Judy Parfitt
Parfitt in The Avengers (1968)
Judy Catherine Claire Parfitt

(1935-11-07) 7 November 1935 (age 88)[1]
Alma materRoyal Academy of Dramatic Art
Years active1954–present
(m. 1963; died 2001)

Judy Catherine Claire Parfitt (born 7 November 1935)[2] is an English theatre, film, and television actress. She made her film debut in the 1950s, followed by a supporting role in the BBC television serial David Copperfield (1966). She also appeared as Queen Gertrude in Tony Richardson's 1969 film adaptation of Hamlet.

Later credits include Mildred Layton in the 1984 ITV television series The Jewel in the Crown, for which she received her first BAFTA award nomination; Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the 1980 television serial version of Pride and Prejudice; Vera Donovan in the 1995 film adaptation of Stephen King's Dolores Claiborne; and as Maria Thins in the 2003 film Girl with a Pearl Earring, for which she earned another BAFTA award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She has been a cast member on the drama series Call the Midwife, playing Sister Monica Joan, since the show's launch in 2012.

Early life

Parfitt was born in Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire in 1935[1] to Catherine Josephine (née Caulton) and Lawrence Hamilton Parfitt.[3] As a teenager, she attended Notre Dame High School for Girls and later trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating in 1953.[4]


Parfitt began her career in theatre in 1954, appearing in a production of Fools Rush In at the Amersham Repertory Company.[5]

In 1968, she appeared in the Hammer television film Journey to The Unknown, opposite Joseph Cotten and hosted by Joan Crawford.[6] In 1978, Parfitt appeared opposite Laurence Olivier, Joan Plowright and Frank Finlay in the episode "Saturday, Sunday, Monday" of Laurence Olivier Presents. In 1981 she created the role of Eleanor in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Peter Nichols' Passion Play. In 1984 she played Deidre in Jack Rosenthal's The Chain. In 1987, she appeared in Maurice.

Two of her most notable past roles are Mildred Layton in The Jewel in the Crown (1984; for which she received her first BAFTA nomination) and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in the 1980 TV serial version of Pride and Prejudice. In 1995, she portrayed Kathy Bates' domineering former employer in Dolores Claiborne, who is dying in present-time, but is seen as a vibrant, glowing woman in flashback sequences.

She has appeared in some American television shows, beginning with her regular role as Snow White's Stepmother, Evil Queen Lillian "Lily" White in the series The Charmings. Parfitt's real-life husband Tony Steedman guest-starred as Santa Claus in The Charmings' second season Christmas special. She appeared on an episode of Murder, She Wrote in 1989, and as the mother of Dr Elizabeth Corday (played by Alex Kingston) on several episodes of ER in 2002.[7] In 1998, she played the role of Queen Marie in Ever After: A Cinderella Story.

Parfitt played Lady Mount-Temple in the biopic film Wilde, alongside Stephen Fry, Vanessa Redgrave and Gemma Jones in 1997. In 2003, she played Maria Thins in Girl with a Pearl Earring, which earned her a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.[7]

She played the domineering American dowager, Mrs van Schuyler, opposite David Suchet, James Fox, Frances de la Tour and David Soul in a feature-length episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot in the 2004 edition of Death on the Nile. In 2008, she appeared as the primary villainess in Little Dorrit, as the cruel Mrs Clennam, alongside Alun Armstrong, Sue Johnston and Matthew Macfadyen. At Christmas 2011, she appeared in a small role similar to that which she portrayed in Little Dorrit as Aunt Chastity along with Una Stubbs and Phyllida Law in The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff.[8]

In 2012, she began appearing in the BBC TV series Call the Midwife as Sister Monica Joan, an elderly nun in early stages of dementia.[9] Sister Monica Joan's strong educational background and knowledge of classical literature are often used in the programme as a way of reflecting on the unfolding drama.[7][10]

Parfitt has also recently appeared in BBC's spy tale, The Game; a film, Hello Carter; a Radio 4 show, Tom Wrigglesworth's Hang-Ups; and Jessica Hynes's suffragette sitcom Up the Women.[7]

Personal life

In 1963, Parfitt married actor Tony Steedman in Harrow, Middlesex. He died in 2001. The couple had one child, a son, David.[7]



Year Title Role Notes
1956 A Likely Tale Ursula Bludgeon Television film
1964 Hide and Seek Chauffeur
1966 David Copperfield Rosa Dartle
1967 Angel Pavement Lilian Matfield Television film
1969 Hamlet Queen Gertrude
1970 The Mind of Mr. Soames Jenny Bannerman
1971 Journey to Murder (Do Me a Favor and Kill Me) Faith Wheeler Television film
1972 The Edwardians E. Nesbit Television miniseries
1974 Alice Through the Looking-Glass Red Queen
1974 Galileo Angelica Sarti
1979 Secret Orchards Muriel Perry Television film
1980 Death of a Princess Elsa Gruber
1983 Office Romances Pam Ivygale Television film
1983 Champions Dr. Merrow
1984 The Chain Deirdre
1985 Covenant Renata Beck Television film
1985 Bon Voyage Lola Widmeyer Television film, also known as Star Quality: Bon Voyage
1987 Maurice Mrs. Durham
1989 Diamond Skulls Lady Crewne Also known as Dark Obsession
1989 Getting It Right Lady Stella Munday
1991 King Ralph Queen Katherine
1993 The Return of the Borrowers Mrs. Platter Television film
1995 Dolores Claiborne Vera Donovan
1995 Heavy Weather Lady Constance Keeble
1996 Element of Doubt Genevieve
1996 Goodbye My Love Ruth
1996 September Verena Television film
1997 Wilde Lady Mount-Temple
1998 Ever After Queen Marie
2000 Falling Through Ambassador
2003 Girl with a Pearl Earring Maria Thins Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role
2003 Hearts of Gold Isobel John Television film
2004 The Aryan Couple Rachel Krauzenberg
2005 Asylum Brenda Raphael
2008 Dean Spanley Mrs. Brimley
2008 My Talks with Dean Spanley Mrs. Brimley
2011 The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff Aunt Chastity Television film
2011 W.E. Queen Mary
2012 The Moth Diaries Mrs. Rood
2013 Hello Carter Aunt Miriam


Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Avengers Miss Ellis Episode: "Bullseye"
1962 Z-Cars June Clifford Episode: "Information Received"
1963 The Odd Man Lisa Kapp Episode: "Portrait of Caroline"
1963 The Avengers Brenda Paterson Episode: "The White Elephant"
1963 The Sentimental Agent Sally Clare Episode: "The Height of Fashion"
1965 Public Eye Marion Hordern Episode: "But the Joneses Never Get Letters"
1965 Undermind Marion Gordon Episode: “The New Dimension”
1965 Out of the Unknown Marie Episode: "Time in Advance"
1965 The Wednesday Play Dorothy Gorbet Episode: "Tomorrow, Just You Wait"
1965 Z-Cars Christina Haines Episode: "But the Crying..."
1967 The Saint Anne Liskard Episode: "The Persistent Patriots"
1967 The Avengers Vesta Episode: "Escape in Time"
1967 Adam Adamant Lives! Ireyna Episode: "Black Echo"
1967 Les Misérables Mme. Thenardier 5 episodes
1967 Angel Pavement Lilian Matfield 4 episodes
1968 Dixon of Dock Green Mary Dewar Episode: "The Attack"
1968 The Avengers Loris Episode: "Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40?"
1969 Journey to the Unknown Faith Wheeler Episode: "Do Me a Favor and Kill Me"
1971 Shadows of Fear Episode: "The Death Watcher"
1973 Play for Today Episode: "Like the Filmstar"
1973 The Protectors Lena Hayden Episode: "Lena"
1974 Shoulder to Shoulder Lady Constance Lytton Episode: "Lady Constance Lytton"
1975 Crown Court Pauline Fanshawe Episode: "The Healing Hand: Part 1"
1976–82 Crown Court Gillian Forrest QC 16 episodes
1978 Rumpole of the Bailey Anna Aspen Episode: "Rumpole and the Honourable Member"
1978 Laurence Olivier Presents Unknown episodes
1979 Malice Aforethought Julia Bickleigh 2 episodes
1980 Pride and Prejudice Lady Catherine de Bourgh 2 episodes
1980 A Tale of Two Cities Madame Defarge 7 episodes
1981 Yes Minister Betty Oldham Episode: "A Question of Loyalty"
1984 The Jewel in the Crown Mildred Layton 9 episodes
Nominated—BAFTA TV Award for Best Actress
1986 Mr Pye Miss Dredger 4 episodes
1987–88 The Charmings Queen Lillian White 21 episodes
1989 Murder, She Wrote Peggy Brooks Episode: "From Russia...with Blood"
1992 The Blackheath Poisonings Harriet Collard 3 episodes
1993 The Alleyn Mysteries Lady O'Callaghan Episode: "The Nursing Home Murder"
1993 Eye of the Storm Martha Tabbert 6 episodes
1997 Holding the Baby Margaret Episode: "#1.7"
1998 Berkeley Square Lady Harmonsworth Episode: "Ladybird, Ladybird"
1999 Midsomer Murders Angela Wentworth Episode: "Death's Shadow"
2000, 2001 ER Isabelle Corday Episodes: “Abby Road”, “Be Still My Heart” and "April Showers"
2001 Murder in Mind Margaret Collins Episode: "Mercy"
2004 Agatha Christie's Poirot Miss Van Schuyler Episode: "Death on the Nile"
2004 The Long Firm Lady Ruth Thursby Episode: "Teddy's Story"
2005 Funland Mercy Woolf 11 episodes
2008 Heartbeat Lady Veronique Episode: "Danse Macabre"
2008 Little Dorrit Mrs. Clennam 12 episodes
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
2008 Midsomer Murders Caroline Halsey Episode: "Days of Misrule"
2009 Jonathan Creek Constance Gessler Episode: "The Grinning Man"
2012–present Call the Midwife Sister Monica Joan 102 episodes
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
2012 The Syndicate Maureen Episode: "#1.2"
2012 Vera Maggie Episode: "A Certain Samaritan"
2013 Agatha Christie's Marple Cicely Beauclerk Episode: "Greenshaw's Folly
2013 Up the Women Myrtle Series regular
2015 The Game Hester Waterhouse 5 episodes

Awards and nominations

BAFTA Film Awards
Other awards


  1. ^ a b Year of birth: 1935, findmypast.co.uk; accessed 28 June 2014.
  2. ^ "England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008," database, FamilySearch (1 October 2014), Judy C C Parfitt, 1935; from "England & Wales Births, 1837-2006," database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Sheffield, Yorkshire, England, citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
  3. ^ Judy Parfitt profile, Film Reference.com; accessed 28 June 2014.
  4. ^ "Judy Parfitt". RADA. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Judy Parfitt profile". Film Reference. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  6. ^ Cotter 2013, p. 145.
  7. ^ a b c d e Judy Parfitt at IMDb
  8. ^ "The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff". BBC. Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  9. ^ Wilson, Benji (19 January 2014). "Call the Midwife's Judy Parfitt: "All the old tarts gainfully employed"". The Telegraph.
  10. ^ Wilson, Benji (19 January 2014). "Daily Telegraph". Retrieved 18 February 2015.

Works cited