Robert Hardy

Timothy Sydney Robert Hardy CBE FSA (29 October 1925 – 3 August 2017) was an English actor who had a long career in theatre, film and television. He began his career as a classical actor and later earned widespread recognition for roles such as Siegfried Farnon in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small, Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter film series and Winston Churchill in several productions, beginning with the Southern Television series Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years. He was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Actor for All Creatures Great and Small in 1980 and Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years in 1982. Aside from acting, Hardy was an acknowledged expert on the medieval English longbow and wrote two books on the subject.

Robert Hardy

Timothy Sydney Robert Hardy

(1925-10-29)29 October 1925
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
Died3 August 2017(2017-08-03) (aged 91)
Alma materMagdalen College, Oxford
Years active1958–2017
Elizabeth Fox (m. 19521956)

Sally Pearson (m. 19611986)

Early life

Hardy was born in Cheltenham in 1925 to Jocelyn (née Dugdale) and Henry Harrison Hardy,[1] the headmaster of Cheltenham College and later of Shrewsbury School. He was educated at Rugby School and Magdalen College, Oxford, where his studies were interrupted by service in the Royal Air Force during World War II. He trained as a pilot, receiving part of his instruction in Terrell,[2][3] Texas, in the British Flying Training School Program. While he visited Los Angeles[4] when on leave from flight training at Terrell, his later acting career never gained a foothold in Hollywood.[5] After service in the RAF, he returned to gain a BA (Hons) in English.[6] On BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs he described the degree he obtained as "shabby", although he treasured the time spent studying under C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.[7]


Hardy began his career as a classical actor. In 1959 he appeared as Sicinius opposite Laurence Olivier in Coriolanus at Stratford-upon-Avon, directed by Peter Hall.[8] He then appeared in Shakespeare's Henry V on stage and in television's An Age of Kings (1960), and subsequently played Coriolanus in The Spread of the Eagle (BBC, 1963) and Sir Toby Belch for the BBC Television Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night in 1980. Over the years, Hardy played a range of parts on television and film. His first continuing role in a TV series was as businessman Alec Stewart in the award-winning oil company drama The Troubleshooters for the BBC, which he played from 1966 to 1970. He won further acclaim for his portrayal of the mentally-unhinged Abwehr Sgt. Gratz in LWT's 1969 war drama Manhunt. In 1975, Hardy portrayed Albert, Prince Consort in the award-winning 13-hour serial Edward the Seventh (known as Edward the King to the American audience),[9] which he regarded as one of his best performances. "I thought I'd done a good job there, although I believe the Royal Family didn't like it all. There are always people who don't like what one does."[10]

He was seen as the irascible senior veterinarian Siegfried Farnon in the long-running All Creatures Great and Small (1978–90), an adaptation of James Herriot's semi-autobiographical books.[11]

Hardy also made an appearance in the 1986–88 ITV comedy series Hot Metal, in which he played the dual roles of newspaper proprietor Twiggy Rathbone (who bore more than a passing resemblance to Rupert Murdoch) and his editor, Russell Spam.[12] In 1993 Hardy appeared in an episode of Inspector Morse, playing Andrew Baydon in "Twilight of the Gods". In 1994, he played Arthur Brooke in the BBC production of Middlemarch. In 2002, he played the role of pompous and eccentric Professor Neddy Welch in a WTTV/WGBH Boston co-production of Lucky Jim, adapted from the novel by Kingsley Amis. It aired originally as part of the Masterpiece series on PBS in the U.S. and starred Stephen Tompkinson in the title role of Jim Dixon, a luckless lecturer at a provincial British university.[13]

Hardy played both Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, each on more than one occasion. He played Churchill most notably in Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981), for which he was nominated for a BAFTA award, but also in The Sittaford Mystery, Bomber Harris and War and Remembrance. On 20 August 2010, he read Churchill's famous wartime address "Never was so much owed by so many to so few" at a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the speech.[14] He played Roosevelt in the BBC serial, Bertie and Elizabeth, and in the French TV mini-series, Le Grand Charles, about the life of Charles de Gaulle.

