Peter Bowles

Peter Bowles (born 16 October 1936) is an English actor of stage and television.

Peter Bowles
Peter Bowles

(1936-10-16) 16 October 1936 (age 85)
London, England
Years active1959–present
Susan Bennett
(m. 1961)

Early lifeEdit

Bowles was born in London, England, the son of Herbert Reginald Bowles,[1] valet-companion and chauffeur to Drogo Montagu, son of the Earl of Sandwich, then a butler to the daughter of Lord Beaverbrook, and Sarah Jane (née Harrison), from Scotland, who served as a nanny to the family of the Duke of Argyll before coming to England and working for Beaverbrook's family, which is where they met.[2][3] Upon the outbreak of the Second World War, Bowles's father was seconded to work as a chauffeur at Rolls-Royce in Nottingham, where the family lived in a small "two-up, two-down" house. Bowles attended Mapperley Plains Primary School, then at the Nottingham High Pavement Grammar School, where he was taught English by the novelist Stanley Middleton, and won a scholarship to train as an actor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), where he is still an associate.


Bowles started his career with the Old Vic Company in 1956 playing small parts in Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida and Richard II. After a season this company toured North America, concluding with a sell-out season at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. He played in many performances at the Bristol Old Vic.

Bowles was warned by casting directors on leaving RADA that because of his swarthy looks he would never play an Englishman. Indeed, his early career in television consisted mostly of playing villains (usually foreign) in such shows as The Avengers (Bowles featured in four series), Danger Man, The Saint, The Persuaders! and The Prisoner (in which he played 'A').

Bowles' final villainous role, on television at least, was playing Balor ('the most evil man in the universe') in an episode of Space: 1999. He also appeared as Caractacus in the TV adaptation of I, Claudius (1976). His first major English role was Guthrie Featherstone QC MP, whom he played in many series of Rumpole of the Bailey (1978–1992), while in 1975 he played David Grant, husband of Abby Grant in the BBC series Survivors; his character died in the first episode.

After playing his first comedy role on TV (Hilary) in an episode of Rising Damp, Bowles was often seen as a comedy actor and parts in comedy series such as To the Manor Born, Only When I Laugh, The Bounder, and Executive Stress followed; however, he turned down the role of Jerry in The Good Life.

The high popularity of To the Manor Born, which had audiences of over 20 million for all twenty-one episodes, changed Bowles' life. After being told by the BBC his success in comedy meant he would never work in drama again,[citation needed] Bowles devised a drama series called Lytton's Diary,[4] which he sold to ITV.

It was while starring in Lytton's Diary that he was offered the title role of Major Yeates in the hugely successful TV series The Irish R.M. for Channel 4. A headline in the Evening Standard after that series' success read "Bowles Saves Channel 4".

Much of Bowles' work was now being shown on American television, including PBS's Masterpiece Theatre, and he was very flattered to discover that admirers in America of his work included Stephen Sondheim, Quentin Tarantino and Marlon Brando. Following The Irish R.M., Bowles co-devised the comedy/drama series Perfect Scoundrels, which ran for three series on ITV.

In 1991 Bowles took an idea for a dramatic film to the BBC; it was accepted, and after being written and adapted by Simon Gray, became the highly regarded Running Late episode of Screen One.[5] This was to be Bowles' first performance on BBC Television since To the Manor Born a decade earlier. Bowles, besides starring, also co-produced with Verity Lambert. The film went on to win The Golden Gate Award in 1993 at the San Francisco International Film Festival and in 2013 was shown to great acclaim at the British Film Institute in London.

Bowles' performance in Running Late was another turning point in his career because it was seen and admired by Sir Peter Hall, who over the next twenty years chose Bowles for eight plays he produced in London's West End theatres. Bowles' first leading role in London was offered after playing Byron in Alan Bridges' TV film Shelley.[6] His next play was Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends, also starring Richard Briers, at the Garrick Theatre in 1975. Then came Tom Stoppard's Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land at the Arts Theatre in 1976. (Bowles had last played there in 1963 in Anthony Powell's Afternoon Men in a cast that also included James Fox, Alan Howard and the actress and pop artist Pauline Boty).

Bowles' first starring role in the theatre after many years of TV successes was as Archie Rice in John Osborne's The Entertainer at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1986; he was the first actor to play the part in London since Laurence Olivier in 1957. In 1990 Bowles starred opposite Michael Gambon in Alan Ayckbourn's Man of the Moment at the Globe Theatre.

