Patricia Routledge

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Patricia Routledge

Katherine Patricia Routledge

(1929-02-17) 17 February 1929 (age 94)
Tranmere, Cheshire, England
Alma mater
Occupation(s)Actress, singer
Years active1952–2014

Dame Katherine Patricia Routledge, DBE (/ˈrtlɪ/ ROWT-lij;[1] born 17 February 1929) is an English stage, TV and film actress and singer.

Routledge is best known for her comedy role as Hyacinth Bucket in the BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances (1990–1995), she was nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Light Entertainment Performance in 1992 and 1993. Her film appearances include To Sir, with Love (1967) and Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968).

Routledge made her professional stage debut at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1952 and her Broadway debut in How's the World Treating You in 1966. She won the 1968 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in Darling of the Day, and the 1988 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Candide.

On television, Routledge came to prominence during the 1980s in monologues written by Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood; appearing in Bennett's A Woman of No Importance (1982), as Kitty in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV (1985–1986), and being nominated for the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for Bennett's Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters (1988). She also starred as Hetty Wainthropp in the British television series Hetty Wainthropp Investigates (1990, 1996–1998). In 2017, she was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II for her services to entertainment and charity.

Early life[edit]

Routledge was born on 17 February 1929 in Tranmere in Cheshire.[2] Her father was a haberdasher and gentlemen's outfitter.[3] She was educated at Birkenhead High School,[4] and the University of Liverpool.[5] She gained a degree with honours in English Language and Literature.[6] She was involved in the University's dramatic society, where she worked closely with the academic Edmund Colledge, who both directed and acted in several of the society's productions. It was Colledge who persuaded her to pursue an acting career.[7] After graduating, she trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and returned to Liverpool to begin her acting career at the Liverpool Playhouse.[8]



Routledge has had a long career in theatre, particularly musical theatre, in the United Kingdom and the United States. Her vocal range was labelled as a mezzo-soprano and a contralto. She has been a long-standing member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), appearing in such acclaimed productions as the 1984 Richard III, which starred Antony Sher in the title role.[9][10] Her West End credits include Little Mary Sunshine,[11] Cowardy Custard,[12] Virtue in Danger,[13] Noises Off,[14] The Importance of Being Earnest,[15] and The Solid Gold Cadillac,[16] as well as a number of less successful vehicles. She was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her work in And a Nightingale Sang in 1979. A classically trained singer,[17] she has occasionally made forays into operetta including taking the title role in an acclaimed production of Jacques Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein at the 1978 Camden Festival; "As the Grand Duchess she invested every phrase, spoken or sung [...] with wit and meaning, and coloured her tone to express a wide variety of emotions. Never did she resort to the hoydenish behaviour that this role – in British productions at least – seems to invite."[18]

Routledge made her Broadway debut in Roger Milner's comedy How's the World Treating You? in 1966, returning in the short-lived 1968 musical Darling of the Day,[19] for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, sharing the honour with Leslie Uggams of Hallelujah, Baby![20] Following this, Routledge had roles in several more unsuccessful Broadway productions including a musical called Love Match, in which she played Queen Victoria; the legendary 1976 Leonard Bernstein flop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in which she portrayed every U.S. First Lady from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt;[21] and a 1981 musical, Say Hello to Harvey – based on the Mary Coyle Chase play Harvey (1944) – which closed in Toronto before reaching New York City.[22]

In 1980, Routledge played Ruth in the Joseph Papp production of The Pirates of Penzance, co-starring American actor Kevin Kline and pop vocalist Linda Ronstadt, at the Delacorte Theatre in New York City's Central Park, one of a series of Shakespeare in the Park summer events.[23][24] The show was a hit and transferred to Broadway the following January, with Estelle Parsons replacing Routledge. A DVD of the Central Park production, with Routledge, was released in October 2002. She also performed in Façade at New York's Carnegie Recital Hall.[25]

