Actress Dame Sheila Hancock has joked she owes her six-decades long career to the fact appearing on stage as a teenager made her attractive to boys.
The celebrity was made a Dame Commander for services to drama and charity and has been part of British cultural life since the 1960s – with popular roles on the television, screen and theatre.
She has found new fans following appearances on Celebrity Gogglebox with Gyles Brandreth and with the broadcaster on Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys.
The 88-year-old actress was not convinced she was going to be awarded the honour until the day of the ceremony at Windsor Castle, saying: “Up until now I hadn’t believed it was going to happen.
“I knew a year ago and I thought ‘It’s all been a terrible mistake’. But now I’ve got the badges I’m beginning to think ‘oh, well maybe that did happen I am a Dame.
“It is just curious, quite honestly, it’s a great honour, I’m extremely grateful to the people who decided I should have this because I always think it’s recognition of your profession and in my case some of the charities I represent.”
She said becoming a Dame Commander would be “jolly useful” in helping raise funds for the causes she supports as it would “add gravitas to my rather frivolous image, to call myself Dame, but I don’t use it apart from that”.
Dame Sheila, who was married to the actor John Thaw before his death in 2002, started her career in the theatre, finding success in both the West End and on Broadway.
Her career flourished with comedy performances on the BBC, with roles in sitcoms including The Rag Trade, Mr Digby Darling and Now, Take My Wife.
In 1972, she landed her own series, But Seriously, It’s Sheila Hancock.
As well as her acting career, Dame Sheila has worked extensively for charity and has campaigned for improving education, especially for children from poorer backgrounds.
Speaking about her early efforts at acting, she said: “I’m ashamed to say I was plain and covered in spots and too tall, you weren’t allowed to be tall when I was young, and the head boy of another school asked me to go to a school dance because he’d seen me in the school play.
“And I thought ‘I’m going to get a series of boys asking me to dances if I go on the stage’ so that’s my noble reason for going on the stage.”
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