Richard Branson’s mother has died at the age of 96 after contracting COVID-19, the entrepreneur has confirmed.
Announcing her death in a heartfelt post, Mr Branson said his mother Eve had managed to “fight off the virus, but had expended all of her energy in the process”.
The billionaire businessman said that rather than mourn her loss, he wanted to “celebrate her wonderful life, her tremendous spirit, the joy she brought to so many, and the love she gave us all”.
“As for so many of us in these days of Covid, it feels so strange that the person who has always been there for us, with such zest for life, is gone,” he said.
Eve Branson, a grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of 10, had lived a colourful and adventurous life.
Her son described how she had taken glider lessons disguised as a boy, acted on the West End stage, enlisted in the WRENS during the Second World War and toured Germany as a ballet dancer after the war.
In her later years, she founded the Eve Branson Foundation, a small non-profit based in Morocco aimed at providing young people with craft skills training.
Following her death, the foundation said in a statement: “We are very sad to share that our beloved founder, Eve Branson, has passed away. Eve inspired and supported Atlas Mountain communities, right to the end of her life.”
Mr Branson also described how his “inventive” and “fearless” mother had started off his career by giving him the money she had earned from selling a necklace.
“One day in the late sixties mum saw a necklace lying on the road near Shamley Green and took it to the police station,” he said.
“After three months nobody had claimed it so the police told her she could keep it. She came up to London, sold the necklace and gave me the money.
“Without that £100, I could never have started Virgin.”
In an interview with The Guardian in 2014, Ms Branson said the family were “very, very poor when Richard was a child”.
“We had to try and make money every way we could. It doesn’t do you any harm to know what it’s like to struggle,” she said.
Her son went on to found the Virgin Group and last year was estimated to have a net worth of £4.4bn (£3.3bn).
In 2011, Ms Branson hit headlines when it was claimed she was saved from a fire on her son’s private Caribbean island by Hollywood actor Kate Winslet.
She later denied the reports, saying it was rather less dramatic as Winslet had simply carried her down four steps as everyone evacuated.
Mr Branson’s father Edward passed away in 2011 at the age of 93.