Judy Parfitt

Judy Catherine Claire Parfitt (born 7 November 1935)[2] is an English theatre, film and television actress. She made her film debut in a minor supporting part in Information Received (1961), followed by supporting role in the BBC television serial David Copperfield (1966). She also appeared as Queen Gertrude in Tony Richardson's 1969 film adaptation of Hamlet.

Judy Parfitt
Parfitt in The Avengers (1968)
Judy Catherine Claire Parfitt

(1935-11-07) 7 November 1935[1]
Sheffield, England, United Kingdom
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Tony Steedman
(m. 1963; his death 2001)

Later credits include as Vera Donovan in the Stephen King film adaptation of Dolores Claiborne (1995), and in Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003), the latter for which she earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Beginning in 2012, Parfitt has starred on the drama series Call the Midwife as Sister Monica Joan.

Early life

Parfitt was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire in 1935[1] to Catherine Josephine (née Caulton) and Lawrence Hamilton Parfitt.[3] As a teenager, she attended Notre Dame High School for Girls and later trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating in 1953.[4]


Parfitt began her career in theatre in 1954, appearing in a production of Fools Rush In at the Amersham Repertory Company.[5]

In 1971, she appeared in the Hammer television film Journey to Murder, opposite Joseph Cotten and hosted by Joan Crawford.[6] In 1978, Parfitt appeared opposite Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright and Frank Finlay in the episode "Saturday, Sunday, Monday" of Laurence Olivier Presents. In 1981 she created the role of Eleanor in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Peter Nichols' Passion Play. In 1984 she played Deidre in Jack Rosenthal's The Chain. In 1987, she appeared in Maurice.

Two of her most notable past roles are Mildred Layton in The Jewel in the Crown (1984; for which she received her first BAFTA nomination) and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the 1980 TV serial version of Pride and Prejudice. In 1995, she portrayed Kathy Bates' former, domineering employer in Dolores Claiborne, who is dying in present-time, but is seen as a vibrant, glowing woman in flashback sequences.

She has appeared in some American television shows, beginning with her regular role as Snow White's Stepmother, Evil Queen Lillian "Lily" White in the series The Charmings. Parfitt's real-life husband Tony Steedman guest-starred as Santa Claus in The Charmings' second season Christmas special. She appeared on an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1989, and as the mother of Dr Elizabeth Corday (played by Alex Kingston) on several episodes of ER in 2002.[7]

Parfitt played Lady Mount-Temple in the biopic film Wilde, alongside Stephen Fry, Vanessa Redgrave and Gemma Jones in 1997. In 2003, she played Maria Thins in Girl with a Pearl Earring. The role earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.[7]

She played the domineering American dowager, Mrs van Schuyler, opposite David Suchet, James Fox, Frances de la Tour and David Soul in a feature-length episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot in the 2004 edition of Death on the Nile. In 2008, she appeared as the primary villainess in Little Dorrit, as the cruel Mrs Clennam, alongside Alun Armstrong, Sue Johnston and Matthew Macfadyen. At Christmas 2011, she appeared in a small role similar to that which she portrayed in Little Dorrit as Aunt Chastity along with Una Stubbs and Phyllida Law in The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff.[8]

In 2012, she began appearing in the BBC TV series Call the Midwife as Sister Monica Joan, an elderly nun who is suffering from the early stages of dementia.[9] The character has a strong educational background, particularly in classical literature, and her apparently random quotes are often used in the programme as a way of reflecting on the unfolding drama.[7][10] She has also appeared in BBC’s spy tale, The Game; a film, Hello Carter; a Radio 4 show, Tom Wrigglesworth's Hang-Ups; and Jessica Hynes’s suffragette sitcom Up the Women.[7]

Personal life

In 1963 Parfitt and actor Tony Steedman married in Harrow, Middlesex. He died in 2001. The couple had one child, a son, David.[7]



Year Title Role Notes
1956A Likely TaleUrsula BludgeonTelevision film
1962Information ReceivedJune Clifford
1964Hide and SeekChauffeur
1966David CopperfieldRosa Dartle
1967Angel PavementLilian MatfieldTelevision film
1967Escape in TimeVesta
1969HamletQueen Gertrude
1970The Mind of Mr. SoamesJenny Bannerman
1971Journey to Murder (Do Me a Favor and Kill Me)Faith WheelerTelevision film
1972The EdwardiansE. NesbitTelevision film
1974Alice Through the Looking GlassRed Queen
1974GalileoAngelica Sarti
1979Secret OrchardsMuriel PerryTelevision film
1980Death of a PrincessElsa Gruber
1983Office Romances Pam IvygaleTelevision film
1983ChampionsDr. Merrow
1984The ChainDeirdre
1985CovenantRenata BeckTelevision film
1987MauriceMrs. Durham
1989Diamond SkullsLady CrewneAlso known as Dark Obsession
1989Getting It RightLady Stella Munday
1991King RalphQueen Katherine
1993The Return of the BorrowersMrs. PlatterTelevision film
1995Dolores ClaiborneVera Donovan
1995Heavy WeatherLady Constance Keeble
1996Element of DoubtGenevieve
1996Goodbye My Love Ruth
1996September VerenaTelevision film
1997WildeLady Mount-Temple
1998Ever AfterQueen Marie
2000Falling Through Ambassador
2003Girl with a Pearl EarringMaria ThinsNominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
2003Hearts of GoldIsobel JohnTelevision film
2004The Aryan CoupleRachel Krauzenberg
2005AsylumBrenda Raphael
2008Dean SpanleyMrs. Brimley
2008My Talks with Dean SpanleyMrs. Brimley
2011The Bleak Old Shop of StuffAunt ChastityTelevision film
2011W.E.Queen Mary
2012The Moth DiariesMrs. Rood
2013Hello CarterAunt Miriam


