John Shrapnel

John Morley Shrapnel (27 April 1942 – 14 February 2020) was an English actor, known mainly for his stage work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre in the United Kingdom and for his many television appearances. One of his well-known roles was Mr. Skinner in the 1996 live-action film 101 Dalmatians.

John Shrapnel
John Shrapnel.jpg
John Morley Shrapnel

(1942-04-27)27 April 1942
Birmingham, Warwickshire, United Kingdom
Died14 February 2020(2020-02-14) (aged 77)
Suffolk, United Kingdom
Years active1960–2017
Francesca Ann Bartley
(m. 1975)
Children3, including Lex Shrapnel

Early lifeEdit

Shrapnel was born John Morley Shrapnel in Birmingham, Warwickshire (now West Midlands) on 27 April 1942, the son of journalist / author Norman Shrapnel and Mary Lillian Myfanwy (née Edwards).[1]

Shrapnel was brought up in Stockport and London, being educated at Mile End School, Stockport where he started acting as a member of the school's drama society, and the City of London School,[2] an independent school for boys in the City of London, where he played Hamlet in the School Play, followed by St Catharine's College, Cambridge, where he obtained an MA.[3]


As a stage actor, Shrapnel was a member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company and the Royal Shakespeare Company and appeared as Sir Oliver Surface in The School for Scandal (directed by Deborah Warner) at the Barbican Centre in 2011.[4]

Shrapnel also appeared extensively on television in roles from the 1960s onwards. He played the Earl of Sussex in Elizabeth R and Alexander Hardinge in Edward & Mrs. Simpson. He appeared in Z-Cars, Space: 1999, Inspector Morse, GBH, Coogan's Run, Foyle's War, and many other dramas. He presented an episode of the 1983 BBC television travel series Great Little Railways. He performed in three of the BBC Television Shakespeare plays and as Creon in the BBC's productions of the Three Theban plays (1986) of Sophocles. He also played Pompey in the second episode of Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire and the Jail Warden in The 10th Kingdom.

His film career included roles in Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Pope Joan (1972), Hennessy (1975), Personal Services (1987), Testimony (1988), How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989), England, My England (1995), 101 Dalmatians (1996) as Mr. Skinner, Notting Hill (1999), The Body (2001), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), and Alien Autopsy (2006). He has also appeared in historical films such as Gladiator (2000) as Senator Gaius,[5] and in Troy (2004) as Nestor. In Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), he played Lord Howard and The Duchess (2008) as General Grey.

Shrapnel had the rare distinction of appearing in two episodes of Midsomer Murders as two characters in "Death in Chorus" and "Written in Blood." He appeared in Jonathan Creek episode "The Omega Man" as Professor Lance Graumann. He appears in Chemical Wedding alongside Simon Callow, telling the tale of the resurrection of occultist Aleister Crowley. He played John Christie (from a 1980s case) in "Solidarity" of Waking the Dead.

He also had experience in the field of BBC radio drama: He played Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse (opposite Robert Glenister as Sgt. Lewis) and starred in William Gibson's Neuromancer. Shrapnel played the character Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Felsham in the New Tricks episode The Fourth Man (2010). He also narrated episodes of Wild Discovery.

Shrapnel was the son-in-law of Deborah Kerr and Tony Bartley through his 1975 marriage to their younger daughter Francesca Ann Bartley. He and Francesca had three sons, the writer Joe Shrapnel (b. 1976) and the actors Lex Shrapnel (b. 1979) and Tom Shrapnel (b. 1981). Shrapnel lived the last years of his life with his family in Highbury, north London. His ancestor Henry Shrapnel gave the name shrapnel to the English language.[6]


Shrapnel died at his home in Suffolk on Valentine's Day, 14 February 2020.[6] He was 77 years old.


Year Title Role Notes
1971 Nicholas and Alexandra Petya
1972 Pope Joan Father James
1975 Hennessy Tipaldi
1987 Personal Services Lionel
Partition General Flood
1988 Testimony Andrei Zhdanov
1989 How to Get Ahead in Advertising Psychiatrist
1995 Two Deaths Cinca
England, My England Samuel Pepys
1996 101 Dalmatians Mr. Skinner
1999 Notting Hill PR Chief
2000 Gladiator Senator Gaius
2001 The Body Moshe Cohen
2002 K-19: The Widowmaker Admiral Bratyeev
2004 Troy Nestor
2005 The Headsman Archbishop
2006 Alien Autopsy Michael Kuhn
2007 Sparkle Bernie
Elizabeth: The Golden Age Lord Howard
2008 Chemical Wedding Crowley
Mirrors Lorenzo Sapelli
The Duchess General Grey
2011 The Awakening Reverend Hugh Purslow


