Actress Frances de la Tour was born 30 July 1944 in Hertfordshire. From the role of Miss Jones, the object of landlord Rigsby’s affections in the classic 70s sit-com Rising Damp to the larger-than-life headmistress Madame Olympe Maxime in the Harry Potter franchise, Frances de la Tour’s career is impressively diverse.


She featured in the 12th series of Who Do You Think You Are? in 2015, where she discovered that two of her relatives were aristocratic women who were caught up in scandal in the 18th and early 19th centuries. But what else do we know about the Tony and Olivier Award-winning actor?

1. Regeneration game

She could have been Dr Who. In the mid-1980s, Frances was considered as a replacement for Colin Baker. Also in the frame were Joanna Lumley and Dawn French. The idea was eventually scrapped and the Timelord gig went to Sylvester McCoy. Jodie Whittaker finally became the first woman to play the Doctor in 2018.

2. Leaning to the left

De la Tour is a Socialist and was a member of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party in the 1970s, a Trotskyist group once led by Gerry Healy.

3. History in the making

Frances was in the original cast of The History Boys which eventually transferred to Broadway. Also among the ranks was James Corden, now plying his trade Stateside as the host of The Late Late Show on CBS.

4. The French Connection

Her Francophile father was keen to make the most of the family’s Gallic roots and enrolled De la Tour into London's Lycée Français, a large French co-educational primary and secondary independent day school, wholly owned by the French Government.

5. Bard influence

Frances joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1965. After a string of small roles, she graduated to lead roles including starring as Helena in Peter Brook’s acclaimed production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Words: Steve Harnell