He also played Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in Elizabeth R, and took the role of Sir John Middleton in the 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility.[9]

His big screen roles included Professor Krempe in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films.[11]

His voice performance as Robin Hood in Tale Spinners For Children, an LP from the 1960s, is considered one of the best Robin Hood renditions.[15] His voice was also the voice of D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers, and of Frédéric Chopin, in The Story of Chopin.[16]


Hardy was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1981 Birthday Honours.[17]

Personal life

His first marriage, in 1952, was to Elizabeth Fox, the daughter of Sir Lionel Fox; they had a son, Paul.[9] This marriage ended in 1956. In 1961 he married Sally Pearson, the daughter of the baronet Sir Neville Pearson and Dame Gladys Cooper as well as a sister-in-law of Robert Morley. From this marriage, which ended in 1986, Hardy had two other children,[9] one of whom is Justine Hardy, a journalist, activist, and psychotherapist who founded Healing Kashmir.[18][19] His daughter, Emma, is a mother of three and a photographer.

He was a close friend of actor Richard Burton, whom he met at Oxford University.[17] He shared some memories of their wartime friendship and read extracts from Burton's newly-published diaries at the Cheltenham Literature Festival in 2012.[20]

While playing Henry V, Hardy developed an interest in medieval warfare, and in 1963 he wrote and presented an acclaimed television documentary on the subject of the Battle of Agincourt.[21] He also wrote two books on the subject of the longbow, Longbow: A Social and Military History,[22] and The Great Warbow; From Hastings to the Mary Rose with Matthew Strickland.[23] He was one of the experts consulted by the archaeologist responsible for raising the Mary Rose. He was Master of the Worshipful Company of Bowyers of the City of London from 1988 to 1990. In 1996 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.[24]

In February 2013, Hardy withdrew from his scheduled performance as Winston Churchill in Peter Morgan's play, The Audience, after suffering cracked ribs as the result of a fall.[25]

Hardy died on 3 August 2017, aged 91, at Denville Hall, a home for retired actors.[11]

TV and filmography




  1. Robert Hardy Biography (1925–)
  2. Terrell Municipal Airporta
  3. "Goodbye To The Minister Of Magic, Actor Robert Hardy", Vivian Hughbanks, The Federalist, August 7, 2017,
  4. Robert Hardy's Path To 'Middlemarch' April 10, 1994 SUSAN KING
  5. Michael Coveney, "Robert Hardy Obituary", The Guardian, August 3, 2017
  6. Robert Hardy at oxford Retrieved 14 October 2012
  7. BBC Radio Four – broadcast 25 November 2011
  8. "ROB WILTON THEATRICALIA Stratford 1955–60". Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  9. Michael Coveney (3 August 2017). "Robert Hardy obituary". The Guardian.
  10. All Memories Great & Small, Oliver Crocker (2016; MIWK)
  11. "Harry Potter actor Robert Hardy dies at 91". BBC News. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  12. "Hot Metal – ITV Sitcom". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  13. Richard Bradford (19 April 2003). "Filming Lucky Jim". Spectator archive. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  14. Lawless, Jill. "70 years on from WWII, Britain remembers 'the few'". Associated Press. Retrieved 20 August 2010.
  15. "Tale Spinners for Children: Robin Hood" UAC 11001: "Starring Robert Hardy as Robin Hood with the Famous Theater Company and the Hollywood Studio Orchestra"; cf. also Arts Reformation.
  16. "Tale Spinners for Children", Wikipedia, 5 April 2019, retrieved 18 May 2019
  17. "Obituary: Robert Hardy". BBC New Online. Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  18. Meneses, Geeta Alvares (2009). "A Humane Being" (PDF). Libas International: 74. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 December 2016 via Justine Hardy website.
  19. "'Kashmiris have felt isolated during conflict'". The Times of India. 27 January 2010. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  20. Aled Thomas (4 August 2017). "Harry Potter actor Robert Hardy dies aged 91". GloucestershireLive.
  21. "The Picardy Affair". BBC. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  22. Longbow: A Social and Military History
  23. Sutton Publishing 2005. ISBN 0-7509-3167-1 ISBN 978-0750931670
  24. "List of Fellows – H". Society of Antiquaries of London. Archived from the original on 3 October 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  25. "Robert Hardy withdraws from Churchill role in Helen Mirren play". BBC News. BBC. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
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