Year Title Role Notes
1967-1969 Playhouse Jamie / Schoner 2 episodes
1970 Omnibus Léopold Zborowski 1 episode
1971 Elizabeth R Duke of Sussex 3 episodes
1972 The Organization John Wimbourne 1 episode
1974 Crown Court John Claudius 1 episode
1974 Justice Roger Anderson 1 episode
1975 Space: 1999 Captain Jack Tanner 1 episode
1976 Z-Cars George Stonehouse 1 episode
1977 The Three Hostages Gaudian Television film
1978 Edward & Mrs. Simpson Major Alexander Hardinge Miniseries, 5 episodes
1980 Armchair Thriller Vincent Craig 6 episodes
1981 Private Schulz German Newsreel Reader 3 episodes
1982 The Woman in White Sir Percival Glyde 5 episodes
1983 My Cousin Rachel Ambrose Ashley 4 episodes
1983-1984 Wagner Semper Miniseries, 3 episodes
1984 Horizon Cyril Burt 1 episode
1984 Sorrell and Son Thomas Roland Miniseries, 6 episodes
1985 Mr. Palfrey of Westminster Adrian Vyner 1 episode
1985-1995 Screen Two Various 3 episodes
1986 Oedipus the King Creon BBC-TV
1987 Vanity Fair Lord Steyne 5 episodes
1989 About Face Donald 1 episode
1989 Blackeyes Detective Blake Miniseries, 3 episodes
1990 Centrepoint Claude Wareing Miniseries, 4 episodes
1990 The Tragedy of Flight 103: The Inside Story BKA Police Chief Television film
1991 Young Catherine Archimandrite Todorsky Television film
1991 G.B.H. Dr. Jacobs Miniseries, 3 episodes
1991 Selling Hitler Gerd Schulte-Hillen Miniseries, 4 episodes
1992 The Good Guys Jerry Rushbridge 1 episode
1992 Between the Lines D.A.C. Dunning Main cast, 6 episodes
1993 Crime Story Roy Hall 1 episode
1994 The Chief Dan Cheyney 1 episode
1994 Fatherland General Globus Television film
1995 Kavanagh QC Mr. Justice Griffin 1 episode
1995 Coogan's Run Douglas Crown 1 episode
1996 Wycliffe Dr. Sam Malvern 1 episode
1996-1997 Bodyguards Commander Alan MacIntyre Main cast, 7 episodes
1997 Inspector Morse Dr. Julian Storrs 1 episode
1998-2006 Midsomer Murders Max Jennings / Leo Clarke 2 episodes: "Written in Blood" & "Death in Chorus"
1998 Invasion: Earth Air Marshal Bentley Miniseries, 3 episodes
1999 Mary, Mother of Jesus Simon Television film
1999 Jonathan Creek Professor Lance Graumann 1 episode
1999 Hornblower General François de Charette 1 episode, "The Frogs and the Lobsters"
2000 The 10th Kingdom Governor of Prison Miniseries, 3 episodes
2001 The Gentleman Thief Monty Sinclair Television film
2002 Foyle's War Raymond Brooks 1 episode: "A Lesson in Murder"
2003 Spine Chillers Nick 1 episode
2004 I Am Not an Animal Narrator Voice, Miniseries, 6 episodes
2006 Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire Pompey Miniseries, 1 episode: "Caesar"
2007 The Last Detective Billy Palmer 1 episode
2007 The Inspector Lynley Mysteries Sergeant Mike McCaffrey 1 episode: "Limbo"
2008 The Palace PM Edward Shaw Recurring role, 4 episodes
2008 Apparitions Cardinal Bukovak Miniseries, 5 episodes
2010 New Tricks DAC John Felsham 1 episode
2011 Waking the Dead John Christie 2 episodes: "Solidarity"
2012 Merlin The Sarrum 1 episode
2017 King Charles III Archbishop of Canterbury Television film


  1. ^ "John Shrapnel Biography (1942-)". Retrieved 15 February 2019.
  2. ^ John Shrapnel. Retrieved: 2 June 2014.
  3. ^ Profile on 4. BBC Radio 4. Broadcast: 23 November 1996. Retrieved: 2 June 2014.
  4. ^ Michael Billington (22 May 2011). "The School for Scandal - review". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  5. ^ "John Shrapnel, versatile and intelligent actor on stage, film and television – obituary". The Telegraph. 19 February 2020.
  6. ^ a b Coveney, Michael (18 February 2020). "John Shrapnel obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 February 2020.

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