Francesca Annis

Francesca Annis (born 14 May 1945)[1] is an English actress. She is known for television roles in Reckless (1998), Wives and Daughters (1999), Deceit (2000) and Cranford (2007). A six-time BAFTA TV Award nominee, she won the 1979 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress for the ITV serial Lillie. Her film appearances include Krull (1983), Dune (1984), The Debt Collector (1999) and The Libertine (2004).

Francesca Annis
Annis in trailer for Flipper's New Adventure (1964)
Born (1945-05-14) 14 May 1945
Kensington, London, England
Years active1959–present
Partner(s)Patrick Wiseman (1976–1990s)
Ralph Fiennes (1995–2006)

Early life and education

Annis was born in Kensington, London in 1945, to an English father, Lester William Anthony Annis (1914–2001) and a Brazilian-French mother, Mariquita (Mara) Purcell (1913–2009). Both were sometime actors and Mara a sometime singer.[2] Mara was from a wealthy Brazilian family.[2] The Annises moved to Brazil when Francesca was one year old, and spent six years there, returning to England when she was seven.[2] In recollecting the years in Brazil, she described her parents as running "a nightclub on Copacabana beach", and her mother Mara "performing as a blues singer".[2]

Annis was educated at a convent school, and trained in her early years as a ballet dancer,[2][3] with training in the Russian style at the Corona Stage Academy.[4]


Annis began acting professionally in her teens, and made her film debut in The Cat Gang (1959). Her first major film role was as Elizabeth Taylor's handmaiden in Cleopatra (1963), in which she was cast at the age of 16 while still studying Russian ballet.[2] Her big break was as one of the leads in the 1965 West End stage musical Passion Flower Hotel.[4] She played Estella in a television adaptation of Great Expectations (1967) and presented children's television programmes. She garnered attention for her performance as Lady Macbeth in Roman Polanski's film version of Macbeth (1971) in which she performs the sleepwalking soliloquy nude. The critic Kenneth Tynan was present when the scene was shot:

"Francesca does it very sportingly and with no fuss ... though of course the set is closed, great curtains are drawn around the acting area ... and the wardrobe mistress rushes to cover Francesca with a dressing gown the instant Roman says, 'Cut'".[5]

Her films have included Krull (1983) and Dune (1984). She appeared as Tuppence with James Warwick as Tommy in The Secret Adversary (1983) and the subsequent series, Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime (1983–84). She appeared in Onassis: The Richest Man in the World (1988), in which she played Jacqueline Kennedy. She portrayed Mrs. Wellington in the second film and directorial debut by Prince, Under The Cherry Moon (1986).

Annis has also pursued a stage career, playing leading roles with the Royal Shakespeare Company – Luciana in Trevor Nunn's musical version of The Comedy of Errors in 1976, and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet alongside Ian McKellen in 1977. At the National Theatre in 1981, she played Natalya Petrovna in Peter Gill's production of Ivan Turgenev's A Month in the Country. At the Comedy Theatre between September 2005 and January 2006, Annis starred as Ruth in Epitaph for George Dillon with Joseph Fiennes.[6] She returned to the stage in April 2009, to star as Mrs. Conway in Rupert Goold's National Theatre revival of J. B. Priestley's Time and the Conways.[7]

She has appeared in television productions in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, appearing in series such as Edward the Seventh (1975) as Lillie Langtry, a role she reprised in Lillie (1978); Madame Bovary (1975); and Parnell and the Englishwoman (1991), in which she played Kitty O'Shea; as well as the miniseries Reckless (1998) and its 2000 sequel. Annis co-starred with Michael Gambon and Dame Judi Dench as Lady Ludlow (an aristocrat opposed to the education of the lower classes) in the BBC1 costume-drama series Cranford (2007). More recently, Annis played a leading role in the ITV drama Home Fires.

Personal life

Annis was in a relationship with photographer Patrick Wiseman that began in 1974,[2] raising three children, Charlotte, Taran, and Andreas, all of whom were given their father's surname. Annis began a relationship with Hamlet co-star Ralph Fiennes in 1995, ending her 23-year relationship with Wiseman in 1997;[2] Fiennes in turn divorced his wife of four years, Alex Kingston.[8] Annis is said to have "apologised to Wiseman" over their parting.[2] Annis and Fiennes announced their separation on 7 February 2006, after 11 years together,[2][9][10] in a parting described as "acrimonious", following rumours that he'd had an affair with a Romanian singer.[2]

In an interview with Tim Auld of The Telegraph in 2009, Annis described herself as being one that tends "to forget the bad things – I don't dwell on them. I think, 'Oh, f– it, life's too short,'" and that though single, she "believes it is better to be with someone than alone", stating "I think you live a fuller life... to have someone else's input on anything – a book, a meal, your children, life, a walk – is fantastic" and expressing optimism as she looked to the rest of her seventh decade, stating "'I like to have a big open canvas. I am a glass-half-full person. Something will turn up, you know, and whatever it is it'll be fine.'"[2]


