Dame Harriet Mary Walter (born 24 September 1950) is an English stage and screen actress. Her film appearances include Sense and Sensibility (1995), The Governess (1998), Villa des Roses (2002), Atonement (2007) and Man Up (2015). On television she starred as Natalie Chandler in the ITV drama series Law & Order: UK (2009–14), as Lady Prudence Shackleton in four episodes of Downton Abbey (2013–15), and as Clementine Churchill in The Crown (2016). She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2011 for services to drama.
Walter discussing the role of women in Shakespeare, January 2009
Harriet Mary Walter
24 September 1950
|Alma mater||London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art|
Guy Schuessler (m. 2011)
|Relatives||Christopher Lee (maternal uncle)|
John Walter (great-great-great-grandfather)
Walter began her career in 1974 and made her Broadway debut in 1983. For her work in various Royal Shakespeare Company productions, including Twelfth Night (1987–88) and Three Sisters (1988), she won the 1988 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival. Her other notable work for the RSC includes leading roles in Macbeth (1999) and Antony and Cleopatra (2006). She won the Evening Standard Award for Best Actress for her role as Elizabeth I in the 2005 London revival of Mary Stuart, and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Play when she reprised the role on Broadway in 2009. She reprised her roles of Brutus in Julius Caesar (2012) and the title role in Henry IV (2014), as well as playing Prospero in The Tempest, as part of an all-female Shakespeare trilogy in 2016.
Walter was born in London, England. She is the niece of renowned British actor Sir Christopher Lee, being the daughter of his elder sister Xandra Lee. On her father's side, she is a great-great-great-granddaughter of John Walter, founder of The Times. She was educated at Cranborne Chase School. After turning down a university education, she was in turn rejected by five different drama schools before being admitted to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Following her training she gained early experience with the Joint Stock Theatre Company, Paines Plough touring, and the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster. Her partner, until his death in 2004, was actor Peter Blythe. On 21 May 2011 she married Guy Schuessler, an American actor (whose stage name is Guy Paul).
She has worked many times throughout her career with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in productions including Nicholas Nickleby (1980), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1981), as Helena in All's Well That Ends Well (1981), The Castle (1985), Dasha in A Question of Geography, Viola in Twelfth Night (1988), Masha in Three Sisters (1988), The Duchess of Malfi (1989), Macbeth (1999) and Much Ado about Nothing (2002). She returned to the RSC in 2015 to play Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman, directed by Gregory Doran.
She was made an associate artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1987. Her other theatre work includes Three Birds Alighting on a Field (1991), Arcadia (1993), Hedda Gabler (1996), Ivanov (1997) and Mary Stuart (2005).
In New York, she made her Broadway debut in 1983, when the RSC production of All's Well That Ends Well transferred there. In 1993 she starred as Biddy in the Off-Broadway production of Three Birds Alighting on a Field, for which she received a Drama Desk Award nomination. She returned to the Broadway stage in 2009 when she and Janet McTeer reprised their roles in Mary Stuart. In 2014 Walter starred as Brutus in an all-female production of Julius Caesar Off-Broadway and received her second Drama Desk nomination.
Her films include Sense and Sensibility (1995), Bedrooms and Hallways (1998), The Governess (1998), Onegin (1999), Villa des Roses (2002) and Bright Young Things (2003). On television, in 1987, she portrayed Lord Peter Wimsey's love interest Harriet Vane for three instalments of the BBC's A Dorothy L. Sayers Mystery, played Detective Inspector Natalie Chandler from 2009–12 in the ITV drama series Law & Order: UK. Other TV roles include Mrs. Gowan in the 2008 BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit, Clare in A Short Stay in Switzerland (2009) and Lady Shackleton in three episodes of the series Downton Abbey (2013–15). In 2016, she played Clementine Churchill on the Netflix series The Crown, and in 2017, appeared in two episodes of the BBC drama Call the Midwife as Sister Ursula.
She is also a patron of several notable charities; the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres, Prisoners Abroad, a charity that supports the welfare of Britons imprisoned overseas and their families and Clean Break, a charity and theatre company dedicated to sharing the often hidden stories of imprisoned women, and to transforming the lives of women offenders and—through theatre education—of women at risk of offending.
Walter played Brutus in Julius Caesar in 2012, and the title role in Henry IV in 2014, in all-female productions at the Donmar Warehouse. Both productions transferred to Brooklyn's St. Ann's Warehouse in New York. She is set to reprise both roles, as well as playing Prospero in an all-female production of The Tempest, as part of director Phyllida Lloyd's Shakespeare trilogy at the Donmar's temporary, in-the-round, 420-seat theatre next to King's Cross station in 2016.
