Happy 95th — Dame Patricia Routledge!

Photo credit: Bill Young

One of the few upsides of digging out after another year of semi-living under an ever-present pandemic cloud is the opportunity to send good wishes for a very happy birthday to the brilliant Dame Katherine Patricia Routledge, who turns 95 today. Given Hyacinth would have been appalled at the possibility that I might forget to drop a card in the post to arrive on her birthday, I hope she knows the sincerest of best wishes are are headed her way….on time!

Universally known for her role as Hyacinth Bucket (“pronounced Bouquet“), whose delusions of grandeur could fill Royal Albert Hall, it’s fitting that Dame Patricia launched her career in the very town we have readily frequented in the past to screen BBC programming at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1952.

Following her early theater training background from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and subsequent professional beginning in Liverpool, she won the 1968 Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for her performance in Darling of the Day. There were several big screen appearances including To Sir, With Love with the late Sidney Poitier and Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River with Jerry Lewis before heading to the small screen, with early guest parts on Steptoe and Son, Coronation Street and Doctor at Large.

As we celebrate Dame Patricia Routledge’s 95th trip around the sun, I’m once again fondly remembering when I had the great good fortune to cross paths with the actress who, at the time, seemed larger than life due to her portrayal of Hyacinth in the late 1990s. It was a once-in-a-lifetime (which, later, turned out to be twice-in-a-lifetime) opportunity to interview her for a salute to British comedy programming for broadcast on public television in the States.

» RELATED | Dame Hyacinth honored at Buckingham Palace

It was like sitting down with your favorite aunt or close friend. It was several years later when we, again, had the opportunity to interview Ms. Routledge for our PBS special, The Funny Ladies of British Comedy, hosted by Penelope Keith. It was like seeing our favorite aunt all over again. You just wished it could be more than once every several years.

After extensive over-preparation on our parts and Patricia’s general brilliance, we came away feeling like we had just been schooled, in the most extremely positive way, in a Comedy 101 workshop while getting a brilliant look behind-the-scenes of the making of Keeping Up Appearances. We treasured every moment.

For those that will never get the sound of Hyacinth singing out of your mind and wonder how could she possibly win a Tony, it was Dame Routledge that explained to us, “…in order to sing poorly, you have to be able to sing well”. Makes perfect sense to me.

Happy 95th, Dame Patricia Routledge. Thank you for the lifetime of laughter you have given us over the years and the continued smiles that await us all in the years to come.

P.S. If you haven’t had a chance to see the BBC special Young Hyacinth starring Kerry Howard, do yourself a favor and check it out. It tells the story of a pre-Hyacinth Bouquet that makes watching the Keeping Up Appearances again even more magical. Kerry was spot-on as a young Hyacinth!

In: Actors/Actresses