Routledge won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1988 for her portrayal of the Old Lady in Leonard Bernstein's Candide in the London cast of the critically acclaimed Scottish Opera production.[6] One critic noted "She stopped the show with 'I am so easily assimilated', and her long narration worked on at least two levels – it was both hilarious and oddly moving."[26] She also played the role of Nettie Fowler to great acclaim in the 1993 London production of Carousel.[27] In a 2006 Hampstead Theatre production of The Best of Friends, she portrayed Dame Laurentia McLachlan.[28] In 2008, she played Queen Mary in Royce Ryton's play Crown Matrimonial.[29] More recent work includes the narrator in The Carnival of the Animals with the Nash Ensemble in 2010,[30] the role of Dame Myra Hess in the play Admission: One Shilling in 2011, and Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 2014.[31]

Since 2009, Routledge has toured with a show entitled Facing The Music. The show features insights into her musical theatre career.[32]

Film and television[edit]

Routledge's screen credits include To Sir, with Love (1967),[33] Pretty Polly (1967),[34] 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia, The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom,[35] Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (all 1968),[36] If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969) and Girl Stroke Boy (1971).

Routledge's early television appearances included a role in Steptoe and Son, in the episode "Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard" (1974), as a clairvoyant called Madame Fontana. She also appeared in Coronation Street (1961),[37] and as a white witch in Doctor at Large (1971). Routledge played Mrs. Jennings in the BBC mini-series production of Sense and Sensibility (1971). However, she did not come to prominence on television until she featured in monologues written for her by Alan Bennett and later Victoria Wood in the 1980s. She first appeared in A Woman of No Importance, the second installment of Bennett's anthology, Objects of Affection in 1982.[38] She then played the opinionated Kitty in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV in 1985. She performed two further monologues in Bennett's Talking Heads in 1988 and 1998. Routledge was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Actress for the monologue "A Lady of Letters".

In 1989, Routledge accepted the lead role of Hetty Wainthropp in an ITV mystery drama, Hetty Wainthropp: Missing Persons. ITV opted not to pursue a series after the pilot episode, but in 1996 the BBC produced the first series of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, with Routledge again in the lead role. The show co-starred Dominic Monaghan as her assistant and Derek Benfield as her husband. It was first aired in January 1996, and ran until the autumn of 1998, with a special episode in 1999. Monaghan, who went on to enjoy a Hollywood career, has since credited Routledge as "an amazing teacher" who taught him some "very valuable lessons" in acting.[39]

In 1990, Routledge was cast as Hyacinth Bucket in the comedy series Keeping Up Appearances.[40] She portrayed a formerly working-class woman with social pretensions (insisting her surname be pronounced "bouquet") and delusions of grandeur (her oft-mentioned "candlelight suppers").[41] Routledge delighted in portraying Hyacinth, as she claimed she "couldn't stand people like her" in real life. In 1991, she won a British Comedy Award for her portrayal,[42] and she was later nominated for two BAFTA TV Awards in 1992 and 1993. Routledge left the role in 1995, despite the series' ongoing popularity, as she wished to pursue other roles as an actress. During an interview on Australian television, Routledge said: "I'd much rather people look back and say 'I remember that' than say 'Oh, is that still on?'" Another reason she wished to leave the role was that she felt that the writer Roy Clarke, was "rewriting old scripts".[citation needed]

Routledge has also played several real-life characters for television, including Barbara Pym and in a dramatised BBC Omnibus biographical documentary of 1994, Hildegard of Bingen.[43]

In 2001, Routledge starred in Anybody's Nightmare, a fact-based television drama in which she played Sheila Bowler, a mother and piano teacher who served four years in prison for murdering her elderly aunt, but was later acquitted following a retrial.[44]

Radio and audio books[edit]

In 1966, Routledge sang the role of Mad Margaret in Ruddigore, the title role in Iolanthe, and Melissa in Princess Ida, in a series of BBC Radio Gilbert and Sullivan recordings.[45] She took part in a studio broadcast of Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith (narrating excerpts from the work by Gogol) in 1989.[46] In 2006, she was featured in an episode of the Stage and Screen series on Radio 3.[47]

Routledge's extensive radio credits include several Alan Bennett plays and the BBC dramatisation of Carole Hayman's Ladies of Letters, in which she and Prunella Scales play retired women exchanging humorous correspondence over the course of several years.[48] A tenth series of Ladies of Letters premiered on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.[49]

