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Katherine Patricia Routledge, CBE (born 17 February 1929) is an English actress and singer. In addition to her roles in British television, she has had a long and successful career in musical theatre, as well as in film.

Early life and education

Routledge was born in Birkenheadmarker. She was educated at Mersey Park Primary Schoolmarker, Birkenhead High Schoolmarker, an independent girls' school, and the University of Liverpoolmarker. She trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Schoolmarker and launched her acting career at the Liverpool Playhousemarker.


Routledge has had a prolific career in theatre, particularly musical theatre, in the UKmarker and the USmarker. Her West Endmarker credits include Little Mary Sunshine, Cowardy Custard, Virtue in Danger, Noises Off, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Solid Gold Cadillac, as well as a number of less successful vehicles.

Routledge made her Broadwaymarker debut in the short-lived 1968 musical Darling of the Day, for which she won a Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical, sharing the honour with Leslie Uggams of Hallelujah, Baby!. Following Darling of the Day, Routledge had roles in several more unsuccessful Broadwaymarker productions including a musical called Love Match, in which she played Queen Victoria; the legendary 1976 Leonard Bernstein flop, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in which she portrayed every First Lady from Abigail Adams to Eleanor Roosevelt; and a 1981 musical called Say Hello to Harvey, based on the Mary Coyle Chase play Harvey, which closed in Torontomarker before reaching New York.

In 1980, Routledge played Ruth in the Joseph Papp production of The Pirates of Penzance co-starring American actor Kevin Kline and pop vocalist Linda Ronstadt, at the Delacorte Theatremarker in New York Citymarker's Central Parkmarker, one of the series of Shakespeare in the Park summer events. The show was a hit and transferred to Broadway the following January, but Estelle Parsons replaced Routledge. A DVD of the Central Parkmarker production, with Routledge, was released in October 2002.

She played the role of Nettie Fowler to great acclaim in the 1993 London production of Carousel. In a 2006 Hampstead Theatremarker production of The Best of Friends, based on a book by Hugh Whitemore, she portrayed Dame Laurentia McLachlan, OSB. The play focused on her friendships with Sir Sydney Cockerell and George Bernard Shaw. In 2008 she played Queen Mary in Royce Ryton's play Crown Matrimonial.

Film and television

Routledge's screen credits include To Sir, with Love (1967), Pretty Polly (1967), The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom (1968), and Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the River (1968).

Routledge's early television appearances included roles in Steptoe and Son. Firstly in the 1970 episode "Steptoe and Son — and Son!" as the virtuous mother of Harold's illegitimate son, and then later in the episode "Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard" as a clairvoyant called Madame Fontana in 1974. She also appeared in Coronation Streetmarker, and as a white witch in Doctor at Large (1971).However, she did not come to prominence on television until she featured in monologues written for her by Alan Bennett from 1978 (A Visit from Miss Protheroe) and later Victoria Wood in the 1980s. She firstly appeared in Alan Bennett's A Woman of No Importance in 1982, and then as the opinionated Kitty in Victoria Wood As Seen On TV in 1985. She performed two further monologues in Bennett's Talking Heads in 1987 and 1998.

In 1990, Routledge landed the role of Hyacinth Bucket in the comedy series Keeping Up Appearances. She portrayed a former working-class woman with social pretensions (insisting her surname be pronounced "bouquet") and delusions of grandeur (her oft-mentioned but never-seen "candlelight suppers"). She was nominated for two BAFTA TV Awards in 1992 and 1993. The series ended at Routledge's request in 1995.

In 1995, Routledge accepted the lead in another long-running series, the mystery drama Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, which co-starred rising star Dominic Monaghan as her assistant. It first aired in January 1996, and ran until the Autumn of 1998, with one special episode in 1999. She has also played several real-life characters on television including Barbara Pym and Hildegard of Bingen.

In 2001, Routledge starred in Anybody's Nightmare, a fact-based television drama in which she played a piano teacher who served four years in prison for murdering her elderly aunt but was acquitted following a retrial.

Radio and audio books

Routledge's extensive radio credits include several Alan Bennett plays and the BBC dramatisation of Carole Hayman's Ladies of Letters, in which she and Prunella Scales play retired women exchanging humorous correspondence over the course of several years. A tenth series of Ladies of Letters premiered on BBC Radio 4 in 2009.

Routledge has also recorded and released a variety of audiobooks including unabridged readings of Wuthering Heights and Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and abridged novelisations of the Hetty Wainthropp series.

In 1966 she sang the role of Mad Margaret in Ruddigore, the title role in Iolanthe, and Melissa in Princess Ida, in a series of BBC radio Gilbert and Sullivan recordings. She took part in a studio broadcast of Tchaikovsky's opera Vakula the Smith (narrating excerpts from Gogol) in 1990. In 2006 she was featured in a programme of the 'Stage and Screen' series on Radio 3.

She was appointed OBE in 1993, and CBE in 2004.


  1. Patricia Routledge - Unsung Heroines, Musical
  2. Stage and Screen 27 November 2006

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