WCW: Francesca Annis


She was cast as Cleopatra’s handmaiden at the tender age of 16 and Elizabeth Taylor took her under her wing on set, making an impression on Francesca Annis. A decade later, Annis would be a star in her own right, earning a BAFTA for her performance in Lillie. While she’s done sci-fi/fantasy films like Krull (1983) and Dune (1984), we love the historical costume productions she excels at. Annis is still working, especially in theater and TV, and she says: “I think the secret is to just keep moving along with your age. I don’t try to be younger than I am — and I don’t want to be younger, either.”


Jean in The Young Jacobites (1960)

Francesca Annis, The Young Jacobites (1960)

She’s a time-traveler so I’ll forgive the hair.


Eiras in Cleopatra (1963)

Francesca Annis, Cleopatra (1963)

Elizabeth Taylor felt Francesca Annis was ‘was too young to be exposed to the film world and set’ and kept the girl protected from the paparazzi.


Estella in Great Expectations (1967)

Francesca Annis, Great Expectations (1967)


Lady Macbeth in Macbeth (1971)

Francesca Annis, Macbeth (1971)

She famously performs the ‘out damn spot’ sleepwalking soliloquy nude in this Roman Polanski version.


Lillie Langtry in Edward the King (1975)

Francesca Annis, Edward the King (1975)

Langtry briefly shows up in two episodes; Timothy West plays the Prince of Wales.


Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary (1975)

Francesca Annis, Madame Bovary (1975)


Lillie Langtry in Lillie (1978)

Lillie (1978)

Go read my full review for all the costumes! This serial had many of the same writers and directors as Edward the King, but Francesca Annis was one of the few actors to appear in both.


Lady Frances Derwent in Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980)

Francesca Annis, Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (1980)

Starting her run of murder-mysteries.


Tuppence Cowley in The Secret Adversary (1983)

Francesca Annis, The Secret Adversary (1983)

The first of the ‘Tommy & Tuppence’ stories by Agatha Christie, where the couple meet, setup a detective agency, & Tuppence wears FAB hats.


Tuppence Beresford in Partners in Crime (1983-1984)

Francesca Annis, Partners in Crime (1983-1984)

In the serial, the couple has married & are solving crimes. Tuppence is still incredibly fashionable.


Mrs. Gibson in Wives and Daughters (1999)

Go read Kendra’s full week of posts about this great 1830s series! Francesca Annis plays the busybody stepmom with some amazing fashions.


Countess in The Libertine (2004)

Francesca Annis, The Libertine (2004)

Small part as the mother of the debauched John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester.


Lady Ingram in Jane Eyre (2006)

Francesca Annis, Jane Eyre (2006)

Oh-so-posh mother of Jane’s rival, Blanche Ingram.


Lady Ludlow in Cranford (2007-2009)

Francesca Annis, Cranford (2007-2009)

The rich older landowner in town. She adds a bit of menacing gravitas to the stories.


Joyce Cameron in Home Fires (2015-2016)

Francesca Annis, Home Fires (2015-2016)

The original leader of the Great Paxford Women’s Institute, she cuts a sophisticated figure in this rural community.



What’s your favorite of Francesca Annis’ historical costume movie or TV roles?

18 Responses

  1. Saraquill

    I remember watching that version of “Macbeth” in 10th grade. My teacher handled that unit badly, and implied that she never saw the adaptation she chose for us before showing it in class.

    I’m pleasantly surprised to see Annis was in “Cranford.” That show left a much better impression on me

  2. Elizabeth Mahon

    I’ve adored Francesca Annis from the moment she first played Lillie in Edward VIII. I also remember her playing Jackie Kennedy in a TV movie where Jane Seymour played Maria Callas. Sorry that I missed her playing Gertrude to Ralph Fiennes Hamlet on Broadway but I did see them in the audience when I went to see a play at the Royal Court Theatre. She was wearing these red and white amazing tights that looked like the ones the witch is wearing in the Wizard of Oz, the one who has the house fall on her.

  3. Northcountry Gal

    Francesca Annis is wonderful in everything, but I especially love her in her two Elizabeth Gaskell roles, Cranford and of course Wives and Daughters!

  4. Emily

    Oooh I knew I recognized her from somewhere–Jane Eyre! She was great. :) Now I want to watch Cleopatra to see her.

  5. LydiaR

    I love her in everything I’ve seen her in, especially Lillie and the two Gaskell series she did.

    • Victoria Hannah

      Feel the same way about Dune! She made Lady Jessica’s anguish at losing Duke Leto palpable.

        • SarahV

          She never looked more beautiful in that movie, both when she was all glamorously coiffed in gowned as the Ducal Concubine in that emerald green space gown, and also when she was all ferally sexy, red hair tumbling down when she became Sayadina, the Fox.

  6. Terry Towelss

    I loved her in Lillie. I didn’t know she was Lady Macbeth. I still remember walking out of the theater after seeing Polanski’s Macbeth saying “God, if Shakespeare were alive today, this is exactly as he’d do it’. Thirty-odd years later, I still think that.

  7. Amanda

    I first saw her in Partners in Crime, and immediately I wanted to be her and/or Tuppence. I was totally enamored with those glamorous 1920s fashions and the whole world the characters lived in. When I later read the Christie stories I was surprised to find Tuppence such a practical young woman and not the glamorous beauty of the TV adaptations. I still love flapper fashions thanks to this series, and I still love Francesca Annis.

  8. Frau Magda

    I have VERY fond memories of Tuppence’s fabulous hats. I remember one episode where they were going somewhere and when they were loading their luggage into the car, she just had piles of hatboxes (much to Tommy’s dismay).

  9. Julia Atkinson

    She also gave a marvellous performance in the 1973 BBC series ‘A Pin to See the Peepshow’, based on F. Tennyson Jesse’s thinly-fictionalised account of the Thompson-Bywaters murder case.

  10. Susan Pola Staples

    I’m a huge fan of hers. My favourite roles she’s done are Lillie, Dune, Wives and Daughters, Cranford and all of the Agatha Christie roles.

    She’s the reason why I can’t get into the Jessica Raine version.

    Also the modern Reckless and Copenhagen. And Under the Cherry Moon with the late Prince.

    And I wish I could have seen her and Fiennes in Hamlet too.

  11. Constance

    I love her, especially in Lillie, as well as the only Madame Bovary who is watchable (Youtube has it.) Also Wives and Daughters, which is so hard to find online…had to borrow from library, and Cranford.