Radio work prior to 1985 included Private Lives, Present Laughter, The Cherry Orchard, Romeo and Juliet, Alice in Wonderland and The Fountain Overflows.[25]

Having a distinctive voice, Routledge has also recorded and released a variety of audiobooks including unabridged readings of Wuthering Heights and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and abridged novelisations of the Hetty Wainthropp series.[50]

Personal life[edit]

Routledge has never married and has no children. In a 2001 interview, she said: "I didn't make a decision not to be married and not to be a mother. Life just turned out like that because my involvement in acting was so total". In the same interview, Routledge discussed two affairs she had been involved in: one with a married man whilst in her late 20s and the other being some years later with a man directing a play she was appearing in.[51]

She has lived in Chichester since 2000[52][53] and regularly worships at Chichester Cathedral.[6] In 2020, she helped raise £10,000 towards the restoration of the cathedral roof.[52]

Routledge is a patron of the Beatrix Potter Society[54] and an ambassador for the charity Royal Voluntary Service, previously known as WRVS.[55]


Routledge was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1993 Birthday Honours, Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2004 Birthday Honours,[56] and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to theatre and charity.[57]

In 2008, Routledge received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from Lancaster University for her contribution to drama and theatre.[58]

On 15 March 2019, Routledge received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Chester at Chester Cathedral for her contributions to theatre and television.[59]

In 2022, the Royal Academy of Music conferred Routledge with honorary membership.[60]

An honorary president of the Association of English Singers & Speakers (which exists to "encourage communication of English words in speech and song with clarity, understanding and imagination"), she has sponsored the annual AESS National English Song Prize from 2003 to the present.[61]

Screen and stage work[edit]


Year Title Role Notes
1967 To Sir, with Love Clinty Clintridge Directed by James Clavell
Pretty Polly Miss Gudgeon Directed by Guy Green
1968 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia Mrs Woolley Directed by Joseph McGrath[62]
Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River Lucille Beatty Directed by Walter Shenson[62]
The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom Miss Reece Directed by Joseph McGrath[62]
1969 Lock Up Your Daughters Nurse Directed by Peter Coe[62]
If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium Mrs Featherstone Directed by Mel Stuart
1970 Egghead's Robot Mrs Janice Wentworth Directed by Milo Lewis
1971 Girl Stroke Boy Pamela Hovendon Directed by Bob Kellett[62]


