Nicholas Hannen (actor)

Nicholas James "Beau" Hannen OBE (mil) (1 May 1881 25 June 1972) was a British actor of the early and mid-20th century who acted in a number of stage plays and films.[1][2]

Birth and early life

Hannen was born on 1 May 1881 at No. 40 Westbourne Park Road, London, England.[3] He was brought up in Yokohama and Shanghai where his father, Sir Nicholas John Hannen was serving, first as Judge of the British Court for Japan (1881–1891) and then Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court for China and Japan (1891–1900) as well as Consul-General in Shanghai (1891–1897). He attended Radley College from 1895 to 1900 where he was a member of the rowing eight.[4] His uncle, James Hannen was also a noted English judge.

Sir Nicholas Hannen died, in 1900, at the young age of 58 in Shanghai just before Beau turned 19. Sir Nicholas was given a funeral with full honours including a full honour guard from the crew of HMS Hermione then in harbour in Shanghai and the pallbearers at his funeral were from the crew of the boat.[5]

Architecture apprenticeship

From 1902 to 1905 Beau Hannen worked in the offices of the famous architect Edwin Lutyens as an apprentice. Lutyens designed a columbarium – the Hannen Columbarium – for the Hannen family that was completed in 1907. It still stands to this day in the graveyard of St Mary's Churchyard in Wargrave.[6] In 1907 his mother, Jessie (née Woodhouse), died and her ashes as well as his father's were interred in the columbarium.

Marriages and descendants

Hannen married Muriel Morland, the daughter of the late Sir Henry and Lady Morland in 1907.[7] They had two daughters and a son. One of his daughters, Hermione Hannen, was born in 1913 and presumably named after HMS Hermione.[8] She also went on to have a successful acting career and was married twice, firstly to Anthony Quayle and later to Clifford Evans. Another daughter, Jane Hannen, also became an actress and spouse of the film producer Alexandre Mnouchkine.[9]

His son, Peter (1908, London - 21 January 1932, London), also became an actor (A Honeymoon Adventure (1931) and The Water Gipsies (1932)), but died at the age of 23 in 1932.[10][11]

In 1922 Hannen met the actress Athene Seyler (1889–1990) and they started living together. His first wife refused him a divorce, so they were not able to marry until 1960, after his first wife had died. Seyler, however, had changed her name by deed poll to Hannen in 1928.[12]

Service in the First World War

Hannen was commissioned into the Army Service Corps in 1915 and during his wartime service was mentioned in despatches and awarded an OBE in the 1919 Birthday Honours for valuable service rendered in connection with military operations in France.[13]

Acting career

In 1910 Hansen became a professional actor.

He also appeared in close to 50 stage plays in London, including Henry VIII and The Importance of Being Earnest.[14]

Hannen performed in at least 26 films between 1931 and 1960, including Richard III as the Archbishop and Henry V as the Duke of Exeter.[2]

In 1933, Hannen and Seyler took a company, which included Hermione Hannen, on a well-received tour of Australia.[15]


Hannen died on 25 June 1972 in London and his ashes were interred in the Hannen Columbarium in St Mary's Churchyard, Wargrave. Upon her death, Athene Hannen's ashes were also interred in the columbarium.[16]


The Australian National Portrait Gallery website has a portrait of Hannen and Seyler together.

Selected filmography


  1. "Nicholas Hannen – Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB".
  2. "Nicholas Hannen". BFI.
  3. North China Herald, June 17, 1881, front page.
  4. "Register, 1847-1962 - 166.jpg - Radley College Archives".
  5. North China Herald, 2 May 1900 p785
  6. Lutyens and the Great War, Tim Skelton and Others, p81
  7. North China Herald, 8 November 1907, p327
  8. "Hermione Hannen (1913-1983) - Find A Grave Memorial".
  9. Dickson, Andrew (August 10, 2012). "Ariane Mnouchkine and the Théâtre du Soleil: a life in theatre" via
  10. "The_Radleian_No.521_February_1932_0003.jpg - Radley College Archives".
  11. Peter Hannen, Biography
  13. Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May 1933, p8
  14. "".
  15. "The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) - 6 May 1933 - p8". Trove.
  16. St Mary's Church, Wargrave, record of burials; search on Nicholas Hannen and Athene Seyler
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