They met when she was only 12 years old; he was her 38-year-old manager. But Céline Dion and René Angélil would eventually fall deeply in love and build a life (and a pop music empire) together.
The early 1980s: Discovering Céline
Céline’s brother found manager René Angélil’s name on the back of a Ginette Reno record, says People. He boldly sent René a copy of Céline’s first original song and Céline went to Quebec to audition in person.
“While I was singing, he started to cry,” the singer recalled many years later. “I knew then I had done a good job.” René took a gamble on the young talent; he remortgaged his home to finance Céline’s first album.
1987: Keeping romance under wraps
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Céline and René had their first date in 1987, when Céline was 19 years old. Allegedly, says Good Housekeeping, René admitted, “I was afraid of what people would think,” referring to the couple’s 26-year age gap.
Céline, on the other hand, was driven by romance, not pragmatism. “When you’re in love,” she gushed, “you want to scream it to the world.”
1994: The couple say “I do”
Happy 20th Wedding Anniversary Celine and René! Today Celine and René are celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary….
So they did! The couple made a public declaration of their love in 1994; they got married at Montreal’s Notre-Dame Basilica on Dec. 17, and their opulent ceremony was broadcast live on Canadian television.
Céline’s mother, however, took some convincing. “She said, ‘You’re my daughter, you’re my baby and I want the perfect Prince Charming for you,’” Céline divulged to the Huffington Post. “And then it was so strong,” she added, “that my whole family was in love with him and she had no choice!”
1997: The Grammy Award
The honeymoon phase never ended; Céline’s fame grew exponentially. Industry awards mounted up, and in 1997, Céline’s hit single “My Heart Will Go On” from the “Titanic” movie soundtrack got the biggest accolade of all; an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
1998: A heartbreaking diagnosis
Just the next year, things took a turn. René was diagnosed with throat cancer. For Céline, the choice to take a hiatus from singing and touring to care for her husband was a no-brainer.
2000: Renewing vows
Celine and René’s Wedding Vow RenewalCeline and René, who celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary last month,…
After a two-year battle with the disease, René celebrated his remission in the year 2000 in epic fashion. Five years after tying the knot, the married couple decided to renew their vows in a traditional Melkite Byzantine ceremony in Las Vegas. “We renewed our vows just to prove again that we were right!” Céline shared in an interview with Access.
2001: A baby boy
Céline gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby boy named René Charles, on Jan. 25, 2001. The baby was baptised at the very same church in which Céline and René were married.
2002: Las Vegas beckons
As family life settled down, the lure of the stage grew too strong to resist; Céline announced a residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. Speaking of performing, Céline insisted, “People play such a big role when you do live shows.” The pop diva had returned to the open arms of her fans.
2007: 3 million tickets later…
After four years, 717 performances, and almost 3 million tickets sold, Céline hugged her family amid a whirlwind of rose petals at her final show on Dec. 15, 2007. René was Céline’s rock. “Talk over everything,” the singer told Vegas Deluxe, “and you’ll find you are still on the honeymoon.”
2010: It’s twins!
After wishing and hoping for another baby, Céline and René happily welcomed twin boys Nelson and Eddy on Oct. 23, 2010. Motherhood, the second time around, was a rollercoaster for Céline. “It’s tiring,” the mom of three opened up to Rolling Stone, “but an intense joy!”
2013: The cancer comes back
René’s cancer returned in 2013 and Céline’s beloved husband underwent surgery to remove a tumor. For the second time around, and completely voluntarily, Céline put her career on hold to care for the love of her life.
2015: Learning how to say goodbye
René’s health continued to decline at the family’s Las Vegas home. Céline, able to remain close by, returned to performing. “We have asked [doctors] many times, how long does he have? Three weeks, three months?” the singer told USA Today. “But they say they don’t know.”
“René says to me, ‘I want to die in your arms,’” Céline continued. “Okay, fine, I’ll be there, you’ll die in my arms.”
2016: The hurt and the healing
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René, aged 73, passed away on Jan. 14, 2016. A heartbroken Céline and her children took time to grieve, and the singer later reflected upon her personal experience of true love and tremendous loss.
“René gave me so much strength and power and positivity,” she shared, in conversation with Good Morning America. “I will never be a dad, but it’s like … I’m in a double job as a parent. I’m a ‘parents.’ I’m a big deal!”
“And the kids are growing,” she continued, “and I see them, and I look at them and I’m like, ‘Wow, we’ve done a great job.’”
“I’m so proud.”