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Last Updated: Friday, 5 December, 2003, 15:12 GMT
Dame Helen centre stage at palace
Dame Helen Mirren
Dame Helen was born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff
Actress Helen Mirren has been invested as a dame during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.

After receiving her honour from Prince Charles, the 58-year-old star of Calendar Girls said: "It is just the greatest theatre I have ever been in."

Dame Helen, daughter of an exiled Russian aristocrat, said she had never believed she would receive the award.

Simon Russell Beale, 42 - hailed as one of the finest Shakespearean actors of his generation - was made a CBE.

I am incredibly proud. I am amazed
Dame Helen Mirren

Russell Beale, who won an Olivier award for best actor in the lead role of Uncle Vanya, said: "I was extremely nervous. I'm not good at this sort of thing. "

Dame Helen was accompanied by her husband, US director Taylor Hackford, her sister Kate Mirren and her niece Natalie Fitzgerald.

She said: "It was just lovely. I just felt my mouth go ever so slightly dry. I just thought, 'Don't be so silly'. I am incredibly proud. I am amazed."

Born Ilynea Lydia Mironoff, Dame Helen received Oscar nominations for the Madness Of King George in 1994 and for Gosford Park in 2001.

But she is probably best known for her ongoing role as Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison in the occasional TV police drama Prime Suspect.

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