Actress Haydn Gwynne dies aged 66 after recent cancer diagnosis

The 66-year-old actress was best known for her roles in Drop The Dead Donkey and The Windsors.

Actress Haydn Gwynne, best known for starring in Drop The Dead Donkey and The Windsors, has died aged 66 following a recent cancer diagnosis.

The star of stage and screen, who received Olivier and Tony nominations for her turn in Billy Elliot The Musical, was due to return to the West End – but withdrew last month due to “personal circumstances”.

A statement from her agent said: “It is with great sadness we are sharing with you that, following her recent diagnosis with cancer, the star of stage and screen Haydn Gwynne died in hospital in the small hours of Friday October 20, surrounded by her beloved sons, close family and friends.

“We would like to thank the staff and teams at the Royal Marsden and Brompton Hospitals for their wonderful care over the last few weeks.”

Gwynne had long wanted to be an actress, but spent her early adult life in Rome teaching English.

Although she was worried about how her parents might react, at age 25 she returned home to pursue her dream.

She first made her name in 1990 when she starred as icy Alex Pates in the comedy Drop The Dead Donkey, which also earned her a Bafta TV nomination in 1992.

Her role as Dr Joanna Graham in Peak Practice also propelled her to fame.

The actress also had a successful career on stage and received two Olivier Award nods for her performance in West End productions of City Of Angels and Billy Elliot The Musical.

She reprised her role as Billy Elliot’s dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson in a Broadway version of the musical, and was Tony nominated for her performance.

She secured two further Olivier nominations for her roles in The Threepenny Opera and Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.

The actress also took on the role of Margaret Thatcher for Peter Morgan’s play The Audience, starring alongside Dame Helen Mirren’s Queen Elizabeth II.

Later in her career, Gwynne featured in a number of other royal series including playing Queen Consort Camilla in royal satire sitcom The Windsors from 2016 and later portraying former royal aide Lady Susan Hussey, who resigned from the royal household following a racism row, in the fifth series of The Crown.

She had been due to appear in Cameron Mackintosh’s latest musical production, titled Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, at the Gielgud Theatre when the show opened in September – but she had to withdraw beforehand due to “sudden personal circumstances”.

At the time, Mackintosh had recalled that she had become an “integral part” of the “very close-knit company” after giving an “unforgettable” performance of the song Ladies Who Lunch during an Old Friends gala premiere in May 2022, adding: “Haydn will be very much missed.”

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