Year Title Role Notes
1956–66 ITV Play of the Week Alice Clay/Maggie Hobson 3 episodes
1959 ITV Play of the Week Dido Morgan/Kate Barclay/Louisa Lindley 6 episodes
1960 The Terrible Choice
1961 Hilda Lessways Hilda Lessways 6 episodes
Coronation Street Sylvia Snape 5 episodes
1961–70 Armchair Theatre[63] Miss Furling/New mother 2 episodes
1962 Z-Cars Madge Kenton 1 episode
1964 Victoria Regina Queen Victoria Four part serial
1965 Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life Irish Mother 2 episodes
No Hiding Place Pat 1 episode
Gaslight Theatre 'Our Mary'
1967 Thirty-Minute Theatre Beryl Turner
Seven Deadly Sins Mrs Vealfoy in The Good and Faithful Servant
Androcles and the Lion Megaera, Androcles' Wife TV film
The Ed Sullivan Show Performer, "Not on Your Nellie" Soundtrack
1969 ITV Saturday Night Theatre Hazel Day 1 episode
1970 Egghead's Robot Mrs Janice Wentworth Children's Film Foundation[62]
ITV Playhouse Fern/Rose 1 episode
1971 Sense and Sensibility Mrs. Jennings 4 episodes
Doctor at Large Audrey Watt 1 episode
Play of the Month: Tartuffe[64] Dorine Videotaped drama
Vincent Price Is in the Country Herself TV film
1972 His and Hers Myrtle Waller 1 episode
1973 Ooh La La! Lucienne Homenides de Histangau
That's Life On-screen Participant BBC pilot programme[62]
1974 Affairs of the Heart Mrs. Meldrum 1 episode
Steptoe and Son Madame Fontana
...And Mother Makes Five Mrs. Fletcher 2 episodes
David Copperfield Mrs. Micawber 3 episodes
1975 Play of the Month: When We Are Married Annie Parker Videotaped drama
More Awkward Customers Cast member Video Arts training film[62]
1977 Nicholas Nickleby Madame Mantalini BBC mini-series
Jubilee 1 episode
The Cost of Loving Sarah Taplow
1978 BBC2 Play of the Week Miss Protheroe
Doris and Doreen Doreen Bidmead TV film
1979 Crown Court Rita Finch 1 episode
1980 The Pirates of Penzance Ruth TV film
Play for Today ATS Officer 1 episode
The Curse of King Tut's Tomb 'Posh' Lady TV film
1982 Objects of Affection: "A Woman of No Importance" Peggy Schofield 1 episode
1983 The Beggar's Opera Mrs. Peachum TV film
Keep Off the Grass Bag Lady Short
The Two Ronnies Madame Bultitude 1 episode
1984 Home Video TV film
1985 Marjorie and Men Marjorie Belton 6 episodes
1985–86 Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV Kitty 5 episodes
1987 When We Are Married Maria Helliwell TV film
1988 Tales of the Unexpected Milly Dobson Episode (9/4) "The Verger"
Talking Heads Miss Ruddock 1 episode, "A Lady of Letters"
Sophia and Constance Mrs Baines 3 episodes
1989 First and Last Ivy TV film
Let's Face the Music On-screen participant Yorkshire TV (programmes on Noël Coward, Jerome Kern and Frederick Loewe)[62]
1990 Missing Persons Hetty Wainthropp TV film
Alas Smith and Jones 1 episode
1991 Miss Pym's Day Out Barbara Pym
1993 The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends Cousin Ribby 2 episodes
1994 Hildegard of Bingen Hildegard von Bingen BBC TV Dramatisation/documentary[62]
1990–95 Keeping Up Appearances Hyacinth Bucket Main role
1996–98 Hetty Wainthropp Investigates
Talking Heads 2 Miss Fozzard 1 episode, "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet"
2001 Anybody's Nightmare Sheila Bowler TV film
2005 Blips Narrator Voice