The role of Vic Parkes was Bowles' first, but not last, performance as an East End gangster. After Running Late Sir Peter Hall began to offer Bowles a succession of leading roles in West End theatre, including Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables opposite Patricia Hodge and George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara with Jemma Redgrave. George S. Kaufman's The Royal Family and Noël Coward's Hay Fever, both opposite Judi Dench at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, followed. In 1996 Bowles played Arnolphe in Molière's The School for Wives at the Piccadilly Theatre.

Another play for Sir Peter Hall, this time at the Theatre Royal, Bath, was Rattigan's The Browning Version. Bowles' last play for Hall was Sheridan's The Rivals in 2011, opposite Dame Penelope Keith, again at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. His other West End theatre plays include Coward's Present Laughter, Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, Peter Nichols' Born in the Gardens, Frederick Knott's Wait Until Dark and in 2004, Simon Gray's The Old Masters directed by Harold Pinter at the Comedy Theatre.

Then again at the Haymarket Theatre in Hutchinson's The Beau, opposite Richard McCabe, and Rattigan's In Praise of Love at the Apollo Theatre. In a South Bank Show special Melvyn Bragg interviewed George MacDonald Frazer & Bowles played the part of Frazers hero 'Harry Flashman' . Other parts include Higgins in Shaw's Pygmalion and the General in Jean Anouilh's The Waltz of the Toreadors, both at the Chichester Festival Theatre; and Judge Brack in Ibsen's Hedda Gabler (translation: Frank McGuinness) opposite Francesca Annis.

Bowles played the ultimate gangster in Mellis and Scinto's Gangster No 1 at the Almeida Theatre in 1995 for which he held the film rights; he raised money from Channel 4 Films and was executive producer for the film Gangster No. 1 (2000), starring Paul Bettany.

Bowles has also featured in many films in his long career, including Live Now, Pay Later (1962), The Informers (1963), Three Hats for Lisa (1965), Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966), The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968), Laughter in the Dark (1969), Eyewitness (1970), Taste of Excitement (1970), A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972), The Offence (1972), Endless Night (1972), The Legend of Hell House (1973), For the Love of Benji (1977), The Disappearance (1977), Try This One for Size (1989), The Steal (1995), Colour Me Kubrick (2005), The Bank Job (2008), and Alan in Hong Khaou's Lilting (2014).

Since 2016, Bowles has played the recurring role of the Duke of Wellington in the award-winning ITV series Victoria.



Year Title Role Notes
1961 Wings of Death Williams Short
1962 Live Now, Pay Later Reginald Parker
1963 The Informers Peter the Pole Uncredited
1965 Three Hats for Lisa Pepper
Dead Man's Chest Joe
1966 Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World Paris Singer TV film
Blow-Up Ron
1968 The Charge of the Light Brigade Paymaster Captain Duberly
1969 The Assassination Bureau Jealous lover of 'La Belle Amie' Uncredited
Laughter in the Dark Paul
The Stiffkey Scandals of 1932 Roland Oliver, KC TV film
Taste of Excitement Guardi
1970 Eyewitness Victor Grazzini
1972 A Day in the Death of Joe Egg Freddie
Shelley Byron TV film
Endless Night Reuben
1973 The Offence Cameron
The Legend of Hell House Hanley
Thinking Man As Hero Frank Cordroy TV film
1977 For the Love of Benji Ronald
The Disappearance Jefferies
Stigma Peter TV film
1988 Beryl Markham: A Shadow on the Sun Lord Jack Carberry TV film
1989 Try This One for Size Igor
1993 Passport to Murder Inspector Bullion TV film
1995 The Steal Lord Childwell
1998 Little White Lies Oliver TV film
1999 Tumbled Mr. Gilzean Short
2000 One of the Hollywood Ten Jack Warner
2001 In Love and War Melville TV film
2005 Colour Me Kubrick Cyril
2007 Ballet Shoes Sir Donald Houghton TV film
2008 Freebird The Chairman
The Bank Job Miles Urquart
2011 Love's Kitchen Max Templeton
2014 Lilting Alan
Peterman Old Boy
2015 Meet Pursuit Delange: The Movie Sir Edward Mead
2016 Not Waving Archie Short
2017 We Are Tourists William
2018 Together Philip


