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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 February, 2004, 14:22 GMT
Explorer Fiennes' wife dies
Virginia Fiennes
Virginia Fiennes was involved in many of her husband's expeditions
The wife of the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes has died after a short illness.

Virginia Fiennes, 56, known as Ginny, died in hospital in Exeter on Friday with her husband by her bedside.

The announcement was made by a family friend on Saturday.

Sir Ranulph, 59, who lives on Exmoor on the Somerset-Devon border, ran seven marathons on seven continents in seven days last year - four months after having a double heart bypass operation.

Mrs Fiennes, who was born in Godalming, Surrey, married her husband in 1970.

They were childhood sweethearts and met when Sir Ranulph was 12 and she was aged nine when their families lived in the same Sussex village.

In 1982, a transglobal expedition led by Sir Ranulph was the first successful circumnavigation of the globe on its polar axis.

Oliver Shepard, who accompanied Sir Ranulph on the adventure, said: "Ginny was the instigator of many of her husband's expeditions, especially the transglobe expedition."

First woman 'honoured'

During the transglobe expedition, Ginny organised and ran all the Antarctic and Arctic bases, travelling to the frozen wastes with her husband, and was responsible for the all the communications.

In 1987, the Queen awarded Sir Ranulph and his wife the Polar Medal. Ginny was the first woman ever to receive the honour.

Former recipients include explorers such as Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton. She was also the first woman ever to be voted into the formerly all-male Antarctic Club.

She was involved in at least 10 of her husband's expeditions.

When she was not accompanying her husband on his adventures, she was a breeder of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle and Black Welsh Mountain sheep on their farm in Exmoor.

The couple had no children.

Fiennes relishes marathon feat
03 Nov 03  |  Americas
Fiennes to open heart centre
09 Jan 04  |  Bristol
Faces of the week
31 Oct 03  |  Magazine

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