From ‘little Cockney’ to playing Queen Mary: the remarkable career of Eileen Atkins

Eileen Atkins belongs to a singular generation of British actresses, among them Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Sian Phillips and Vanessa Redgrave, who not only continue to perform on stage and screen in their late eighties but all of whom, apart from Smith, have written their memoirs. Atkins already has a proven literary track record. Having wisely abandoned her first effort, a three-act, 17-minute play, containing ‘murder, incest and sodomy’, written during an early period of unemployment, she went on to co-create the hugely successful TV series Upstairs, Downstairs and The House of Eliott, write the play Vita and Virginia and put together a selection of Ellen Terry’s lectures. Will She