Sir Nigel Hawthorne was born in Coventry on 5 April 1929. He spent his childhood in South Africa and returned to England in 1951. Although he has been an actor all that time, he only became famous as Sir Humphrey Appleby in Yes Minister, the wily civil servant adversary of minister (and later prime minister) Jim Hacker.

After this he has played four especially acclaimed stage roles in recent years: as the spy chief Paul Blair in Sir Tom Stoppard's Hapgood; as C.S. Lewis in Shadowlands by William Nicholson; as George III in Alan Bennett's The Madness of George III, creating the role; and as King Lear. He received both the Olivier and the Tony awards for George III.

He also played the king in the film The Madness of George III (released in the USA as The Madness of King George).

Sir Nigel was knighted in 1999 (don't say that out loud), and was Deputy Lieutenant of the county of Hertfordshire, where he lived with his partner Trevor Bentham. He died of a heart attack at his home on 26 December 2001.

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