Year Production Role Venue
1952 A Midsummer Night's Dream Hippolyta Liverpool Playhouse, Liverpool
1954 The Duenna Carlotta Bristol Old Vic and Westminster Theatre, London
1956 The Comedy of Errors Adriana Arts Theatre, London
1957 Zuleika Aunt Mabel Saville Theatre, London
1959 The Love Doctor Henrietta Argan Piccadilly Theatre, London
1960 Follow That Girl Mrs Gilchrist Vaudeville Theatre, London
1961 Come As You Are Guildford
Out of My Mind Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith
1962 Little Mary Sunshine Mary Potts ("Little Mary Sunshine") Comedy Theatre, London
1963 Virtue in Danger[65] Berinthia Mermaid Theatre and Strand Theatre, London
1964 Home and Beauty Victoria Croydon
1965 How's the World Treating You? Violet/Nell/Rover Arts Theatre and Wyndham's Theatre, London (1965) and Music Box Theatre, New York City (1966)
1968 Darling of the Day Alice Challice George Abbott Theatre, New York City
Love Match Queen Victoria Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles
1969 The Caucasian Chalk Circle Mother-in-law Chichester Festival Theatre
The Country Wife Lady Fidget
The Magistrate Agatha Posket Chichester Festival Theatre and Cambridge Theatre, London
1971 First Impressions Mrs Bennet Birmingham Repertory Theatre
1972 Cowardy Custard Mermaid Theatre, London
1973 Dandy Dick Georgina Tidman Chichester Festival Theatre and Garrick Theatre, London
1975 The Cherry Orchard Madame Ranevskaya Bristol Old Vic
Othello Emilia Chichester Festival Theatre
Made in Heaven Martha Avon
1976 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue All of the First Ladies Mark Hellinger Theatre, New York City
The Rivals Mrs Malaprop Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
Zack Mrs Munnings
1977 On Approval Maria Wislack Vaudeville Theatre, London
1978 The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein The Grand Duchess Collegiate Theatre, Camden, London
Gracious Living[66] Daisy Tuttle Eisenhower Theatre, Washington, D.C.
Semmelweiss Julia
1979 The Schoolmistress Miss Dyott Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
And a Nightingale Sang... Peggy Stott Queen's Theatre, London
1980 The Pirates of Penzance Ruth Delacorte Theater, New York City
1981 Say Hello to Harvey Toronto, Canada
1982 Noises Off Dotty Otley Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith and Savoy Theatre, London
1983 When the Wind Blows Whitehall Theatre, London
1984 Richard III Queen Margaret Royal Shakespeare Company
1985 Henry V Mistress Quickly Royal Shakespeare Company
1986 When We Are Married Maria Helliwell Whitehall Theatre, London
1988 Candide Old Lady The Old Vic, London
1989 Come for the Ride (one-woman show) UK tour
1992 Talking Heads Comedy Theatre, London
Carousel Nettie Fowler National Theatre, London
1994 Mr and Mrs Nobody Carrie Pooter Greenwich Theatre, London
The Rivals Mrs Malaprop Chichester Festival Theatre and Albery Theatre, London
The Schoolmistress Miss Dyott Chichester Festival Theatre
1997 Beatrix Beatrix Potter Minerva Theatre, Chichester and UK tour
1999–2001 The Importance of Being Earnest Lady Bracknell Chichester Festival Theatre and Theatre Royal Haymarket, London (1999),
Australian tour (2000) and Savoy Theatre, London (2001)
2002 Wild Orchids[67] Duchess Chichester Festival Theatre
2004 The Solid Gold Cadillac Mrs Laura Partridge Garrick Theatre, London
2006 The Best of Friends Dame Laurentia MacLachlan Hampstead Theatre and UK tour
2007 Office Suite Doreen/Miss Protheroe Minerva Theatre, Chichester and UK tour
2008 Crown Matrimonial Queen Mary UK tour
2009–present Admission: One Shilling Myra Hess UK and Australian tours
Facing the Music UK tours
2014 An Ideal Husband Lady Markby Chichester Festival Theatre


Cast recordings[edit]

Year Album Notes
1960 Follow That Girl Original London Cast
1962 Little Mary Sunshine
1963 Virtue in Danger
1965 Hello, Dolly! 1965 London Studio Cast (Mrs Irene Malloy)
1966 The Sound of Music 1966 London Studio Cast (Mother Abbess)
1967 Androcles and the Lion 1967 Television Cast
Kiss Me, Kate 1967 London Studio Cast (Lily/Katherine)
1968 Darling of the Day 1968 Original Broadway Cast
1969 A Talent to Amuse: Noel Coward's 70th Birthday Concert 1969 Concert Cast
1972 Cowardy Custard 1972 Original London Cast
1976 Cole 1976 Studio Cast
1985 I Remember Mama 1985 Original Cast Members (Aunt Jenny)
1987 An Evening With Alan Jay Lerner 1987 Concert Cast

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Notes
1973 Presenting Patricia Routledge Re-released on CD in 1996

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
1966 Whitbread Award Outstanding Musical Performance How’s The World Treating You? Won
1968 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical Darling of the Day Won
1979 Olivier Award Best Supporting Actress And a Nightingale Sang... Nominated
1984 Broadcasting Press Guild Award Best Actress A Woman of No Importance Won
1985 Olivier Award Best Supporting Performance Richard III Nominated
1988 Best Actress in a Musical Candide Won
1989 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Talking Heads: A Lady of Letters Nominated
1991 British Comedy Award Best TV Comedy Actress Keeping Up Appearances Won
1992 BAFTA TV Award Best Light Entertainment Performance Nominated
Olivier Award Best Actress Talking Heads Nominated
1993 BAFTA TV Award Best Light Entertainment Performance Keeping up Appearances Nominated
Variety Club of Great Britain Award Personality of the Year Keeping up Appearances Won


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External links[edit]