Year Title Role Notes
1962The AvengersMiss EllisEpisode: "Bullseye"
1963The Odd ManLisa KappEpisode: "Portrait of Caroline"
1963The Sentimental AgentSally ClareEpisode: "The Height of Fashion"
1965Public EyeMarion HordernEpisode: "But the Joneses Never Get Letters"
1965Out of the UnknownMarieEpisode: "Time in Advance"
1965The Wednesday PlayDorothy GorbetEpisode: "Tomorrow, Just You Wait"
1965Z-CarsChristina HainesEpisode: "But the Crying..."
1967The SaintAnne LiskardEpisode: "The Persistent Patriots"
1967The AvengersVestaEpisode: "Escape in Time"
1967Adam Adamant Lives!IreynaEpisode: "Black Echo"
1967Les MisérablesMme. Thenardier5 episodes
1967Angel PavementLilian Matfield4 episodes
1968Dixon of Dock GreenMary DewarEpisode: "The Attack"
1968The AvengersLorisEpisode: "Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?"
1969Journey to the UnknownFaith WheelerEpisode: "Do Me a Favor and Kill Me"
1973Play for TodayEpisode: "Like the Filmstar"
1973The ProtectorsLena HaydenEpisode: "Lena"
1974Shoulder to ShoulderLady Constance LyttonEpisode: "Lady Constance Lytton"
1975Crown CourtPauline FanshaweEpisode: "The Healing Hand: Part 1"
1976–82Crown CourtGillian Forrest QC16 episodes
1978Rumpole of the BaileyAnna AspenEpisode: "Rumpole and the Honourable Member"
1978Laurence Olivier PresentsN/AUnknown episodes
1979Malice AforethoughtJulia Bickleigh2 episodes
1980Pride and PrejudiceLady Catherine de Bourgh2 episodes
1980A Tale of Two CitiesMadame Defarge7 episodes
1981Yes MinisterBetty OldhamEpisode: "A Question of Loyalty"
1984The Jewel in the CrownMildred Layton9 episodes
Nominated—BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress
1986Mr PyeMiss Dredger4 episodes
1987–88The CharmingsQueen Lillian White21 episodes
1989Murder, She WrotePeggy BrooksEpisode: "From Russia...with Blood"
1993The Alleyn MysteriesLady O'CallaghanEpisode: "The Nursing Home Murder"
1997Holding the BabyMargaretEpisode: "#1.7"
1998Berkeley SquareLady HarmonsworthEpisode: "Ladybird, Ladybird"
1999Midsomer MurdersAngela WentworthEpisode: "Death's Shadow"
2000–02ERIsabelle Corday7 episodes
2001Murder in MindMargaret CollinsEpisode: "Mercy"
2004Agatha Christie's PoirotMiss Van SchuylerEpisode: "Death on the Nile"
2004The Long FirmLady Ruth ThursbyEpisode: "Teddy's Story"
2005FunlandMercy Woolf11 episodes
2008HeartbeatLady VeroniqueEpisode: "Danse Macabre"
2008Little DorritMrs. Clennam12 episodes
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
2008Midsomer MurdersCaroline HalseyEpisode: "Days of Misrule"
2009Jonathan CreekConstance GesslerEpisode: "The Grinning Man"
2012–19Call the MidwifeSister Monica Joan50 episodes
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
2012The SyndicateMaureenEpisode: "#1.2"
2012VeraMaggieEpisode: "A Certain Samaritan"
2013Agatha Chritie's MarpleCicely BeauclerkEpisode: "Greenshaw's Folly
2015The GameHester Waterhouse5 episodes

Awards and nominations

BAFTA Film Awards

Other awards
  • 2009 - Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television - as Mrs Clennam in Little Dorrit - nominated
  • 2014 - Satellite Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television - as Sister Monica Joan in Call the Midwife - nominated


  1. Year of birth: 1935, findmypast.co.uk; accessed 28 June 2014.
  2. "England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008," database, FamilySearch (1 October 2014), Judy C C Parfitt, 1935; from "England & Wales Births, 1837-2006," database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
  3. Judy Parfitt profile, Film Reference.com; accessed 28 June 2014.
  4. "Judy Parfitt". RADA. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  5. "Judy Parfitt profile". Film Reference. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  6. Cotter 2013, p. 145.
  7. Judy Parfitt on IMDb
  8. "The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff". BBC. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  9. Wilson, Benji (19 January 2014). "Call the Midwife's Judy Parfitt: "All the old tarts gainfully employed"". The Telegraph.
  10. Wilson, Benji (19 January 2014). "Daily Telegraph". Retrieved 18 February 2015.

Works cited

  • Cotter, Robert Michael Bobb (2013). The Women of Hammer Horror: A Biographical Dictionary and Filmography. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-47208-6.
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