Nicholas Hannen (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Nicholas Hannen, actor

Nicholas James "Beau" Hannen OBE (mil) (1 May 1881 – 25 June 1972) was a British actor of the early and mid-20th century who acted in a number of stage plays and films.

Birth and early life[edit]

Hannen was born on 1 May 1881 at No. 40 Westbourne Park Road, London, England.[1] He was brought up in Yokohama and Shanghai where his father, Sir Nicholas John Hannen was serving, first as Judge of the British Court for Japan (1881–1891) and then Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court for China and Japan (1891–1900) as well as Consul-General in Shanghai (1891–1897). He attended Radley College from 1895 to 1900 where he was a member of the rowing eight.[2]

His uncle, James Hannen was also a noted English judge. Sir Nicholas Hannen died, in 1900, at the young age of 58 in Shanghai just before Beau turned 19. Sir Nicholas was given a funeral with full honours including a full honour guard from the crew of the HMS Hermione then in harbour in Shanghai and the pallbearers at his funeral were from the crew of the boat.[3]

Architecture apprenticeship[edit]

Athene Seyler and Nicholas Hannen in Winter Sunshine

From 1902 to 1905 Beau Hannen worked in the offices of the famous architect Edwin Lutyens as an apprentice. Lutyens designed a columbarium – the Hannen Columbarium – for the Hannen family that was completed in 1907. It still stands to this day in the graveyard of St Mary's Churchyard in Wargrave.[4] In 1907, his mother, Jessie (née Woodhouse) died and her ashes as well as his father's ashes were interred in the columbarium.

Marriages and descendants[edit]

Hannen married Muriel Morland, the daughter of the late Sir Henry and Lady Morland in 1907.[5] They had two daughters and a son. One of his daughters, Hermione Hannen, was born in 1913 and presumably named after HMS Hermione. She also went on to have a successful acting career and was married twice, firstly to Anthony Quayle and later to Clifford Evans. Another daughter, Jane Hannen, also became an actress.

His son, Nicholas, also became an actor, but died at the age of 23 in 1932.[6]

In 1922 Hannen met the actress Athene Seyler (1889–1990) and they started living together. His first wife refused him a divorce, so they were not able to marry until 1960, after his first wife had died. Seyler, however, had changed her name by deed poll to Hannen in 1928.[7]

Service in the First World War[edit]

Hannen was commissioned into the Army Service Corps in 1915 and during his wartime service was mentioned in despatches and awarded an OBE.[8]

Acting career[edit]

Advertisement for the Seyler Hannen Company

In 1910, Hannen went to the stage professionally.

He also appeared in close to 50 stage plays in London, including Henry VIII and The Importance of Being Earnest.[9]

Hannen performed in at least 26 films between 1931 and 1960, including Richard III as the Archbishop and Henry V as the Duke of Exeter.

In 1933, Hanen and Seyler took a company, which included Hermione Hannen, on a well-received tour of Australia.


Hannen died on 25 June 1972 in London and his ashes were interred in the Hannen Columbarium in St Mary's Churchyard, Wargrave. Upon her death, Athene Hannen's ashes were also interred in the columbarium.[10]


The Australian National Portrait Gallery website has a portrait of Hannen and Seyler together.

External links[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ North China Herald, June 17, 1881, front page. One interview with Hannen reported in theThe Australasian of 8 April 1933, stated he was born in Japan. However, this is incorrect. His father and mother were both in England for his birth.
  2. ^ Radley Register entry for Hannen
  3. ^ North China Herald, 2 May 1900 p785
  4. ^ Lutyens and the Great War, Tim Skelton and Others, p81
  5. ^ North China Herald, 8 November 1907, p327
  6. ^ The Radleia, No.521, February 1932, p3
  7. ^
  8. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 1933, p8
  9. ^
  10. ^ St Mary's Church, Wargrave, record of burials; search on Nicholas Hannen and Athene Seyler