Sherrie Hewson had to face her ex-husband Ken at the altar for daughter Keeley’s wedding day

As the harpist began to play and Sherrie Hewson ’s heart trembled on every note, she tried hard to focus on the sight of the beautiful bride standing before her.

But looming into view behind beloved daughter Keeley – set to take her arm as they both walked her down the aisle together – was the cheating ex-husband she had avoided for 14 years.

And all the TV soap legend’s acting skills, all her mental preparations, suddenly evaporated in the face of that real-life challenge.

“I was sick that morning, I was so scared about facing Ken,” admits the actress.

“Walking Keeley down the aisle was supposed to be the most joyous moment of my life. But the Ghost of Christmas Past had landed by my side.

“I thought I’d put everything to bed long ago – yet I was completely wrong-footed as 20 years of history flooded back.”

The wedding last Saturday was the first time the Benidorm star had seen ex-husband Ken Boyd since 2002.

The couple had met in 1976 and wed six years later, in May 1982. When Keeley was born in 1984, the picture seemed complete.

But then Sherrie found out former DJ Ken had been unfaithful to her. The marriage quickly turned toxic, with Sherrie staying only for the sake of their daughter.

They finally parted in 2001 – and with Ken living abroad, it was no surprise the bond between mum and daughter became the defining force in Sherrie’s life.

Sherrie Hewson pictured with ex-husband Ken Boyd at their daughter’s wedding

So when her only child announced plans to wed her long-term partner, Simon, she knew it was going to be the most important day of both women’s lives. And, for Sherrie, also the most traumatic.

Overjoyed for 31-year-old Keeley, the former Coronation Street and Loose Women star knew she had to find it in her heart to let Ken share their daughter’s big day without casting a shadow over her happiness.

But she realised then that the only thing that had consumed her as much as her love for her daughter had been her loathing for her ex-husband.

“I’d made myself forget over the years, but anytime somebody mentioned Ken I’d have a bad word or an unkind sentence I’d throw in,” Sherrie, 65, admits now.

“My mum used to say to me, ‘You’re keeping that relationship alive. Why?’

“And I think it was because I hadn’t finished it. The last time I saw Ken was in Spain – I went with a feeling of getting the relationship back. He wasn’t nice to me.”

Despite that sense of unfinished business, Sherrie admits she was still caught out by the raw mix of angst, fears and stifled tears at seeing Ken on the day.

“I felt uneasy and nervous,” she says. “I sat next to Ken after we walked Keeley down the aisle, which felt very strange. We had to say ‘We do’ together when they asked who gives this bride away.

“Then I had a glass of wine at the wedding breakfast, which calmed me down a bit, but my head was racing. It was full of every memory that had gone between us.”

Sherrie Hewson and Ken Boyd on their wedding day

As the day went on, the flood of mixed emotions welled up even more.

“I was the first to make a speech and I was so nervous I just wanted to cry,” she says. “I think it would have been all right if Ken hadn’t been two chairs away from me. I went up to the loo at one point just to get away and I said to myself, ‘You’ve done really well keeping it together for your daughter, hold your head high and be proud of yourself’. But it did take it out of me. I felt weak and helpless – the same as I used to feel during our marriage.”

Ken also made a speech at the wedding breakfast – and his words of wisdom for their daughter made Sherrie wonder if he had come to regret his infidelity.

“He said, ‘My advice to you Keeley is, you think the grass is always greener on the other side – and it isn’t’,” says Sherrie.

“I did wonder whether that little line was about us.”

Sherrie Hewson and Ken Boyd in happier times

As the day progressed, Sherrie stayed bravely in character, even posing for pictures with Ken as they stood proudly on either side of Keeley.

But with the stress of the big day finally behind her, the star was surprised again by her emotions – finding herself slowly coming to terms with seeing Ken.

“I got my strength back overnight,” she says. “Next day Ken joined us for a family lunch and the ice started to break.

“We began to reminisce about our time together. He said things like, ‘Do you remember that car we bought?’ I started to see him in another light.”

Sherrie and Ken kept the chatter lighthearted – there was no talk of his infidelity, or of the bankruptcy she went through as a result of their split.

“I didn’t want to rake over anything because I realised there was no point,” says Sherrie. “What was there to say?”

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It was a realisation that became a turning point after decades of buried bitterness – and the following day, Sherrie reveals, she finally felt the closure she had longed for.

She says: “I saw Ken again at lunch and just thought, ‘I’ve no feelings for you at all… but you know what, it’s okay, I feel fine about you’.

“Keeley said to me, ‘You’re okay now, aren’t you?’ And I said, ‘I am, I’ve got through it’. And I have. I’ve shut the door and forgiven Ken. I’ve moved on from any kind of regrets or recriminations. It all just fell away, bit by bit, over the three days.”

When they parted again just days ago, it was on amicable terms – something Sherrie never thought possible in her wildest dreams.

She insists: “I’ve said my goodbyes now. I don’t imagine I’ll ever see Ken in my life again, and that’s okay. We’ve done it with dignity and respect.

“When we were leaving, Ken said, ‘It’s really great seeing you again’ and I said, ‘Goodbye Ken, take care of yourself’.

“I got in my car and as I was driving off I saw him wave. I’ve never said this before, but I wish him well.”

Sherrie Hewson, Ken Boyd and their daughter Keeley in 1996

Sherrie’s unexpected inner peace has put an extra shine on a wedding which she took a major role in planning.

Recalling last Saturday’s big day at a resort in Knutsford, Cheshire, the ex Loose Women star adds: “It was the most beautiful wedding – we had singing waiters, a magician, a harpist… you name it.

“Keeley got a video message from Robbie Williams. His wife Ayda, who’s now a regular panellist on Loose Women , arranged it for me.

“I adore her – we once had a very drunken night out together.

“Then after the video my son-in-law came on with a band he’d created, called Take This! I’ve never laughed so much.”

Sherrie left Loose Women last month , but credits the show with helping her deal with her marriage breakdown.

Now she finally has closure from her divorce – and seeing her daughter, new son-in-law Simon and grandchildren Oliver and Molly so happy – will it give her the encouragement she needs to find love again for herself?

“I’d love a companion,” Sherrie admits. “No one wants to be lonely. I hope Ken has found happiness too, I don’t know if he has someone. But most of all, yes – I’d love to find happiness for myself.”