Emma Thompson’s mother Phyllida Law on why she can’t feel proud of OBE

17:00 18 June 2014

Emma Thompson and her mother Phyllida Law receive honorary degrees at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Picture: PA Archive

Emma Thompson and her mother Phyllida Law receive honorary degrees at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Picture: PA Archive

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Most people honoured by the Queen express shock or disbelief at receiving an award. But film and TV actress Phyllida Law, of West Hampstead, was so surprised about her OBE she was certain the letter was sent to the wrong person.

Ms Law, mother of actresses Sophie and Emma Thompson, spent days ringing theatre agents to make sure the award was not meant for film director Phyllida Lloyd, who was in fact made a CBE in the 2010 Honours List.

“I was so astonished I just assumed it belonged to another Phyllida,” the 81-year-old said.

“Why me? I haven’t done anything. Perhaps I had better start! I don’t know what it’s for really. I’ve survived, perhaps it’s that.”

She was given the nod in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to drama and for charitable services.

Born in Glasgow in 1932, Ms Law married Magic Roundabout creator Eric Thompson in 1957 and kicked off her acting career soon afterwards.

His death in 1982 after 25 years of marriage hit her and her two daughters very hard but the tight-knit family has remained close.

The veteran actress has performed alongside both her daughters, with Sophie in the 1996 Hollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, and with Emma in children’s film Nanny McPhee, Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing and 1992 comedy Peter’s Friends.

Ms Law has also been an active charity campaigner as president of the Theatrical Guild, raising money for backstage theatre staff.

She is also vocal in support of glaucoma charity Fight for Sight, which she backed after watching her mother lose her sight to the hereditary condition.


Despite her achievements, the self-styled “ambulant witch” says she cannot feel any pride in what she does.

“If I mend a plug, I feel proud of myself,” she said. “I feel proud if I don’t fall off the edge of the stage. But I can’t say yes, I was so wonderful. It doesn’t come naturally.”

Ms Law is not the only star to receive plaudits in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Tufnell Park actor Damian Lewis, who opened Highgate’s Christmas Festival in November last year, was also made an OBE for services to drama.

Ms Law will be in discussion with Piers Plowright at Prom’s at St Jude’s at Henrietta Barnett School in Central Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb, on Saturday, June 28.


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