Haydn Gwynne, who starred as Camilla in The Windsors and Susan Hussey in The Crown, dies aged 66

Actor was recently diagnosed with cancer

Nicole Vassell
Friday 20 October 2023 13:24 BST

The Windsors Coronation Special trailer

Actor Haydn Gwynne, known for her portrayals of royal family members in both The Windsors and The Crown, has died aged 66.

A statement from her representatives 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 20 October, 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.”

In September, Gwynne was forced to pull out of the West End run of Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends citing “sudden personal circumstances”.

The actor was due to star alongside stage stars such as Lea Salonga and Bernadette Peters in the revival of the one-off fundraising concert, originally staged in 2022.

In a statement at the time of Gwynne’s withdrawal, producer Cameron Mackintosh said: “Matthew Bourne and I were naturally very distressed, along with our brilliant cast headed by Bernadette Peters and Lea Salonga, to learn that Haydn Gwynne must suddenly withdraw from the production, for the immediate future at least.

“Haydn gave an unforgettable performance of ‘Ladies Who Lunch’ during the Old Friends Gala Premiere in May 2022 and has been an integral part of this very close-knit company ever since.”

Gwynne’s performing career began in her mid-20s, after studying sociology at the University of Nottingham and undertaking a five-year lectureship teaching English as a foreign language in Rome.

Haydn Gwynne as Alex Pates in ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’

Her first major credit came in 1990, playing Alex Pates in the British sitcom Drop the Dead Donkey.

Throughout the 1990s, Gwynne’s television credits were several and varied, ranging from children’s entertainment (CITV programme Time Riders) to primetime drama (Peak Practice, Merseybeat).

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Many will remember Gwynne best for her work on the stage, particularly while in the Billy Elliot West End and Broadway musical. Gwynne played the teacher of the titular young dancer, Mrs Wilkinson. In 2006, her work in the London production of the show gained her an Olivier nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.

Haydn Gwynne

Gwynne impressed audiences in The Great British Bake-Off Musical earlier this year as a Prue Leith-esque show judge called Pam Lee. Though initially curious about how a stage show based on a TV baking competition would work, Gwynne told The Independent’s Isobel Lewis how she was won over by the show’s complexity and depth.

“It’s fun and it’s funny, but it’s moving too, so I think [audiences] will get a lot from it,” she explained. “Heartwarming can be a cheesy word, but I think the sophistication and the quality of the writing and the lyrics will surprise you.”

In 2022, her passionate, embittered rendition of the Company show tune “Ladies Who Lunch” in the original production of Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends production won her additional fans.

Gwynne is also well-known for her portrayal of Queen Camilla in the Channel 4 satire, The Windsors.

Haydn Gwynne as Queen Camilla

Gwynne also played Lady Susan Hussey, the late Queen’s lady-in-waiting, in season five of The Crown.

Ahead of the King’s coronation earlier this year, Gwynne spoke about meeting the King and Queen in the past, and consistently being “very impressed” with their candour.

“I’ve met Charles multiple times because he’s quite interested in theatre,” Gwynne explained. “I also met Camilla years ago in one of those line-ups at a royal premiere of a film I did many years ago. I have not met them latterly. It tends to be that people aren’t very keen for me to meet them anymore, because the press people think the press could make it a distraction.”

Despite the filming process clashing with rehearsals for the Bake-Off musical, Gwynne ensured she made time for The Windsors as it was a project she was particularly fond of.

“Everybody does their utmost to make it work and our producers do their utmost to work around our other commitments, because we all are very fond of the show. It is not ideal, though – press night for the musical was literally the night before I started shooting The Windsors, but you have to be disciplined.”

Haydn Gwynne is survived by her partner Jason Phipps and their two sons, Orlando and Harry.

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