‘I became a Quaker at 14’: 4 things you didn’t know about Judi Dench

By Efrosini Costa

‘I became a Quaker at 14’: 4 things you didn’t know about Judi Dench
Plastic surgery, unshakeable faith and fine romance - here are four things you didn't know about Dame Judi Dench.

Ageing gracefully

Dame Judi Dench is all about ageing naturally and shuns the idea of plastic surgery. “I’ve considered it, but I’m too old now. Every time I go to America I wonder if there is some process where it could be all sucked out and I could be there in time for dinner, but I’m frightened it would all drop off under the anaesthetic.”

Starring role

Dench’s first role was as a snail in a school play when she was five. “I remember I had a brown romper suit on and brown tights and my father made me an enormous shell. All I had to do was crawl across the stage under this shell. When my parents came to it, I can remember standing up – and I can also remember somebody at the side of the stage saying ‘Get down! Get down!’ My first critic.”

A fine romance

Judi Dench met her husband, actor Michael Williams, in the early 1960s while working at the Royal Shakespeare Company. While in Australia performing in A Winter’s Tale, Michael flew in from England to comfort Dench after the death of a close friend. He proposed to her on a beach. But it didn’t seem like the right time to Judi, and she asked him to ask her again on a rainy night in Battersea near London. He did. She said yes. Michael had a Shakespeare quote inscribed on the inside of Judi’s wedding ring that says “He will weep you, an ’twere a man born in April.” He sent Judi a single red rose every Friday for their nearly 30-year marriage until his death in 2001.

Unshakeable faith

“I became a Quaker at 14 when I was sent to a Quaker boarding school. It suited me down to the ground. It’s very quiet, which is what I am not, and it makes you create your own form of Quakerism. It consists of sitting in silence with a lot of other people. That suits me very well, because I often don’t give myself the time to get all the drawers organised inside my head. It’s a strength I can’t do without.”

Read more: Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson star in Red Joan


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