Katherine Patricia Routledge
17 February 1929
Tranmere, Cheshire, England
|Alma mater||University of Liverpool|
Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
|Occupation||Actress, comedian, singer|
Dame Katherine Patricia Routledge, //; born 17 February 1929) is an English actress, comedian, and singer with one of the longest careers of an entertainer, spanning more than 70 years. For her 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 (1989, 1996–1998). In 2017, she was made a dame by Queen Elizabeth II for her services to entertainment and charity.
Katherine Patricia Routledge was born on 17 February 1929 in Tranmere, Cheshire, the daughter of Catherine (née Perry) and Isaac Routledge. Her father was a haberdasher and gentlemen's outfitter. During the Second World War, the family lived in the basement of his shop for weeks at a time; nearby Liverpool, which served as the headquarters of Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches and was the most important port in the country, was bombed during the Second World War more heavily than any other British region except London. Routledge was educated at Mersey Park Primary School, Birkenhead High School, and the University of Liverpool. She gained a degree with honours in English Language and Literature, and was not on a path to pursue an acting career. 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. After graduating, she trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and returned to Liverpool to begin her acting career at the Liverpool Playhouse.
Routledge has had a prolific 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 1983 Richard III, which starred Antony Sher in the title role. Her West End credits include Little Mary Sunshine, Cowardy Custard, Virtue in Danger, Noises Off, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Solid Gold Cadillac, 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, 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."
Routledge made her Broadway debut in Roger Milner's outrageous comedy How's the World Treating You? in 1966, returning in the short-lived 1968 musical Darling of the Day, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, sharing the honour with Leslie Uggams of Hallelujah, Baby! 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; 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.
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. 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.
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. 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." She also played the role of Nettie Fowler to great acclaim in the 1993 London production of Carousel. In a 2006 Hampstead Theatre production of The Best of Friends, she portrayed Dame Laurentia McLachlan. In 2008, she played Queen Mary in Royce Ryton's play Crown Matrimonial. More recent work include the narrator in The Carnival of the Animals with the Nash Ensemble in 2010, 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.
Film and television
Routledge's screen credits include To Sir, with Love (1967), Pretty Polly (both 1967), 30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia, The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom, Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (all 1968), 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, and as a white witch in Doctor at Large (1971). Also in 1971, Routledge played Mrs. Jennings in the BBC mini-series production of Sense and Sensibility. 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 Bennett's A Woman of No Importance in 1982, and then as the opinionated Kitty in Victoria Wood: As Seen on TV in 1985. She performed two further monologues in Bennett's Talking Heads in 1987 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 one 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.
In 1990, Routledge was cast as Hyacinth Bucket in the comedy series Keeping Up Appearances. 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"). 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, and she was later nominated for two BAFTA TV Awards in 1992 and 1993. The series ended at Routledge's request in 1995 despite its ongoing popularity. She wished to pursue other roles as a character actress. During an interview on Australian TV Patricia stated: "I'd much rather people look back and say 'I remember that' than say 'Oh, is that still on?'" Another reason she wished the series to end was that she felt that the writer, Roy Clarke, was rewriting old scripts.
In 2001 Routledge starred in Anybody's Nightmare, a fact-based television drama in which she played a piano teacher who served four years in prison for murdering her elderly aunt, but was acquitted following a retrial.
Radio and audio books
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. A tenth series of Ladies of Letters premiered on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.
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.
In 1966, she 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. She took part in a studio broadcast of Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith (narrating excerpts from the work by Gogol) in 1989. In 2006, she was featured in a programme of the "Stage and Screen" series on Radio 3.
Routledge has never married and has no children; she has lived in Chichester since 2000, and regularly worships at Chichester Cathedral. She has helped raise £10,000 towards the restoration of the cathedral roof.
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, and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to theatre and charity.
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.
Screen and stage work
|1967||To Sir, with Love||Clinty Clintridge||Directed by James Clavell|
|Pretty Polly / A Matter of Innocence||Miss Gudgeon||Directed by Guy Green|
|Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River||Lucille Beatty||Directed by Walter Shenson|
|1968||30 Is a Dangerous Age, Cynthia||Mrs Woolley||Directed by Joseph McGrath|
|The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom||Miss Reece|
|1969||Lock Up Your Daughters||Nurse||Directed by Peter Coe|
|If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium||Mrs Featherstone||Directed by Mel Stuart|
|1971||Girl Stroke Boy||Pamela Hovendon||Directed by Bob Kellett|
|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||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'|
|1966||Eamonn Andrews Show||Herself||1 episode|
|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|
|1968||The Ed Sullivan Show||Herself (Audience Bow/Singer)||2 episodes|
|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|
|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||Dorine||Videotaped drama|
|Vincent Price Is in the Country||Herself||TV film|
|1971–75||Play of the Month: When We Are Married||Annie Parker||Videotaped drama|
|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|
|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||More Awkward Customers||Cast member||Video Arts training film|
|1977||Nicholas Nickleby||Madame Mantalini||BBC mini-series|
|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||Peggy Schofield||1 episode|
|1983||The Beggar's Opera||Mrs. Peachum||TV film|
|Keep Off the Grass||Bag Lady||Short|
|The Two Ronnies||Madame Multitude||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||1 episode|
|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)|
|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|
|1990–95||Keeping Up Appearances||Hyacinth Bucket||Main role|
|1996–98||Hetty Wainthropp Investigates||Hetty Wainthropp|
|1997||Heroes of Comedy||Herself||Documentary|
|1998||Talking Heads 2||Miss Fozzard||1 episode, "Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet"|
|2001||Anybody's Nightmare||Sheila Bowler||TV film|
|2004||The Funny Ladies of British Comedy||Herself||Documentary|
|Ronnie Barker: A BAFTA Tribute||TV film|
|2005||The Funny Blokes of British Comedy|
|2006||A Taste of My Life|
|2008||Keeping Up Appearances: Life Lessons from Onslow||Hyacinth Bucket||Video|
|The Greatest Christmas Comedy Moments||Herself||Documentary|
|2016||Beatrix Potter with Patricia Routledge|
|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||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 Ranevsky||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|
|1977||On Approval||Maria Wislack||Vaudeville Theatre, London|
|1978||The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein||The Grand Duchess||Collegiate Theatre, Camden, London|
|1978||Gracious Living||Daisy Tuttle||Eisenhower Theatre, Washington, D.C.|
|1979||The Schoolmistress||Miss Dyott||Royal Exchange Theatre|
|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|
|1985||When We Are Married||Maria Heliwell||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||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 tour|
|2014||An Ideal Husband||Lady Markby||Chichester Festival Theatre|
|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|
|1973||Presenting Patricia Routledge||Re-released on CD in 1996|
Awards and nominations
|1966||Whitbread Award||Unknown||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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