Dame Maggie Smith Gets a Special Distinction from the Queen

Photo: Telegraph
Photo: Telegraph

The Queen has been meeting the Queen…again. Dame Maggie Smith, doyenne of cinema, television, theatre and just about everything else, has been made a Companion of Honour by Queen Elizabeth II.

The honour, founded in 1917 by King George V, is conferred upon British men and women for “recognised services of national importance”. As well as luminaries such as Lord Patten, Professor Stephen Hawking, and Sir John Major (not sure what he did), theatrical types awarded the honour include Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Judi Dench. Worthy company indeed, Dame Maggie (again, except for Major).

Looking resplendent in blue, Smith was given the honour in a ceremony at Windsor Castle last week. I bet she’s still celebrating.

Whilst she is best known in recent memory for her exquisite portrayal of the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, Smith has a long and impressive history on screen and stage.

In a career spanning over 60 years, Smith has starred in such varied films as Othello, Ladies In Lavender, and Hook. She has starred in many television series (including the classic Armchair Theatre) and appeared frequently in plays, especially Shakespeare. Smith’s latest film, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with Richard Gere, is due to be released next year.

Sadly, she thinks her stage career is over, as she hasn’t performed since 2007. In a Daily Express interview last year she said she was just “too old to go back”. Say it isn’t so, Dame Maggie, you’re never too old to tread the boards. Well, maybe some people are but you definitely are not.

Purists may never forgive me but I have to admit that my favourite role of Smith’s was in the Harry Potter films. She was the perfect Professor McGonagall, with the same humour and wit that we see in Jean Brodie and Violet Grantham.

Smith was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in 1990, as well as having two Oscars, three Emmys, BAFTAs, Golden Globes, honorary doctorates and probably at least one gold Blue Peter badge, and now she gets to put “CH” after her name, too.

To say that we British absolutely cherish and adore our Maggie is an understatement. Also, the fact that the rest of the world is supremely jealous that she’s our national treasure and not theirs, makes it all the better.


Sara Hunter Smith