Brian Blessed

Brian Blessed, OBE (/ˈblɛsɪd/; born 9 October 1936) is an English actor, writer, television presenter and singer, known for his booming, kingly voice.

Brian Blessed

Blessed in February 2012
Born (1936-10-09) 9 October 1936
ResidenceWindlesham, Surrey, England
Alma materBristol Old Vic Theatre School
OccupationActor, writer, television presenter, singer
Years active1962–present
Spouse(s)Ann Bomann
Hildegarde Neil
(m. 1978)

He is known for portraying PC "Fancy" Smith in Z-Cars, Augustus in I, Claudius, Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon, Richard IV in The Black Adder, Duke Thomas Beaufort of Exeter in Henry V, Boss Nass in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and the voice of Clayton in Disney's Tarzan.

Early life

Brian Blessed was born on 9 October 1936 at Montagu Hospital[1] in Mexborough, Yorkshire,[2][3] the son of William Blessed (1906–2005),[4] a socialist coal miner at Hickleton Main Colliery (and himself the son of a coal miner),[5] and Hilda Wall (1909–1997).[4] Blessed's great-great-grandfather, Jabez Blessed, was the father of 13 children and worked as a china and glass dealer in Brigg, Lincolnshire; many of Blessed's relatives hail from Brigg.[6]

Blessed went to Bolton on Dearne Secondary Modern School, completed his national service in the RAF Regiment[7] before enrolling at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.[8]


Acting career

One of Blessed's earliest roles was that of PC "Fancy" Smith in the BBC television series Z-Cars, between 1962 and 1965.[9] In 1966, he appeared in a production of Incident at Vichy at the Phoenix Theatre in London. Also in 1966, he was offered the titular role of The Doctor in BBC's sci-fi drama, Doctor Who, to take over from William Hartnell, but had to turn down due to conflicting projects.[10] In 1967, he played Porthos in a 10-part BBC adaptation of The Three Musketeers.[11] Blessed also had minor roles in cult TV series such as The Avengers (1967, 1969) and the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1969). He appeared as William Woodcock in the Yorkshire Television series Boy Dominic (1974). He played Caesar Augustus in the BBC Two drama series I, Claudius (1976)[12] and Basileos in The Aphrodite Inheritance (1979).[13] He hosted a docudrama on the life of Johann Sebastian Bach called The Joy of Bach (1978), in which he also played Bach in a number of scenes.

Blessed played Long John Silver in the 10-part serial Return to Treasure Island (1986), King Yrcanos in the Doctor Who serial Mindwarp (1986), General Yevlenko in the mini-series War and Remembrance (1988), and Lord Loxley, the father of Robin Hood, in the Hollywood film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991).

On stage, he starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Cats, as both Old Deuteronomy and Bustopher Jones, for the original 1981 West End theatre production. Blessed has appeared in a number of Shakespearean roles on both stage and screen, including four of the five Shakespeare films directed by Kenneth Branagh: as the Duke of Exeter in Henry V (1989), Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing (1993), the Ghost of Hamlet's Father in Hamlet (1996), and both Duke Frederick and Duke Senior in As You Like It (2006).

Other roles have emphasised Blessed's comedic abilities. In particular, Prince Vultan in the film Flash Gordon (1980), for which he is remembered for the exclamations "Gordon's alive!"[14] and "DIVE!"; the mad, comical figure of Richard IV in the first series of The Black Adder (1983), a role Blessed has claimed to be one of his most cherished; and Spiro in the BBC adaptation of My Family and Other Animals (1987).[15] Blessed has joked that he was due to appear in Blackadder II (1986) as Elizabeth I, but was unavailable for filming.[16] In 1997, Blessed portrayed Squire Western in the BBC adaptation of Henry Fielding's 1749 comic novel Tom Jones. He later recalled accidentally punching Peter Capaldi whilst filming and said of the event, "I thought I'd killed the poor bastard."[17]

In 1999, Blessed provided both the voice and live-action reference for the blustery CGI character Boss Nass in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and also provided the voice of the villainous hunter Clayton in Disney's animated feature film Tarzan, a role he later reprised in the video game based on the film and in the critically acclaimed Kingdom Hearts in 2002. He voiced "Sir Morris" in the 1999 cartoon series The Big Knights. He read the story "The White City" for the album series Late Night Tales, recording it in four parts released over four albums,[18] and was also the voice of Jean Valjean in Focus on the Family Radio Theatre's audio adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. Blessed was one of the narrators for Story Teller, a children's magazine partwork series in the 1980s. He has further provided vocal links for the Sony-Award-winning Christian O'Connell Breakfast Show on Virgin Radio, and introduced advertisements for Orange mobile phones.

In 2002, under the direction of Royal Shakespeare Company director Adrian Noble, he originated the role of Baron Bomburst for the stage musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. From December 2005 to January 2006, Blessed headlined the Christmas pantomime production of Peter Pan, alongside CBBC presenter Kirsten O'Brien, at Ipswich's Regent Theatre. From 2007 to 2008, he appeared in the same play as Captain Hook at the Grove Theatre in Dunstable; he reprised the role for the Christmas 2008 season at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. For Christmas 2006, he presented a production of Cinderella for Virgin Radio, starring David Tennant, Thandie Newton and others.

