politics

"We were so close and intimate." Blanche d'Alpuget on her final year with husband Bob Hawke.

Last week, Bob Hawke, Australia’s 23rd prime minister, died at the age of 89.

The Labor legend, who served as prime minister from 1983 to 1991, was widely seen as a popular ‘larrikin’ figure well into his old age.

Now, one week on from his death, his widow Blanche d’Alpuget has opened up about her late husband in an interview with the ABC.

Speaking to Leigh Sales on 7.30, d’Alpuget explained that the last year she spent with her husband had been difficult, but also “one of the best times of our lives”.

“We were so close and intimate during that time, while I was his main carer. And we often said to each other, we’ve been blessed to have this period together,” she said.

“We didn’t have the joy of young love. He had that with Hazel. We had the joy of mature love and then the love of old age,” she added.

The 75-year-old writer became Hawke’s full-time carer when his health began to deteriorate.

“People don’t realise – now I really am not going to cry – how wonderful it can be to look after somebody you love when they’re old and dying,” she said.

“There’s a great deal of intimacy. There are no secrets, there are no pretences. You’re getting the true human being on both sides.”

bob hawke blanche affair
Bob Hawke and Blanche D'Alpuget. Image: Getty.
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D'Alpuget also told Sales the former prime minister didn't vote in the federal election before his death.

"He decided he wasn't going to postal vote. He was going to go up in his wheelchair and vote, but he didn't get there," she said.

"[It was] probably a good thing that he died when he did," she added, on the election result.

From the 1970s until the 1990s, Hawke and his biographer d'Alpuget, had an on-and-off affair while Hawke was married to Hazel Masterson.

Eight months after divorcing his first wife, with whom he had three children, Hawke married d'Alpuget.

At first, Bob and Blanche's marriage caused a huge family upheaval.

But as time went on, Bob and Hazel's children and grandchildren embraced their relationship, becoming close to Blanche.

Listen to Mia Freedman's full interview with Blanche d'Alpuget on No Filter below. Post continues after audio...

In an interview with Mia Freedman on Mamamia's No Filter podcast, Blanche spoke of their complicated love story.

"It was the ’70s, and I was a feminist, I was in the women’s movement. We didn’t believe in monogamy, we believed in liberty, equality and sorority and supporting other women, and affairs were par for the course. They were part of that life,” she said. “But one tried to be discreet and not hurt anybody.”

Though “madly in love”, the pair remained just lovers for more than two decades in the interests of Hawke’s marriage to Hazel, his career and, as d’Alpuget later noted, “the nation”.

“The suggestion that I’d broken up [the Hawkes'] marriage was horrendous," d'Alpuget told No Filter. "I hadn’t - it had been broken for a very long while, and we’d been in love for a very long while."

"I really truly believe," she said, "that life's greatest reward and highest ideal is love."

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