Skip to main content

Laurence Olivier

The ashes of Laurence Olivier, Baron Olivier of Brighton, the greatest actor of his generation, are buried in the south transept of Westminster Abbey. He lies near the graves of actors David Garrick and Sir Henry Irving, in front of Shakespeare's memorial. He died on 11th July 1989 at his home in Sussex but his ashes were not buried here until 16th September 1991, at a private ceremony. A memorial service was held in the Abbey on 20th October 1989 and items symbolic of his life and work were carried in procession by, among others, Douglas Fairbanks, Michael Caine and Peter O'Toole. The address was given by Sir Alec Guiness. A recording of Olivier reading an extract from Act 4 of Shakespeare's Henry V was played during the service, the first time the voice of the deceased had been heard during their memorial service in the Abbey.

His memorial stone was unveiled on 23rd September 1991 by Sir John Gielgud, who had given a memorable reading at the service in 1989. The stone is of Westmorland green slate and was cut by Ieuan Rees. The inscription reads:

1907 LAURENCE OLIVIER O.M. ACTOR 1989

He was born in Dorking, Surrey on 22nd May 1907, a son of the Revd. Gerard Kerr Olivier and his wife Agnes. While attending a choir school in London he appeared in a play aged ten and was seen by famous actress Ellen Terry who declared him to be a great actor even at that early age. In 1930 he married Jill Esmond and in the following year, while in a play on Broadway, he was talent spotted and invited to Hollywood. But his career did not take off at that time and he returned to London and with Gielgud's assistance built his reputation as a major classical actor. Returning to Hollywood at the end of the decade he finally had success there, beginning with Wuthering Heights. His first marriage was dissolved and he married Vivien Leigh in 1940 and the following year returned to England to join the Fleet Air Arm. He directed and starred in the morale boosting film Henry V and was knighted in 1947. In 1981 he was appointed to the Order of Merit.

Born

22nd May 1907

Died

11th July 1989

Memorial

23rd September 1991

Funeral

16th September 1989

Field

Actor

Location

South Transept

Memorial Type

Grave; stone

Material Type

Stone

Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier

By Allan warren (Own work allanwarren.com) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier grave

© The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Related Commemorations

Dame-peggy-ashcroft-memorial

Dame Peggy Ashcroft

1907-1991
Actor
westminster-abbey-wystan-hugh-aden-memorial

Wystan Hugh Auden

1907-1973
Writer and Poet
Sir John Betjeman

Sir John Betjeman

1906-1984
Writer, Poet and Broadcaster
dylan-thomas-memorial-westminster-abbey

Dylan Thomas

1914-1953
Poet
noel-coward-xjf-365315

Noel Coward

1899-1973
Playwright, Actor and Composer
cc-c-s-lewis-statue

Clive Staples Lewis

1898-1963
Writer, Poet and Novelist

Having a daily relationship with a 1000 year old garden is a joy.

spacer

Jan - Head Gardener

Twitter logo Tweet this