Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman secretly married his wife Taylor Simone Ledward before his death, it has been reported.
The actor passed away at home in Los Angeles in the US on Friday after a private four-year battle with colon cancer. His beloved wife and close family members were with him.
Boseman had asked Ledward, a singer and graduate of California State Polytechnic University, to marry him in October, and the pair are thought to have said their vows in a private ceremony before the actor’s cancer advanced to stage 4.
They kept much of their early relationship private, and eventually allowed themselves to be pictured together at award ceremonies and red carpet premiers.
Boseman was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer a year into their relationship, and fought it with Ledward by his side.
In March last year, he spoke about their romance for the first time at the 50th NAACP Image Awards, saying: “Simone, you’re with me every day. I have to acknowledge you right now. Love you.”
When the cameras panned to her, she could be seen mouthing back the words: “I love you.”
The actor’s death, at the age of 43, was announced by his family on Saturday. The couple had no children.
Their budding romance was first confirmed in 2015, when the pair were spotted together by paparazzi at the Los Angeles International Airport.
She was seen with him again in 2017 as a guest on US talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! and, by 2018, she was regularly joining him at star-studded premieres, including Black Panther and 21 Bridges.
Ledward’s grandmother confirmed the pair were “very happy” together when she spoke to InTouch Weekly in April 2018. “They respect each other,” she said. “She’s very happy and he is, too.”
Ledward’s sister once commented on Instagram that they “embody true love”.
Writing underneath an image of Boseman with co-star Lupita Nyong’o, she noted: “His real life queen is gorgeous, and together they embody true love. Not to mention they would make some beautiful babies.”
Ledward joined him throughout the awards season last year as he toured following his performance in the blockbuster Black Panther.
Boseman is thought to have finally popped the question in October during a date night in Malibu.
“Chadwick and Simone got engaged. It was a long time coming and everyone is really happy,” a source told gossip blog MediaTakeOut.
The last time they were seen together was in February, when they watched the NBA All Star Game in Chicago, and appeared to be in good spirits as they laughed and joked together.
Boseman’s shocking death comes just 10 months after the pair are understood to have become engaged, with the wedding ceremony thought to have taken place recently.
They were reportedly planning to tie the knot with a “2020” wedding.
Announcing Boseman’s death, the family said: “It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman.
“Chadwick was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last four years as it progressed to stage 4.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much.”
The family revealed that several of Boseman’s recent films, including Marshall, Da 5 Bloods and August Wilson Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, were filmed “during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy”.
“It was the honour of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther,” the statement said.
“The family thanks you for your love and prayers, and asks that you continue to respect their privacy during this difficult time.”
The actor had kept his diagnosis and much of his personal life under wraps.
While Boseman had not spoken publicly about his cancer diagnosis, concern over his health was sparked earlier this year after fans noticed his unusually thin appearance.
Born in South Carolina to a nurse and an upholstery entrepreneur, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His family has roots in the west African country of Sierra Leone.
The actor had been known for playing real-life figures, including professional baseball player Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42, James Brown in Get On Up (2014) and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017).
But his most memorable role was his 2018 performance as T’Challa, king of the fictional African kingdom of Wakanda.
Black Panther was the first major superhero movie featuring a predominantly African-American cast.
The film, which starred several South Africans, including John Kani, Atandwa Kani and Connie Chiume, went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of the year and was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture. It won three Academy Awards.
Boseman stepped into the Black Panther role two years earlier in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War, and reprised the part twice more, in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War and last year’s Avengers: Endgame.
He shrugged off doubters who tried to convince him not to give the superhero an African accent, saying: “There was a time period where people would ask me questions about whether or not an audience could sit through a movie with a lead character who spoke with that accent. I became adamant about the fact that it was not true.” – MailOnline