Thane Bettany

Thane William Howard Hardcastle Christopher Bettany (28 May 1929 – 7 November 2015)[2] was an English actor and dancer. He was the father of film and theatre actor Paul Bettany.

Thane Bettany
Thane William Howard Hardcastle Christopher Bettany

(1929-05-28)28 May 1929
Died7 November 2015(2015-11-07) (aged 86)[1]
Cupar, Fife, Scotland
  • Actor
  • dancer
  • drama teacher
Years active1953–1985
Anne Kettle
(m. 1968; div. 1993)
Partner(s)Andy Clark
(1994–2015, his death)
Children3, including Paul
RelativesJennifer Connelly (daughter-in-law)

Early yearsEdit

Thane Bettany was born in Sarawak, an independent state on the island of Borneo, which was then a British protectorate governed by the White Rajahs. Thane grew up with an elder brother, named Peter Bettany. His godmother was the American memoirist Agnes Newton Keith, author of Three Came Home.

The Bettanys knew the Rhys-Jones family, also British expats in Sarawak. In 1965, when both had been widowed, Howard John Bettany, Thane's father, married Margaret Rhys-Jones (née Molesworth; a descendant of Robert Molesworth, 1st Viscount Molesworth).[3] The same year, further intermingling the families, Thane Bettany stood godfather to his new stepbrother's daughter, Sophie.[4] In 1999 he was summoned by royal command to attend her wedding to Prince Edward, when she became Countess of Wessex (later Duchess of Edinburgh).[5]

Dancing careerEdit

Bettany had become enamoured with ballet after seeing a performance as a child. Once he left school he took the money given to him by his father to go to school to study ballet. After National Service, when he served in the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm as a mechanic, he entered Sadler's Wells Ballet School (which later became the Royal Ballet School). He began dancing in musical theatre, but after an accident on stage when he broke his back he had to give up professional dance. Acting was an obvious career move, but he had a stammer. He went to study mime in Paris with Charles Antonetti, who helped him manage his stammer. Bettany returned to England and joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Company, which would later become the Royal Shakespeare Company. He played Osric to Sir Michael Redgrave's Hamlet. In The Tempest, he was the understudy for the role of Ferdinand; he then took over the part when the play transferred to Drury Lane with Sir John Gielgud.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

After a few years with the New Zealand Players, he returned home and taught at Corona Stage School, where he met Anne Kettle, whom he would later marry. He moved on to Norway as the Artistic Director of the English Theatre Company there, inviting Kettle over as his stage manager. Back in England they renewed their friendship at the Lincoln Theatre Royale. They married and settled in North London, "a rough estate in Harlesden" according to their son,[7] and although stage work continued to be his focus, when his children were born he looked for other work to be closer to home. He continued to act, mainly in television; during this period he was cast in one of his most famous roles, as Tarak on Doctor Who.[6]

The couple had three children: daughter Sarah, elder son Paul and younger son Matthew. Sarah and Paul initially attended school in North London. When Sarah, Paul and Matthew were 11, 9 and 2 years old, respectively, their father obtained employment as a drama teacher at the Hertfordshire all-girls boarding school, Queenswood School; the family lived on campus.[7]

His son, Matthew, died after a fall at Queenswood when he was 8. Soon after, Paul left home to live on his own in London. Thane and Anne divorced in 1993 after 25 years of marriage. Bettany considered paying privately for sex-reassignment surgery, as he was too old for NHS protocols; in the end he judged it too expensive, and likely to hinder his remaining acting career.[7] He lived in Fife, Scotland with his partner, Andy Little, continuing to work regularly as an actor, including performing with Dundee Rep until his death in November 2015.[6][8] According to his son Paul, following the death of Andy after a 20 year relationship, Thane "went back into the closet" out of difficulties with grief and with reconciling his sexuality and Catholicism, fearing "not being able to get into Heaven".[9]

Bettany was the father-in-law of actress Jennifer Connelly, who married his son Paul in 2003.[10]


Year Title Role Notes
1957 Fire Down Below
1980 North Sea Hijack Heyerdahl
Doctor Who Tarak Episode: "State of Decay"
1980–1981 The Talisman Theodoric 4 episodes
1985 Maelstrom Mr. Tovan Episode: "In Possession", (final appearance)


  1. ^ Paul Bettany on homelessness: 'Who am I to judge'?
  2. ^ "Bettany, Thane William Howard Hardcastle Christopher, 1929-". National Library of New Zealand. Retrieved 20 November 2022.
  3. ^ Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, vol. 2, ed. Charles Mosley, Burke's Peerage Ltd, pp. 2720–2721
  4. ^ Biography of Paul Bettany Archived 26 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "My son, the actor". 26 April 2004. Retrieved 3 November 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "My son, the actor". The Scotsman – 26 April 2004. 26 April 2004. Retrieved 15 October 2015.
  7. ^ a b c Julie McCaffery (16 May 2006). "Tragedy, Drugs and a Dad Who Wanted to Have a Sex Change Op". Daily Mirror. Archived from the original on 7 December 2008. Retrieved 14 January 2008.
  8. ^ Paul Bettany on 'Shelter' and why his directorial debut is about homelessness, not Hollywood
  9. ^ "Actor Paul Bettany says his gay father went back in the closet later in life".
  10. ^ Mark Armstrong (10 January 2003). "Jennifer Connelly marries Paul Bettany". People. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012.

External linksEdit