PATRICIA ROUTLEDGE-“HYACINTH BOUQUET”- “KEEPING UP APPEARANCES”
As Hyacinth Bouquet in “Keeping Up Appearances,” British Queen of Comedy Patricia Routledge definitely wore the pants in her family, daily making important etiquette decisions for her dysfunctional family and persistently browbeating her milquetoast husband, Richard. For Patricia Routledge, this character was just one tip of the acting iceberg.
Born Katherine Patricia Routledge on February 17, 1929 in Birkenhead, Merseyside, England to Isaac Edgar, a haberdashery salesman, and Catherine (Perry) Routledge, the youngest Routledge, who was originally prepped for a career in education, was an only child, and who in WWII spent many hours below her father’s store, already putting her theatre arts imagination to use. From the start, Routledge displayed an intrinsic talent for the performing arts, and began her training by partaking in vocal lessons.
A graduate of Liverpool University, Routledge started her career as an unpaid assistant stage manager at Liverpool Playhouse, and a 1952 stage debut in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Routledge’s performing arts education continued with enrollment at the Old Vic Theatre School in Bristol, and another performance opportunity with a London’s West End production of “The Duenna” (1954).
As Routledge made a name for herself in the theatre community, she performed opposite to some of the leading actors of her time, including Alastair Sim, who was somewhat of a mentor to her.
Several more London productions were to follow including: “Zuleika” (1957) and “Little Mary Sunshine” (1962), along with the chance to work in films as: “To Sir with Love” (1967) and “The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom” (1968). Television beckoned, and Routledge was involved with “Coronation Street “(1961),” Victoria Regina” (1964), and as a regular on “Victoria Wood As Seen On TV” (1983-85).
The 1990’s proved to be Routledge’s crowning decade with two long-running shows, “Keeping Up Appearances” (starting in 1990) and “Hetty Wainthropp Investigates” (from 1996). Routledge again found a niche in the theatre, performing in “A Woman of No Importance (1982) and “A Lady of Letters” (1988).
Other diverse opportunities came along for Routledge such as Noel Coward’s, Anton Chekov’s and Carol Hayman’s radio plays, and a chance to do talking book recordings. Routledge next tried her hand at Broadway, appearing in E.Y. Harburg’s and Jule Styne’s “Darling of the Day” (1968). Even though the show did not take New York by storm, Routledge managed to win a Tony Award as Best Actress in a Musical.
Other shows, such as “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” and “Say Hello to Harvey” seemed to have the same pathetic end result, but once Routledge returned to the UK, her luck reversed with a Laurence Oliver Award for the Scottish Opera, “Candide” (1989).
Other successful runs of other productions followed with the 1992 National Theatre premiere of “Carousel” and “The Rivals,” both 1994. In the new millennium, Routledge appeared in “The Solid Gold Cadillac,” and a one-woman show entitled “Beatrix.”
Routledge, in her later years, accumulated numerous honors, including being awarded an honorary degree from Liverpool University, being named to the 1993 Queen’s Honours List, being bestowed the Order of the British Empire, also in 1993, and the commendation of the Commander of the British Empire in 2004. In 1996, Routledge also earned the honor by the British public of being voted as Great Britain’s All-Time Favorite Television Actress.
At eighty, Routledge has expressed that she has no intention to retire, which is obvious with the most recent release of her project, “Maggie Smith at the BBC” (2008). It was also noted that many Harry Potter fans felt Routledge would have been perfect for the role of Dolores Umbridge in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (2006).
Regardless, Patricia Routledge fans hope there are many more acting years ahead for the once Hyacinth Bouquet, the quintessential owner of the “Royal Doultons with the hand-painted periwinkles”.