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Charles Bronson’s 2nd Wife Left Her Family for Him & Hid Her Ex-lover Who Disclosed Their Affair Years Later

Oyin Balogun
May 03, 2022
01:00 P.M.
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Charles Bronson was married to his second wife, Jill Ireland, until her death, but years after the pair passed on, Ireland's most-kept secret became public knowledge. 


Hollywood star Charles Bronson's marriage to Jill Ireland was his longest, and although they had the best years together, the pair's love revolved around controversies.

Bronson first met Ireland as the wife of a fellow star, but he ended up with her in the long run. Jill kept a secret from him during her marriage to Bronson, but the details came to light years later. 

Charles Bronson posed in New York City. | Source: Getty Images



Charles Bronson was still in his early career years when he met Harriet Tendler. The pair were members of the Plays and Players amateur theater group. When Bronson initially joined the group, he had been interested in decorations and scenery painting.

However, he became drawn to acting with time and got closer to Tendler. The two became man and wife in 1949, and they moved to California to chase bigger dreams as a couple. 

Jill Ireland, Charles Bronson, daughter Zuleika and son Tony, circa 1986 | Source: Getty Images


Bronson barely had enough to move with because out of the five suitcases they moved with, Tendler owned items in four and half of them. In California, Bronson worked hard at perfecting his art.

However, his Slavic features seemed to have conditioned him to the role of a secondary character in movies. Nonetheless, Bronson thrived, making a name for himself in a career that spanned close to five decades.

Charles Bronson (1921 - 2003) sits in the front of a 1920s automobile, holding a Leica flash-camera, on a studio backlot, California. | Source: Getty Images


He and Tendler were married for 15 years until their divorce in 1965. Bronson walked down the aisle a second time when his career was at its peak.

He first started an affair with his then-wife-to-be, Jill Ireland, who was married to David McCallum. Brown and Ireland later tied the knot in 1968. 


Charles Bronson as he appeared in the 1975 motion picture "Breakout." | Source: Getty Images


After "NCIS" star David McCallum's marriage with Ireland ended, he faced some difficult times. It was not until some fifty years later, in 2016, that he opened up on how the divorce affected him.

McCallum established that he was very much in a better place, and he did not even hold any grudge when his ex-wife left him for Bronson. The star actor and Bronson met on "Great Escape," and through this, he met Ireland.

Charles Bronson, file pictures -With his wife Jill Ireland. | Source: Getty Images


It was purported that Bronson once told McCallum on set that he would take his wife from him. However, this remained speculation for years. When McCallum was asked about this, he made it known that nothing like that happened. He stated about Bronson:

"I never hated him, Charlie was always a good friend. I find that when problems come along, worrying about them and getting anxious and negative is quite unnecessary."

Despite being amicable about his ex-wife's relationship with Bronson, McCallum did admit that it was a difficult period. He shared that he and Ireland were parents to three kids. 

Actress Jill Ireland is pictured with her new husband, actor David McCallum, 12th May 1957. | Source: Getty Images


The pair adopted three kids, with Jason being the oldest. When their marriage ended, Ireland was granted custody of the kids, which caused more difficulty for McCallum. 

The most heart-wrenching period for the "Sapphire & Steel" actor was when he and Jill's adopted son, Jason, died from an accidental overdose. Jason passed on at the age of 27 in 1989. He said of the painful experience:

"Losing people you love are always the most terrible moments, especially when they're so young. Things remind you of the loss, birthdays, and things. But it's gone, it's done. He's not coming back…"

Charles Bronson et son épouse l'actrice Jill Ireland en novembre 1970 at Paris, France. | Source: Getty Images


According to a close pal, Jason was a withdrawn young man who took a few acting jobs. He was also financially supported by his mom and Bronson. 

McCallum added that he, however, did not dwell on his loss, as he was in a better place in his life. Following his divorce from Jill, the "The Invisible Man" actor married Katherine Carpenter and had two children with her. 


Jill Ireland, and Charles Bronson Im Winter, Circa 1975 | Source: Getty Images


Jill Ireland, just like McCallum and Bronson, was an actress looking to make it big in the industry, but love and romance were never ruled out.

During her lifetime, she was known for her marriage to both men, but Ireland used to be in love with a man she thought she would marry before them.

That man was Michael Winner, a known filmmaker and media personality. Winner and Ireland met as youngsters, barely in their early twenties. They started an affair, and within a few weeks, Ireland felt he was the man she wanted forever with.

Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland, circa 1969. | Source: Getty Images


Winner, on the other hand, was not ready for marriage, and things ended up not working between them. When the affair seemed to have withered off, Ireland met McCallum, the man who became her first husband.

However, before she married McCallum, she and Winner saw each other one last time and got intimate. According to Winner, they were also together when she married Bronson.

Charles Bronson and Jill Ireland in 1969, France | Source: Getty Images


He shared in a 2013 Daily Mail article that Ireland once asked him not to let Bronson know they had an affair. Winner kept it a secret until ten years after Bronson died in 2003.

Ireland passed on years before Bronson in 1990 after battling breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 1986, but the ailment came back with rage in 1989. Ireland would later pass at the age of 54.


Michael Winner on the set of his western Chato's Land, which stars Charles Bronson. Two of the young actors with him, Jason (right) and Valentine (blond, centre), are sons of British actors Jill Ireland and David McCallum. | Source: Getty Images


When Bronson and Ireland got married, they brought together a blended family. He had two kids from his first marriage, and she had three from her first. As a couple, they had a daughter together and also adopted a daughter.

Their adopted daughter, Katrina Holden, was the daughter of late casting director Hilary Holden who had died of a sudden heart attack. Bronson seemed like he had a brood and could not afford to adopt Katrina, but he did. 

Portrait of Charles Bronson and his children in France, circa 1969. | Source: Getty Images

The late star was described as one with a big heart who provided well for Katrina and her other siblings. Bronson had quite a taciturn personality on TV, but he was a family man at heart who took care of all his children in real life.