Year Title Role Notes
1958 Armchair Theatre Simpson Episode: "Underground"
1959 The Last Chronicle of Barset Constable Episode: "How Did He Get It?"
1961 Doctor Knock First Countryman Episode: "Act 2"
Magnolia Street Benny Edelman Series regular
ITV Play of the Week Lieutenant Myers Episode: "Conflict in the Sun"
1962 Armchair Theatre Pete Episode: "Thank You and Goodnight"
1963 It Happened Like This Edwardes Episode: "Superstitions"
Crane Nikkolai Drax Episode: "Three Days to Die"
The Avengers Neil Anstice Episode: "Second Sight"
1964 The Saint Maurice Kerr Episode: "Lida"
Drama 61-67 Captain Buckley Episode: "The Crunch"
The Protectors Dr. Fothergill Episode: "The Bottle Shop"
The Great War Winston Churchill Episode: "So Sleep Easy in Your Beds"
ITV Play of the Week Razumikhin Episode: "Crime and Punishment"
Danger Man Gamal Episode: "Fish on the Hook"
Armchair Theatre Morgan Episode: "The Pretty English Girls"
Dermot Llewelyn Episode: "A Certain Kind of Silence"
No Hiding Place Joe Bask Episode: "Real Class"
1965 Machin Episode: "A Fistful of Trouble"
Public Eye Freddy Episode: "A Harsh World for Zealots"
Love Story Jack Everett Episode: "Never Sup at Home"
Crane Vincent Morrow Episode: "A Cargo of Cornflour"
Edgar Wallace Mysteries Joe Episode: "Dead Man's Chest"
Jury Room Detective-Inspector Episode: "The Side of Mercy"
Six of the Best Tom Brown Episode: "Me and My Big Mouth"
Famous Gossips Garçon de café Episode: "Oscar Wilde: Monsieur Sebastian Melmoth"
Out of the Unknown Policeman Episode: "Some Lapse of Time"
The Avengers John Harvey Episode: "Dial a Deadly Number"
1966 Emergency Ward 10 Philip Royston Recurring role
Sunday Night Melville Episode: "The Quarry: Portrait of a Man as a Paralysed Artist"
Redcap Butros Episode: "Buckingham Palace"
The Informer Jack Hart 2 episodes
The Baron Jim Gaynor Episode: "You Can't Win Them All"
Armchair Theatre Sergeant Howlett Episode: "Don't Utter a Note"
1967 The Avengers Thyssen Episode: "Escape in Time"
The Saint Serge Episode: "The Art Collectors"
Armchair Theatre Toby Meres Episode: "A Magnum for Schneider"
Adam Adamant Lives! D.K. Davies Episode: "Another Little Drink"
The Troubleshooters Abbas Ramzi Episode: "My Daughter Knows Her Way Around"
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Harvey Deacon Episode: "Playing with Fire"
The Prisoner 'A' Episode: "A. B. and C."
1968 Dr. Finlay's Casebook Professor Baxter Episode: "The Dynamizer"
The Avengers Ezdorf Episode: "Get-A-Way!"
Champion House Degnos Episode: "The Golden Fleece"
Love Story Brian Episode: "The Egg on the Face of the Tiger"
Sherlock Holmes Joseph Harrison Episode: "The Naval Treaty"
1969 Happy Ever After Tony Bulstrode Episode: "The Party Piece"
Department S Borowitsch Episode: "Six Days"
W. Somerset Maugham Robert Crosbie Episode: "The Letter"
The Gold Robbers Stockbroker Mini-series
Softly, Softly Conn Episode: "One Thing Leads to Another"
Take Three Girls Jeremy Mandl-Fry 2 episodes
1970 Ryan International Alain Episode: "The Dead Live Longer"
The Main Chance Roger Lamb Episode: "The Best Legal System in the World"
Happy Ever After Michael Episode: "The Ambassador"
1971 Hadleigh Robert Charlton Episode: "Breakdown"
The Ten Commandments Tommy Radd Episode: "Black Eye on Sunday"
Brett William Saxby Series regular
The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Inspector Saunders Episode: "The Woman in the Big Hat"
The Persuaders! Mitchell Episode: "Element of Risk"
ITV Sunday Night Theatre Jack Campbell-Barnes Episode: "Who Killed Santa Claus"
1972 The Shadow of the Tower Bernard de Vignolles Episode: "A Fly in the Ointment"
