gloves he had used to put out the fire on board his aircraft.
However, he lost his best friend Walter Lilley (who was the other gunner in the aircraft) and the trauma of the event meant he was hospitalised twice for post-traumatic stress. He had trouble accepting his ‘hero ‘status and threw his medal into The Thames. Life was a struggle coming to terms with the horrors he faced in wartime.
He did return to active service and later during World War 2, Ronnie married Anna Wilshaw in London in 1944 as can be seen from a copy of their marriage record.
However, by 1962, Ronnie had met Gaynor Millington and began a relationship that was to produce Minnie in 1970. He subsequently led a double life dividing his time between Minnie, her elder sister Kate and their mother, and his wife Anna and their daughter Susan. Despite this double life, Ronnie still built up a very successful business offering financial advice to many influential people including the Royal Family. He became a very wealthy man but sadly life was never smooth for Ronnie. In 1995, his business took a significant turn for the worst and crashed with debts of £35m.
Despite the complicated nature of his relationships and his business highs and lows, Ronnie ended up on amicable terms with all parties right up until his death in 2011. This larger than life character is pictured to the right with Minnie and his grandson Henry.
To see Minnie Driver’s family in more detail please click here to visit TreeView.
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