Since October 2008, Blessed has presented the English-language dub of the Japanese TV game show Unbeatable Banzuke on Challenge, under the pseudonym "Banzuke Brian". He was the narrator of the Sky 1 series Crash Test Dummies, starring Steve Marsh and Dan Wright. In animation, he has provided the voices of Bob in Kika & Bob (2008)[19] and Grampy Rabbit in Peppa Pig (2004–present).

Following a successful Facebook campaign, satellite navigation manufacturer TomTom recorded Blessed's voice for use in its products; he has been available as a voice command option since October 2010.[20] In September 2010, Blessed recorded the voice of Great Sultan Shahryār for Sheherazade, or The Princess, the Pirate and the Baboon!, an album of children's stories set to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's classical music composition Scheherazade, co-starring Rory Bremner and released as an instalment of Grandma Dingley's Ingeniously Musical Tales in 2011.[21]

In 2018, Blessed voiced famous German military engineer Lord Konrad Kyeser in the open-world medieval RPG, Kingdom Come: Deliverance.[22]

Other work

Blessed was a keen boxer in his youth and claims to have sparred with the Dalai Lama.[23] He has attempted to climb Mount Everest three times without supplemental oxygen,[24] reaching heights of 28,200 feet (8,600 m) in 1993 and 25,200 feet (7,700 m) in 1996, but without reaching the summit.[25] He holds a 3rd dan in Judo.[26] He has reached the tops of Mount Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He is the oldest man to go to the North Magnetic Pole on foot,[27] and has undertaken an expedition into the jungles of Venezuela, during which he survived a plane crash. Blessed has completed 800 hours of space training at Star City in Russia.[14] Blessed participated as a master of ceremonies at the British farewell ceremony marking the handover of Hong Kong.

Blessed served as President of the Television and Radio Industries Club (TRIC) from 2007 to 2008 and presented the 2008 TRIC Awards at Grosvenor House, London.[28]

In 2004, Blessed appeared on Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes, impersonating the opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Known for his football knowledge, he appeared as an expert and commentator on the satellite channel UKTV G2 during the 2006 World Cup. Blessed also appeared on A Question of Sport in 2006 and 2011, and was a guest host on the BBC's satirical quiz show Have I Got News for You in May 2008 and April 2013 (also making a surprise appearance in the 2008 Christmas special). In Blessed's first appearance on the programme, his exaggerated comic style resulted in a quick departure from the usual format, leading team captain Paul Merton to quip, "Does anyone remember what this programme used to be like?" Other guest appearances include the talk shows Loose Women (2006) and The Paul O'Grady Show (2008).

In 2009, Blessed featured in the song "Army of the Damned" from the album Beneath the Veiled Embrace by British power metal band Pythia, reciting the poem "Suicide in the Trenches" by Siegfried Sassoon.[29] Blessed also appeared on their 2014 album "Shadows of a Broken Past". He had previously contributed to the song "The Joust" by Christian band Eden Burning in 1994.[30] Blessed also speaks in the Living Legend history presentation in Jersey alongside other celebrities such as Samantha Janus, Roger Lloyd Pack, Tony Robinson, and Kevin Whately.

Downloadable content for the computer game War of the Roses featured narration by Blessed.[31] In 2013, he received the Spirit of Hammer Award at the Metal Hammer magazine's Golden Gods Awards.[32]

On 14 August 2014, Blessed was the subject of an episode of the BBC documentary series Who Do You Think You Are?, tracing the lives of his ancestors.[6]

Personal life

Blessed married American actress Ann Bomann and had a daughter named Catherine, but the couple later divorced.[33]

Blessed lives in Windlesham, Surrey. He married actress Hildegarde Neil in 1978. Their daughter, Rosalind, is an actress.[34]

Blessed owns several dogs and is a patron of the Hopefield Animal Sanctuary.[35]


Blessed suffered a nervous breakdown, when he was the age of eighteen. He eventually recovered with the support of friends, family and his speech teacher.[36][37]

On 19 January 2015, Blessed collapsed on stage during a performance of King Lear with the Guildford Shakespeare Company, in which his daughter Rosalind was also acting. He received medical attention from a doctor in the audience and returned to the stage to complete the play 20 minutes later.[38] On 30 January 2015, it was announced that Blessed had been "compelled to withdraw" from the production on the advice of his heart specialist.[39] He has been fitted with a pacemaker.[14]


He has honorary degrees from the University of Bradford (awarded July 2003) and Sheffield Hallam University (awarded 2004) and has also been awarded the honorary title of "Official Shoutsperson" by the University of York's Douglas Adams Society.[28]

In 2011, the student union voted to name a new study area the "Brian Blessed Centre for Quiet Study".[40] The same year, Blessed was nominated for the post of Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, following a campaign by graduates.[41] He was later awarded Honorary Membership of the Cambridge Union in recognition of his nomination.[42]