Alexander the Greatest Paul Clutton-Browne Episode: "Renata's Secret Affair"
Harriet's Back in Town Jack 2 episodes
The Protectors Gregor Kofax Episode: "Triple Cross"
1973 The Adventures of Black Beauty Mr. Duffield Episode: "Wild Justice"
Crown Court Gerald Somerville 3 episodes
Cheri Patron 2 episodes
Arthur of the Britons Hecla Episode: "Rowena"
Omnibus Oscar Episode: "The Runaway"
Murder Must Advertise Major Todd Milligan Mini-series
1974 Napoleon and Love Captain Murat Mini-series
Special Branch Igor Episode: "Downwind of Angels"
Good Girl Colin Peale Series regular
1975 Public Eye Croxley Episode: "They All Sound Simple at First"
Thriller Superintendent Lucas Episode: "The Double Kill"
Survivors David Grant Episode: "The Fourth Horseman"
Churchill's People Thistlewood Episode: "Death of Liberty"
Comedy Playhouse Patrick Episode: "Only on Sundays"
Space: 1999 Balor Episode: "End of Eternity"
1976 The Crezz Ken Green Series regular
I, Claudius Caractacus Mini-series
1977 A Roof Over My Head Jack Askew Episode: "A Roof Over My Head"
Rising Damp Hilary Episode: "Stage Struck"
1978 BBC Play of the Month Inspector Hounslow Episode: "Flint"
Pennies from Heaven Prosecuting Counsel Episode: "Says My Heart"
The Sunday Drama Prince Borodski Episode: "The Marrying Kind"
Bless Me, Father Fred Bowlby Episode: "The Doomsday Chair"
1978-1992 Rumpole of the Bailey Guthrie Featherstone Series regular
1979 Tales of the Unexpected Major Haddock Episode: "Neck"
Turtle's Progress Superintendent Percy Weston 1 episode
1979-1982 Only When I Laugh Archie Glover Series regular
1979-2007 To the Manor Born Richard DeVere Series regular
1980 Nanny Knows Best Billy Benson
1981 Vice Versa Paul Bultitude Series regular
1982-1983 The Bounder Howard Booth Series regular
1983 Storyboard Neville Lytton Episode: "Lytton's Diary"
1983-1985 The Irish R.M. Major Sinclair Yeates Series regular
1985-1986 Lytton's Diary Neville Lytton Series regular
1987-1988 Executive Stress Donald Fairchild Series regular
1990-1992 Perfect Scoundrels Guy Buchanan Series regular
1992 Screen One George Grant Episode: "Running Late"
2000 Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) Captain Graves Episode: "The Best Years of Your Death
2003 Holby City Bernie Farraday Episode: "Love Nor Money"
2005 Jericho Fleming Mini-series
2008 Agatha Christie's Poirot Sir Roderick Horsfield Episode: "Third Girl"
2010 Masterpiece Mystery Episode: "Hercule Poirot, Series X: Third Girl"
2011 The Sarah Jane Adventures Lionel Carson Episode: "The Man Who Never Was"
2015 Citizen Khan Lord Anstruther Episode: "Farley Manor"
2016 The Life of Rock with Brian Pern Brian Pern's Father Episode: "The Thotch Reunion"
Murder Greville Cotterall Mini-series
2016-2019 Victoria Duke of Wellington Series regular


  • RADA Scholarship (1954)
  • Madge Kendal Prize (1955)
  • ITV Personality of the Year (1983)
  • Male Comedy Star Award (1983)
  • The Golden Gate Award (San Francisco International Film Festival, 1993)
  • Hon. Doctor of Letters (Nottingham Trent University, 2002)


  • Autobiography: 'Ask Me if I'm Happy'[7] (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
  • 'Behind the Curtain/ The Job of Acting'[8] (Oberon Masters Series, 2012)


  1. ^ Peter Bowles Biography (1936–).
  2. ^ Grove, Valerie. "Peter Bowles leaves behind the Manor for the Browning Version & Swan Song".
  3. ^ "Smoothly to the Manner Moulded".
  4. ^ [IMDB: 'Lytton's Diary']Date accessed: July 2014
  5. ^ [1] Date accessed: July 2014
  6. ^ [2] Date accessed: July 2014
  7. ^ [3] Date accessed: July 2014
  8. ^ [4] Date accessed: July 2014

External linksEdit