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Robert Hardy CBE

 

Timothy Sydney Robert Hardy, CBE, FSA (born 29th October 1925) is an English actor with a long career in the theatre, film and television.

Hardy was born in Cheltenham, England, the son of Jocelyn (née Dugdale) and Henry Harrison Hardy. His father was headmaster of Cheltenham College. He was educated at Rugby School and Magdalen College, Oxford University, where his studies were interrupted by service in the Royal Air Force, after which he returned to gain a BA (Hons) in English.

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. 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 in 1980. Over the years, Hardy has 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 Prince Albert in the award-winning 13-hour serial Edward the Seventh.

He was seen as the senior veterinarian Siegfried Farnon in the long-running All Creatures Great and Small (1978–1990), an adaptation of James Herriot's novels.

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.

In 1993 Hardy appeared in an episode of Inspector Morse, playing Andrew Baydon in "Twilight of the Gods". Hardy played the part of the successful businessman with a murky wartime past with a characteristic blend of the vulnerable and the bombastic. 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 US and starred Stephen Tompkinson in the title role of Jim Dixon, a luckless lecturer at a provincial British university. In 2010 Hardy appeared in an episode of Lewis, playing Sir Malcolm in "Dark Matter".

Hardy holds the distinction of having 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 won a BAFTA award, but also in The Sittaford Mystery, Bomber Harris and War and Remembrance. 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.

Returning to his Churchill experience, 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.

He also played Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in Elizabeth R, and Prince Albert in Edward the Seventh (known as Edward the King to the American audience). He took the role of Sir John Middleton in the 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility.

His big screen roles include Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films.

On radio he played Lord Malan in His Master's Voice.

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. His voice was also the voice of D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers, and of Frédéric Chopin, in The Story of Chopin. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen's Birthday Honours of 1981.

While playing Henry V, Hardy developed an interest in medieval warfare, and he later wrote and presented an acclaimed television documentary on the subject of the Battle of Agincourt. He has also written two books on the subject of the longbow, Longbow: A Social and Military History and The Great War Bow with Matthew Strickland. 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.

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