Westminster Abbey honour for Sir John Gielgud

Tuesday, 26th April 2022

John Gielgud memorial stone

A memorial stone to Sir John Gielgud, one of the finest actors of the twentieth century, was dedicated in Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 26th April 2022.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, led the dedication service, which was attended by friends and admirers of Sir John. The new stone lies in the Abbey's south transept, close to memorials to other greats from the world of acting including Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Peggy Ashcroft and Dame Sybil Thorndike.

Tributes to Sir John were read by film and theatre director Sir Richard Eyre and playwright Sir David Hare. Dame Janet Suzman gave a reading from Psalm 19; Sir Ian McKellen read an extract from Shakespeare’s play about Sir Thomas More; and Dame Judi Dench performed Shakespeare's Sonnet 29. Shana Farr sang Jerusalem.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Robert Latham, the Abbey's Sacrist.

Dame Judi asked the Dean, on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, to take the memorial into the safe custody of the Abbey. The diamond-shaped memorial, made of Purbeck Blue marble, was designed and carved by artist Wayne Hart, with the typography inspired by Sir John's distinctive handwriting.

Success as an actor and director

Together with Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson, Sir John was recognised as one of the 'great trinity of theatrical knights' who dominated the British stage for more than fifty years.

He was born into a theatrical family in London in 1904. After training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he quickly established a reputation as a star in the West End and on Broadway, celebrated for his work in both classical and avant-garde productions. He also found success as a director - establishing his own company at the Queen’s Theatre in London - and later worked regularly in cinema, appearing in some sixty films.

In a career spanning more than 75 years, he achieved the rare distinction of winning an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony award. He died in 2000 at the age of 96.

"A tireless determination to interpret and perform"

Speaking before the service, the Dean said:

"I belong to a generation that grew up with Gielgud's voice and Gielgud's perception. In his tireless determination to interpret and perform, he taught us to take stock and think about the words we use. Numbering him amongst the names and lives that we remember in the Abbey we remind ourselves that the task of interrogation and the responsibility to perform truth never stops."

Order of Service

Sir John Gielgud Memorial Stone  -  Order of Service (PDF, 399KB)