Nicholas Stadlen

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Sir Nicholas Felix Stadlen (born 3 May 1950) is a former judge of the High Court of England and Wales.[1] He was appointed to the High Court's Queen's Bench Division on 2 October 2007 and retired early, on 21 April 2013.[2]

His parents were political activist Hedi Stadlen and pianist and composer Peter Stadlen.[3] He was educated at St Paul's School, London and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read history and classics and was President of the Cambridge Union in 1970.

He was working as a busboy in New York's Times Square on April 4, 1968, when the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. happened in Memphis, and travelled to the south to witness the extraordinary events following his death. This awakened him to the issue of racism, which led to a lifelong interest.[4]

In 1972 he married Frances Edith Howarth. He was called to the bar in 1976 and became a QC in 1991, and was a member of Fountain Court Chambers.[5]

In 2006–07 he conducted a series of interviews with well-known figures (Gerry Adams, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk, Simon Peres, Hanan Ashrawi, Tony Benn and David Blunkett) which were podcast by The Guardian.[6]

In 2005 he made the longest speech in British legal history when he spoke for 119 days while defending the Bank of England at the Royal Courts of Justice.[7]

He was knighted in 2007.[1]

Since retirement in 2013, he has been researching the history of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and has been writing a book on the Rivonia Trial, which led to Nelson Mandela's imprisonment.[8][4] In 2015-6 he was awarded the Alistair Horne Visiting Fellow Fellowship, an "annual fellowship designed to encourage the completion of works in modern history and biography which combine academic scholarship and a wider public appeal", at St Antony's College, Oxford, to work on his book Bram Fischer QC and the Unsung Heroes of the Struggle Against Apartheid 1960–1966 (as of April 2019 unpublished).[9]

In 2015 he appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Great Lives, nominating anti-apartheid lawyer Bram Fischer.[10]

In 2017 Sir Nicholas directed a documentary film entitled Life is Wonderful, featuring the then remaining survivors of the Rivonia trial, Denis Goldberg, Andrew Mlangeni and Ahmed Kathrada,[11] along with lawyers Joel Joffe, George Bizos and Denis Kuny, which tells the story of the Rivonia trial. The title reflects Goldberg's words to his mother at the end of the trial on hearing that he and his comrades had been spared the death sentence, and Sir Nicholas said that he was inspired to make the film after spending a day with Goldberg.[12][13][14][15]


  1. ^ a b "Stadlen, Hon. Sir Nicholas Felix". Who's Who and Who was Who. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  2. ^ "Senior Judiciary: Retired Senior Judiciary under 75". Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  3. ^ Obituaries (31 January 2004). "Hedi Stadlen: Dauntless Austrian emigree who campaigned on liberal issues and supported music as the wife of the pianist Peter Stadlen". The Times. No. 67986. p. 51.
  4. ^ a b Battersby, John (1 August 2014). "Bram Fischer and Nelson Mandela changed South Africa forever: Former British High Court Judge emerges as powerful SA storyteller". Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  5. ^ "History". Fountain Court. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  6. ^ "Writer profile: Nick Stadlen". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  7. ^ Bowers, Simon (25 May 2005). "QC completes longest speech in legal history". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  8. ^ Stadlen, Nick (24 January 2016). "From apartheid jail to No 10, the long journey of Mandela's trial comrades". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  9. ^ "The Alistair Horne Fellowship – Further Particulars". University of Oxford. St Antony's College. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  10. ^ "Nick Stadlen on Bram Fischer". Great Lives: Series 37 Episode 8. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Life is Wonderful Q&A" (video). 13 August 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  12. ^ Life is Wonderful trailer on YouTube
  13. ^ Stadlen, Nick (Nicholas) (22 July 2018). "Unsung heroes: the men who stood trial with Mandela". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  14. ^ Green, Pippa (13 June 2018). "Apartheid history: Overlooked Rivonia triallists feted in Life is Wonderful". Business Day. South Africa. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  15. ^ "'Life is Wonderful' screening reinforces call for such histories in curriculum". Nelson Mandela University. 15 June 2018. Retrieved 23 April 2019.