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Kendal, Madge (Dame)

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She was born on 15 March 1849 at No 58, Cleethorpes Road in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, the daughter of Margaretta and William Robertson, both of the theatrical profession. She was the 22nd child of her parents; her brother Thomas William Robertson (see 719) became a successful dramatist; another brother, E. Shafto Robertson, and a sister, Fanny Robertson, became actors. Margaret first appeared on the stage as the child Marie in “The Struggle for Gold” at the Marylebone Theatre on 20 February 1854. She continued to act children’s parts for some 11 years, appearing at Bristol and London in such roles as Eva in “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, Cinderella, a fairy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (with Ellen Terry as Titania) and Alice in “Marriage at Any Price”. She made her London debut as an adult in Ophelia at the Haymarket Theatre on 29 July 1865, billed as Madge Robertson. Over the next several years at the Haymarket she acted Blanche in “King John”, Desdemona, Georgina in “Our American Cousin” and Jessica in “The Merchant of Venice”. Also in the company, which also toured, was William Hunter Grimston, whom she married in 1869. He acted under the name of Kendal, and their careers then were intertwined for a number of years. William Kendal was not as fine an actor as his wife, but he was an excellent theatre administrator; with Sir John Hare, Kendal and his wife managed the St James’s Theatre with great skill and prosperity from 1879 to 1888. On 7 October 1889 Madge Kendal made her first appearance in New York, as Susan Hartley in “A Scrap of Paper”, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre. During the remainder of her career in London and on tours with her husband, she acted numerous leading and featured roles, and also appeared in a number of films. She retired in 1908, though she returned to the stage for a Gala evening, on 27 June 1911, at His Majesty’s Theatre, to play Mistress Ford in the letter scene from “The Merry Wives of Windsor”. In 1926 she was made DBE, and in 1927 she received the Grand Cross of the British Empire. Mrs Kendal died at Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, on 14 September 1935. Her husband had died some years earlier, in 1917. In 1933 she published her autobiography “Dame Madge Kendal”. See also Thomas Pemberton, “The Kendals” (London 1900).
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