She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2000 New Year Honours and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to drama.
|1988||A Question of Geography / Twelfth Night / Three Sisters||Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Revival||Won|
|1994||Three Birds Alighting on a Field||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play||Nominated|
|2001||Life x 3||Olivier Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2005||Mary Stuart||Evening Standard Award for Best Actress||Won|
|2006||Mary Stuart||Olivier Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2009||Mary Stuart||Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play||Nominated|
|2014||Julius Caesar||Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play||Nominated|
Stage – notable performances
- 1979 Royal Shakespeare Company "Midsummer Night's Dream"
- 1981/82, Royal Shakespeare Company, Helena in All's Well That Ends Well
- 1987/88, Royal Shakespeare Company, Imogen in Cymbeline
- 1987/88, Royal Shakespeare Company, Viola in Twelfth Night
- 1987/88, Royal Shakespeare Company, Dacha in A Question of Geography
- 1988, Royal Shakespeare Company, Masha in Chekhov'sThree Sisters
- 1989/90, Royal Shakespeare Company, Duchess in John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi
- 1991, Royal Court Theatre (and Broadway transfer), Biddy in Timberlake Wertenbaker's "Three Birds Alighting on a Field"
- 1993, Royal National Theatre, Lady Croom in Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
- 1999 Royal Shakespeare Company, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth
- 2002 Royal National Theatre Paige in Dinner by Moira Buffini, co-starring Nicholas Farrell and Catherine McCormack.
- 2005, Donmar Warehouse and West End, Mary Stuart by Schiller
- 2006, Royal Shakespeare Company, Antony and Cleopatra
- 2009, Mary Stuart, Broadway transfer
- 2010, Royal National Theatre, Women Beware Women
- 2012/13 Donmar Warehouse, Brutus in Julius Caesar
- 2014, Donmar Warehouse, King Henry IV in Henry IV.
- 2015, Royal Shakespeare Company and the Noël Coward Theatre, Linda Loman in Death of a Salesman
- Rebecca (1979) – Clarice
- Play for Today – "The Imitation Game" (1980) – Cathy Raine
- Amy (1984) – Amy Johnson
- The Price (1985, miniseries) – Frances Carr
- Strong Poison (1987) – Harriet Vane
- Have His Carcase (1987) – Harriet Vane
- Gaudy Night (1987) – Harriet Vane
- La Nuit Miraculeuse (1989)
- Ashenden (1991, miniseries) – Giulia Lazzari
- The Men's Room (1991) – Charity Walton
- Bye Bye Columbus (1991) – Queen Isabella
- The Hour of the Pig (1993) – Jeannine Martin
- Inspector Morse – "The Day of the Devil" (1993) – Dr. Esther Martin
- The Maitlands (1993) – Dorothy Maitland
- Hard Times (1994) – Rachel
- A Dance to the Music of Time: segment two (1997, miniseries) – Mildred Blaides
- Norman Ormal: A Very Political Turtle (1998) – Felicity Ormal
- Unfinished Business (1998, TV series) – Amy
- The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns (1999) – Queen Morag
- Dalziel and Pascoe "Time to Go" (1999) – Mary Waddell
- Black Cab – "Busy Body" (2000) – Jane
- Waking the Dead – "A Simple Sacrifice" (2001) – Annie Keel
- My Uncle Silas II (2003) – Pamela Farrell
- Spooks – aka MI-5 (USA) – "Who Guards the Guards?" (2004) – Deep Throat
- Messiah - "The Harrowing" (2005) – Prof Robb
- New Tricks – Episode No. 2.3 (2005) – Madeline
- Midsomer Murders – "Orchis Fatalis" (2005) – Margaret Winstanley
- Agatha Christie's Marple – "Sleeping Murder" (2006) – Duchess
- Ballet Shoes (2007) – Dr Smith
- Cat Among the Pigeons (2008) – Honoria Bulstrode
- Little Dorrit (2008) – Mrs. Gowan
- The Palace (2008) – Joanna Woodward
- A Short Stay in Switzerland - Clare
- Law & Order: UK (2009–12) – Detective Inspector Natalie Chandler
- Midsomer Murders – "Death and the Divas" (2013) – Diana Davenport
- Downton Abbey (2013–15) – The Dowager Lady Shackleton
- By Any Means (2013)
- Law & Order: UK (2014) – Detective Inspector Natalie Chandler
- London Spy (2015) – Claire
- The Crown (2016) – Clementine Churchill
- Call the Midwife (2017) – Sister Ursula
- Black Sails (2017) – Marion Guthrie
- My Dinner with Hervé (2018) – Baskin
- Patrick Melrose (2018) – Princess Margaret
- Flowers (2018) – Hylda
- Black Earth Rising (2018) – Eve Ashby
- Succession (2018-) - Lady Caroline Collingwood
- The Spanish Princess (2019) - Lady Margaret Beaufort
- Killing Eve (2020) -
- Reflections (1984) – Ottilie Garinger
