February 10, 2021
Academy Award-winning British actress Dame Judi Dench is now 86 years old and was widowed 19 years ago, but even though she will never remarry, she has found love again.
Judi Dench is one of the most respected actresses alive, a seven-time nominee and Academy Award winner. She has won 10 BAFTAS, two Golden Globes, and a Tony Award, needing only an Emmy to complete the Triple Crown of Acting.
The Queen made Dench a Dame of the British Empire, but behind the glittering success, her life holds a personal tragedy. In 2001, Dench's husband of 30 years, Michael Williams, passed away at the age of 65.
THE LOVE OF HER LIFE
Of course, with Dench being who she is, you'd expect her love life to be intimately connected to the theater -- her first love -- and that is how she met fellow actor Michael Williams in 1962 when she was 28.
Dench had been cast as Juliet in Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" at The Old Vic. After opening night, she went with her fellow cast members to a pub to celebrate and met Williams, who had also opened in the play "Celebration."
Dench's contribution to British theater was recognized by Queen Elizabeth II who made her a Dame of the Order of the British Empire.
THE FAMILY BUSINESS
The two actors fell in love and were inseparable for the next 9 years. Then, in 1971, the two decided to make things official and tied the knot. A year later, they welcomed their only child, Tara Cressida Frances Williams, now 48.
The couple was devoted to each other, and Dench has revealed that Williams always brought her a red rose every Friday for as long as he lived. They were cast in the British sitcom "A Fine Romance" as an awkward couple who unexpectedly falls in love.
BECOMING A STAR
Dench's career took off to dizzying heights, and in the late 80s and throughout the 90s, the actress found herself cast in several major Hollywood productions, including "Tomorrow Never Dies," "Shakespeare in Love," "The World Is Not Enough," and "Chocolat."
Dench's contribution to British theater was recognized by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who made her a Dame of the Order of the British Empire in 1988, the female equivalent of a knighthood.
LIVING THROUGH LOSS
"It [grief] changes who you are completely, I think. Because it's like you're walking along (...) and there's an enormous chasm in front of you."
FINDING LOVE AGAIN
Dench admits that the last 20 years have been incredibly difficult without her husband. The actress threw herself into her work after his death and never thought she'd fall in love again -- but she was wrong.
Nine years after William's passing, conservationist David Mills invited Dench to inaugurate a red squirrel preserve at the British Wildlife Centre, which he had founded near her home in Surrey, and she agreed.
The couple has now been together for 10 years, and Mills revealed that besides their passion for nature and conservation, they share the same sense of humor. He spoke about the beginning of their relationship:
"It developed as a slow, organic friendship that grew. I invited her to come and have supper one night, and then she asked me to one of her things."
Dench has laughingly revealed that she hates the description "partner" or "boyfriend" and would rather refer to Mills as "my chap." Dench and her chap seem to be happy together, but Dench admits she will never get over Williams.
Often, she reveals, she will hear a door open in her house and think that it is her husband arriving. Her daughter -- also an actress known as Finty Williams -- also struggled to come to terms with her father's death and ended up going to rehab.
Now 86, the woman regarded by the British as one of their "National treasures" has declared that she will never retire, even though she is progressively losing her sight to macular degeneration. For Judi Dench, all the world is her stage, and she rules it completely.
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