Blessed was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to the arts and charity.[43]

Charity work

Blessed is a patron of PHASE Worldwide, which works to improve education, healthcare and livelihoods in remote areas of Nepal.[44]



  • The Turquoise Mountain: Brian Blessed on Everest (1991)
  • Dynamite Kid (1992)
  • Nothing's Impossible (1994)
  • To the Top of the World (1995)
  • Quest for the Lost World (1999)
  • Sooty (2013)
  • Absolute Pandemonium (2015)
  • The Panther In My Kitchen: My Wild Life With Animals (2017)


  1. Blessed, Brian (1992). "1". The Dynamite Kid (1st ed.). London: Bloomsbury. p. 1. ISBN 0-7475-1275-2.
  2. "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 4 November 2010.
  3. "BFI biodata". 16 April 2009. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  4. England and Wales Death Index
  5. Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC) – Series 11: 2. Brian Blessed
  6. "Who do you think you are? Brian Blessed traces Brigg & Winterton relatives on BBC1 tonight". Scunthorpe Telegraph. 14 August 2014. Archived from the original on 14 August 2014. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  7. Blessed, Brian (2016). Absolute Pandemonium. Pan Macmillan. p. 67. ISBN 9781447292975.
  8. The International Who's Who 2004. Psychology Press. 2003. p. 176. ISBN 9781857432176.
  9. "Z Cars: 5: Big Catch – BBC Television – 30 January 1962". BBC Genome.
  10. "Brian Blessed: I turned down Doctor Who". The Guardian. 5 August 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  11. "The Three Musketeers – BBC One London – 8 January 1967". BBC Genome.
  12. "I, Claudius – BBC Two England – 6 December 1976". BBC Genome.
  13. "The Aphrodite Inheritance – BBC One London – 14 February 1979". BBC Genome.
  14. "Brian Blessed: 'Picasso Gave me a £50m picture – I threw it away'". The Telegraph. 8 November 2015.
  15. "Gerald Durrell's Lasting Legacy". BBC News Online. 15 September 2006. Retrieved 5 May 2008.
  16. "Brian Blessed Web Chat". The Guardian. 22 August 2001. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  17. "The day Brian Blessed punched and knocked out Peter Capaldi". Radio Times. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  18. "Brian Blessed discography".
  19. "Cast and Crew page on the Official Kika and Bob website".
  20. Wallop, Harry (6 August 2010). "Brian Blessed new voice of TomTom Sat Nav". Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  21. "Sheherazade or The Princess, the Pirate and the Baboon! | Grandma Dingley's Ingeniously Musical Tales". 21 March 2011. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  22. "Kingdom Come: Deliverance presents: Brian Blessed as Lord Konrad Kyeser". YouTube. Warhorse Studios. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  23. Scott-Elliot, Robin (2 April 2012). "Robin Scott-Elliot: Greig's a tasty addition to Sky team but Beefy is a crusty curmudgeon – Cricket – Sport". The Independent. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  24. Dickinson, Matt (19 February 2012). "How We Met: Matt Dickinson and Brian Blessed". The Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2013. Dickinson: "But as for going back to Everest with Brian: in truth, he's too old now to try again."
  25. Arthur, Charles (30 May 1996). "Blessed Launches Bitter Attack on 'Human Lemmings' of Everest". The Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
  26. "Camberley Judo Club » Pennyhill Park hosts the first ever judo ashes!". 10 July 2009. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
  27. Benedictus, Leo (29 July 2003). "Why I Love Brian Blessed". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2008.
  28. "DougSoc Committee". Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  29. "Some are Inexplicably Followed by Brian Blessed's Stentorian Narrations of British Anti-War Poetry". Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  30. Eden Burning Mirth and Matter sleeve notes.
  31. "War of the Roses Details Brian Blessed DLC, Free Content and Kingmaker Gold Edition". PC Gamer. 1 February 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  32. "Metal Hammer Golden Gods Winners". Metal Hammer. 17 June 2013. Archived from the original on 4 April 2014. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  34. Sleeman, Elizabeth (2003). The International Who's Who 2004: 2004 (67th ed.). Routledge. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-85743-217-6.
  35. "Hopefield Patrons and Trustees". Hopefield Animal Sanctuary. Archived from the original on 4 December 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  36. "The other Brian Blessed - Deskarati". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  37. "Brian Blessed - My Yorkshire". Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  38. "Brian Blessed collapses on stage – but returns to finish show". BBC News. 21 January 2015. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  39. "Brian Blessed pulls out of King Lear on doctor's orders". BBC News. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
  40. Davis-Digges, Hoagy (25 January 2011). "Union General Meeting Sees Highest Voting Numbers Since 2008". Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  41. "Brian Blessed Bids to be Cambridge Chancellor". BBC News. BBC. 3 June 2011. Retrieved 25 April 2013.
  42. "Brian Blessed | Week 08 | Cambridge Union". Retrieved 28 March 2018.
  43. "No. 61608". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2016. p. B11.
  44. "PHASE welcomes Blessed as patron". PHASE Worldwide. 2 June 2015. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 5 September 2016.
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