- The Good Father (1985) – Emmy Hooper
- Turtle Diary (1985) – Harriet Sims (bookstore clerk)
- Milou en mai (1990) – Lily
- They Never Slept (1990) – Amelia Cleverly
- A Man You Don't Meet Every Day (1994) – Charlotte
- Sense and Sensibility (1995) – Fanny Dashwood
- The Leading Man (1996) – Liz Flett
- Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1997) – Julia Comstock
- Bedrooms and Hallways (1998) – Sybil
- The Governess (1998) – Mrs. Cavendish
- Onegin (1999) – Mme. Larina
- Villa des Roses (2002) – Olive
- Bright Young Things (2003) – Lady Metroland
- Chromophobia (2005) – Penelope Aylesbury
- Babel (2006) – Lilly
- Atonement (2007) – Emily Tallis
- Cheri (2009) – La Loupiote
- The Young Victoria (2009) – Queen Adelaide
- Morris: A Life with Bells On (2009) – Professor Compton Chamberlayne
- From Time to Time (2009) – Lady Gresham
- A Royal Affair (2012) – Augusta, Princess of Wales
- The Wedding Video (2012) – Alex
- Man Up (2015) – Fran
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – Kalonia
- Denial (2016) – Vera Reich
- Mindhorn (2016) – Agent
- The Sense of an Ending (2017) – Margaret Webster
- Rocketman (2019) - Helen Piena (Elton John's piano teacher)
- Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation
- The Vortex by Noël Coward, BBC Radio 3, 2 January 2000, as Florence Lancaster
- Scenes of Seduction, radio play written by Timberlake Wertenbaker and directed by Ned Chaillet, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 7 March 2005 – Catherine.
- Desmond Olivier Dingle (as herself), broadcast on BBC7 on 28 February 2007, episode 2 of 6, duration 30 minutes
- The Arts and How they was done (as herself), broadcast on BBC Radio 4 between 4 April and 9 May 2007, episodes 1 and 6 out of 6, duration 30 minutes
- I, Claudius, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 December 2010 – Livia, wife of Augustus.
- Guest in Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4 on 26 June 2011.
- Time and the Conways as Mrs. Conway in BBC Radio 3's adaptation of J.B. Priestley's play, broadcast on 14 September 2014.
- Clamorous Voices: Shakespeare's Women Today (1988). Women's Press, ISBN 0-7043-4145-X.
- Players of Shakespeare 3 (1994). Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-47734-5.
- Macbeth (Actors on Shakespeare) (2002). Faber and Faber, London. ISBN 0-571-21407-X
- Other People's Shoes (2003). Nick Hern Books, London. ISBN 1-85459-751-5. Autobiography.
- Facing It, Reflections on images of older women (2010). Self Published, London. ISBN 978-0-9566497-1-3
- Brutus and Other Heroines: Playing Shakespeare's Roles for Women (2016). Nick Hern Books, London. ISBN 978-1-84842-293-3
- Fox, Chloe (3 February 2007). "The world of Harriet Walter, actress". The Daily Telegraph. London
- : 8 April 2011 07:49 (8 April 2011). "News: Stationers celebrate Times links". InPublishing. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Aida Edemariam (15 January 2011). "Life's looking up, Dame Harriet". London: The Guardian.
- "Walter, Harriet Mary". Who's Who. Oxford, England: A & C Black. 1995.
- Shorter, Eric (6 August 2004). "Obituary: Peter Blythe". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
- Culture (11 May 2011). "Harriet Walter: 'Why I am getting married at 60'". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- "Dame Harriet Walter | Shakespeare Schools Festival". Ssf.uk.com. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Petski, Denise (19 August 2019). "'Killing Eve': Harriet Walter & Danny Sapani Join Cast As Production Begins On Season 3". Deadline. Retrieved 19 August 2019.
- "No. 59647". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2010. p. 6.
- "Billy Elliot musical dominates Broadway's Tony award shortlist". The Guardian. London. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
- "Olivier Winners 1988". The Official London Theatre Guide. 24 April 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2010.
- "BBC News report on critical reception". 5 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- Corry, John (15 August 1986). "TV WEEKEND; 'THE PRICE,' A SERIES FROM BRITAIN, ON 13". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- Ward, Jason (6 December 2015). "Christopher Lee's niece Dame Harriet Mary Walter cast in Star Wars: The Force Awakens?". Making Star Wars. Retrieved 21 December 2016.
- "Scenes of Seduction · British Universities Film & Video Council". Bufvc.ac.uk. 7 March 2005. Retrieved 13 February 2013.