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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 08:41 GMT
Actor Michael Williams dies
Williams and Dench maintained public appearances during his illness
Actor Michael Williams, husband of Dame Judi Dench, has died after a long battle with cancer.

He died on Thursday at his home surrounded by friends and family, said a statement issued by his agent, Julian Belfrage Associates.

Williams had suffered for months from lung cancer. Dame Judi recently cancelled engagements to be with him when he took a turn for the worse.

Adrian Noble, artistic director of Royal Shakespeare Company, described Williams as "one of the most gifted and versatile actors of his generation".

The public...held him in their affection as something of a national treasure

Adrian Noble
He said: "He will be remembered fondly for his huge body of work ranging from classical work to his marvellous comic roles on stage, television and film."

The family has not made a public comment, but Williams' daughter Finty was moved to e-mail BBC News Online after seeing messages of condolence from her father's fans on Talking Point.

"We are so touched and honoured," she said.

"My Dad's last present to my mother was this laptop - what a good thing he did. Without it we may never have realised in what great regard he was held, not only in this country but around the world.

"Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Williams had spent Wednesday evening celebrating his Papal knighthood, one of the highest honours given by the Catholic Church.

He was awarded the knighthood in November 2000, but it was presented to him earlier this week by Canon John McDonald, national chaplain of the Catholic Stage Guild, which Williams had chaired for several years.

"It was one of the best days I've ever had and could I have a match replay?" he said afterwards.


A spokesman for the Catholic Stage Guild said: "We will remember him with affection and gratitude for the tremendous talent that we enjoyed over the years."

Alan Yentob, BBC director of drama, entertainment and children's programmes described him as "an incredibly gifted and generous actor who made a memorable contribution to the worlds of theatre, television and radio".

Ned Sherrin, who directed Williams and Dame Judi in Mr And Mrs Nobody at London's Garrick Theatre, said: "He was a lovely man and great fun to work with."

Williams and Dench met at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Williams was leading man.

They were married in 1971 and were considered one of the most successful couples in British showbusiness.

The couple would have celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary next month.

Williams supported his wife's rise to worldwide fame in recent years.

Highly regarded

In 2000 she won an Oscar for Shakespeare In Love and a Tony for her performance in Amy's View.

But he was highly regarded as an actor in his own right.

He co-starred with Dame Judi in the 1980s ITV comedy series A Fine Romance, and also featured in the drama September Song.

They also both appeared in the Franco Zeffirelli film, Tea With Mussolini.

Noble said: "He will be very sadly missed by everyone with whom he worked and by the public who, I think, held him in their affection as something of a national treasure."

Williams always said his own talent did not match Dame Judi's.

But he once said: "I never feel inferior as a person. And there are some things I can do a damn sight better than Jude."

They have one daughter, Finty.

Michael Williams
Your tributes
See also:

12 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Michael Williams: End of the fine romance
12 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Tributes pour in for 'gifted' actor
28 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Dame Judi nurses ill husband
26 Aug 99 | Entertainment
Dame Judi's husband 'has cancer'
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