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Sir Nigel Barnard Hawthorne, CBE (5 April 1929 – 26 December 2001) was an English actor, perhaps best remembered for his role as Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary in the sitcom Yes Minister and the Cabinet Secretary in its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister.

Early life

Hawthorne was born in Coventrymarker, Englandmarker, the son of Agnes Rosemary (née Rice) and Charles Barnard Hawthorne, a physician. He grew up in South Africa, where he was educated at St George's Grammar School, Cape Townmarker and Christian Brothers College. He enrolled at the University of Cape Townmarker but withdrew and returned to the United Kingdommarker in the 1950s to pursue a career in acting.


Hawthorne made his professional stage debut in 1950, playing Archie Fellows in a Cape Townmarker production of The Shop at Sly Corner.

In a long and varied career, which began with an advert for Mackeson stout and a bit part in Dad's Army, his most famous roles were as Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary of the fictional Department of Administrative Affairs in the television series Yes Minister (and Cabinet Secretary in its sequel, Yes, Prime Minister), for which he won four BAFTA awards, and as King George III in Alan Bennett's stage play The Madness of George III (Olivier Award) and the film adaptation, for which he received an Oscar nomination.


He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1987, and was knighted in 1999.

Personal life and death

An intensely private individual, he was upset at having been involuntarily "outed" as gay in 1995 in the publicity surrounding the Academy Awards, but he did attend the ceremony with his long-time partner Trevor Bentham, speaking openly about being gay in interviews and his autobiography, Straight Face, which was published posthumously.

Hawthorne had several operations for pancreatic cancer, although his immediate cause of death was from a heart attack, aged 72. He was survived by his partner, Trevor Bentham. He was buried at the Parish Church of Thundridge in Waremarker, Hertfordshiremarker.





  1. "Nigel Hawthorne Biography (1929–2001)" (Retrieved: 18 August 2009)
  2. "Biography for Nigel Hawthorne" (Retrieved: 18 August 2009)
  3. Barker, Dennis; "Sir Nigel Hawthorne", 27 December 2001 (Retrieved: 18 August 2009)
  4. Hubbard, Michael; "Straight Face by Nigel Hawthorne" (Retrieved: 18 August 2009)

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