Full-Hardy Connections!

A couple from Corbridge, Northumberland said ‘We have loved the experience of living in your home’

During the Cheltenham Times Literature Festival currently in full swing in central Cheltenham, focussed principally on the Imperial Square and Montpellier Gardens complexes, a small Hanover House contingent, principally Veronica and I but also I believe a guest or two, attended a discussion with the actor Robert Hardy in the Town Hall. The presentation was very well attended, indeed packed out with several thousand Hardy fans, and he gave us very good value for money. Robert Hardy is now 86 but looks more like a fairly well kept 60-something, at least at a distance. Despite his exhortations of his ‘failing memory’ his recollections of names, places and events seemed remarkably sharp and acuitous and he made a number of humourous and apt comments that had the audience guffawing regularly.

Much of his discussion was in conjunction with a professional interlocutor, who had a good knowledge of the theatre and was able to provide any reminders of detail about e.g. characters in various Shakespearian plays that Robert had taken part in.  Robert had worked with most other illustrious British actors and actresses of the mid to late 20th century, quoting Richard Burton (who he’d served with in the RAF in the war), John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richardson – as the ‘Big Three’ of his generation.  He was also particularly impressed by the young Judi Dench, who’d he’d played opposite when she was a ‘young and beautiful’ thing in a Royal Shakespeare Company production and had been the only actress in his career who’d given him problems ‘in the trouser department’! His best remembered roles off-stage have been on-screen in ‘Creatures Great and Small’, on several occasions as Winston Churchill, FDR (Roosevelt) – who he felt he resembled far more than Winston – and more latterly in the Harry Potter films with his good friends Maggie Smith etc etc. He was disappointed not to be in the last ‘Potters’ because with his relatively advancing years, his personal insurance would have cost the film’s producers £1 million and their budget had become too tight to afford it!

After the event, on returning home, Veronica had ‘Googled’ [now a legitimate verb I believe] Robert Hardy, particularly as she’d met him before, and we had also met his older brother, Brigadier (Retd) John Hardy.  John Hardy had been the Church Warden in Bepton in Sussex, son Timothy’s wife Sarah’s home village, where they’d been married, and where Sarah’s family had always been good friends of the Hardys. Now we discovered that there is also a family connection, although fairly remote. Google showed that Robert’s mother’s maiden name had been Dugdale, which is also the name of son-in-law Peter Austen’s grandmother.  Comparing family trees, it transpires that the Dugdales came from Lancashire in the 18th Century and Peter and Robert Hardy share a 6th Great Grandfather, so he is Robert Hardy’s 6th cousin once removed. Fairly remote but a nice connection to have, particularly as Peter has other actors and actresses in his family tree.

Following on from that, you never know but ‘the stage’ might come out in the genes of Peter and Rachael’s 18 month-old daughter Charlotte Emily (our granddaughter) who certainly has the presence and poise already at that tender age (or is that just besotted grandmama surmising?).

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