Natasha's ski-fall tragedy: Struck down by the eternal curse of the Redgraves
Last updated at 10:26 AM on 18th March 2009
She never much believed in the family curse. Natasha Richardson thought that the fuss about the many divorces and scandals in her theatrical family was mostly a media construct.

But, as she is flown home to die, you must pause for thought at this sudden and savage tragedy, so different from what has gone before.

The sunniest, sweetest and most successful scion of the Redgrave/Richardson dynasty, Natasha's voice was described as honey over iron filings - her beauty as sufficient to carry a motion picture on its own.

Her grandfather was Sir Michael Redgrave, a famous theatrical knight and one-time matinee idol, revealed after his death to have been a bisexual. His marriage to actress Rachel Kempson produced Vanessa, Corin and Lynn - all actors.

Vanessa married film director Tony Richardson, and they had Natasha and her sister Joely. Natasha's childhood was, in parts, deeply troubling.

Her parents were divorced when she was six. Natasha learned her father was predominantly gay when she was 11.

Regardless, she and Joely built a fond relationship with him, and nursed him through his final Aids related illness in 1991.

Her childhood was spent between her father's glamorous, bohemian life in Paris and California, and her mother's house, which was always full of Workers' Revolutionary Party members.

Considered one of the most respected

actresses of her generation, Vanessa is also known for her political activism, having campaigned against the Vietnam war, for nuclear disarmament and for the Palestinian cause.

At 72, she remains a committed Marxist, and in 2007 it emerged that she had paid £40,000 bail for former Guantanamo Bay detainee Jamil el-Banna.

Her brother Corin, 69, who is also a political activist, is currently undergoing treatment for cancer.

In 2005 he suffered a heart attack during a speech about the future of a travellers' site in Billericay, Essex and he had to be resuscitated.

Lynn, 66, is also suffering from cancer. Her life fell apart in 1998 when she learnt that her husband John Clark had fathered a child with their daughter-in-law. She immediately divorced Clark after 33 years of marriage.

Vanessa recalled how Natasha used to beg her to stay at home and spend more time with her.

'I tried to explain that our political struggle was for her future, and that of all the children of her generation. "But I need you now," said Natasha, "I won't need you so much then".'

At this stage, her mother was also drinking heavily. She said in her autobiography that she would open a bottle of cheap wine every morning 'to get the fuzzy obliteration of alcohol'. Natasha was a chubby and insecure child, much perturbed by the constant comings and goings of lodgers and revolutionaries.

She spent a great deal of time planning and organising, presumably as a reaction to the boundary-free chaos of her home life in Hammersmith, West London.

In one interview she said she felt like a middle-aged mother instead of a teenager, cooking for the whole family aged 12.

Her greatest support was her brilliant, maverick father, who would tell her and Joely how beautiful and talented they were. 'I probably wouldn't have had belief in my talent had it not been for my father,' she said.

Soon after graduating from drama school, Natasha married the producer Robert Fox, who was 11 years her senior and had three children.

They were together for less than three years, and divorced when she fell for Liam Neeson in 1992, having picked him to appear opposite her in a Broadway play. Critics talked about the 'sensational-sexual chemistry' between them on stage. They were married two years later. Natasha's sister Joely, star of the TV series Nip/Tuck, has had a failed marriage and a series of failed relationships.

She dated TV presenter Jamie Theakston in 2000 but then came the embarrassing revelations that he had visited a brothel and paid prostitutes for sex. Their relationship ended.

Natasha had worked less over the past decade, so she could be more of a mother.

She wanted to give stability to her two sons, Michael and Daniel Jack, and settled just outside New York, leaving Neeson free to pursue a film career in the U.S.

Her marriage to Neeson survived all that fame threw at it, but Natasha remained cautious.

She was horrified when Neeson had a serious accident on his Harley Davison motorbike in New York, in 2002. At the time she was filming in Canada.

'It was such a shock, and I was so far away, filming a TV mini- series in Canada. I thought he was going to die. I no longer take anything for granted. Now I understand how fragile life is.'