Year Title Role
1959The Cat GangSylvia
Carry On TeacherSchoolgirl
1960No KiddingPriscilla
His and HersWanda
West 11Phyl
1964Murder Most FoulSheila Upward
Saturday Night OutJean
Crooks in CloistersJune
The Eyes of Annie JonesAnnie Jones
Flipper's New AdventureGwen
1965The Pleasure GirlsSally
1966Run with the WindJean Packer
1970The Walking StickArabella Dainton
1971MacbethLady Macbeth
1973Penny GoldDelphi/Diane
1978The Comedy of ErrorsLuciana
1980Why Didn't They Ask Evans?Lady Frances Derwent
1982Coming Out of the IceGalina
1983KrullWidow of the Web
1984DuneLady Jessica
1986Under The Cherry MoonMrs. Wellington
1994Doomsday GunSophie
1999The Debt CollectorVal Dryden
2002CopenhagenMargrethe Bohr
2004The LibertineCountess
2005RevolverLily Walker
2012Loving Miss HattoJoyce
2018King Of ThievesLynne Reader

Selected stage appearances

Selected television appearances

Year Title Role Notes
1960BBC Sunday-Night PlayAnne Miller(Episode: "The Wind and the Sun")
Probation OfficerJudy Bealle1 episode
1962ITV Play of the WeekMargery Hamilton(Episode: "The Gentle Assassi")
1964Danger ManSheila/Judy(Episodes: "No Marks For Servility"
"That's Two of Us Sorry")
The Human JungleMary(Episode: "Wild Goose Chase")
1965ITV Play of the WeekChristine Burrows(Episode: "An Aspidistra in Babylon")
1966The SaintMaria(Episode: "Locate and Destroy")
ITV Play of the WeekCatherine(Episode: "A View from the Bridge")
1967Great ExpectationsEstella
1972Stage 2Solveig
1973A Pin to See the PeepshowJulia Almond
1974The Wood DemonHelen
1975Madame BovaryEmma Bovary
1975Edward the SeventhLillie Langtry(Episodes 7 "Dearest Prince" and 8 "The Royal Quadrille")
1978LillieLillie Langtry
1980Why Didn't They Ask Evans?Lady Frances "Frankie" Derwent
1983The Secret AdversaryPrudence Cowley
Agatha Christie's Partners in CrimePrudence "Tuppence" Beresford
1984I'll Take ManhattanLily Davina Adamsfield
1985Magnum P.I.Penelope St. Clair(Episode: "Deja Vu")
1986Inside StoryPaula Croxley
1991Parnell and the EnglishwomanKatharine O'Shea
1993Between the LinesAngela Berridge
1996Dalziel and PascoeBonnie Fielding(Episode: "An Autumn Shroud")
1998RecklessAnna Fairley
1999Wives and DaughtersHyacinth Gibson
2005JerichoLady Clare Wellesley
2006Jane EyreLady Ingram
2007Agatha Christie's MarpleLady Selina Hazy(Episode: At Bertram's Hotel)
CranfordLady Ludlow
2009Return to CranfordLady Ludlow
2010The Little HouseElizabeth
2015–2016Home FiresJoyce Cameron11 episodes

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1974BAFTA TV AwardBest ActressA Pin to See the PeepshowNominated
1976BAFTA TV AwardBest ActressMadame BovaryNominated
1977Olivier AwardBest Actress in a RevivalTroilus and CressidaNominated
1979BAFTA TV AwardBest ActressLillieWon
1998BAFTA TV AwardBest ActressRecklessNominated
1999BAFTA TV AwardBest ActressRecklessNominated
2000BAFTA TV AwardBest ActressWives and DaughtersNominated


  1. Birthdays,, 14 May 2008; accessed 12 August 2014.
  2. "Francesca Annis interview". Telegraph. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  3. Ciara Dwyer. "Fine without Fiennes". Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  4. "Francesca Annis, actor – portrait of the artist | Film". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  5. Diary, 16 February 1971: The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan (ed. John Lahr, 2001)
  6. Matt Wolf (4 October 2005). "Epitaph for George Dillon". Variety. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  7. Michael Billington (5 May 2009). "Theatre review: Time and the Conways / Lyttelton, London | Stage". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  8. Sheldon, Michael (14 August 2003). "'I'm not afraid to take risks'". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 30 December 2011.
  9. Hoggard, Liz (12 February 2006). "Francesca Annis: Pretty woman – Profiles – People". The Independent. Retrieved 30 August 2015.
  10. Hoggard, Liz (12 February 2006). "Francesca Annis: Pretty woman – Profiles – People – The Independent". Archived from the original on 10 May 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-30.
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