Joanna Lumley says damehood is ‘kindest and most beautiful present’

Joanna Lumley gestures while walking Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Joanna Lumley has said she is “astonished, thrilled and touched beyond words” at being made a dame in the New Year Honours.

The actress, 75, known for her role as outrageously boozy Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous, has been honoured for services to drama, entertainment and charitable causes.

She said in a statement to the PA news agency: “I am astonished and thrilled and touched beyond words to receive this colossal honour. It comes as a complete and unexpected surprise, and is the kindest and most beautiful present imaginable.”

Joanna Lumley attending the 2019 Bafta film gala, held at the Savoy Hotel in London Credit: PA

Acting aside, she has also made a name for herself as a campaigner, fighting for the rights of Gurkhas to settle in the UK and also supporting numerous environmental campaigns.

The glamorous actress was made an OBE in 1995, and received the Bafta TV Fellowship at a star-studded ceremony in 2017.

Accepting the award on stage, she said: “This for me is paradise, I am in the company that I wished to keep ever since I was young. I wanted to be with the people who left race and religion and gender and shoe size outside the door.

“I wanted to be with those people, I wanted to hang out with the boys in the band, I wanted to be part of the sisterhood, I wanted to be in this real circus.”

Absolutely Fabulous originally ran between 1992 and 1996 but was revived from 2001 to 2004.

Speaking to ITV about her Ab Fab alter-ego, Lumley said: “She’s got the morals of an alleycat, and I like to think I’m almost diametrically opposed to her in my primness and my properness.

“I drink – not a lot – and I smoke – not a lot – but Patsy is extreme in everything she does and I think people quite like that.”

Her other career highlights include her role as Purdey in The New Avengers, a role which propelled her to fame in 1976 – and she also made a lesser-known appearance in 1973 on Coronation Street as Ken Barlow’s posh girlfriend Elaine.

Joanna Lumley Credit: PA

Lumley’s movie credits include a role in the 1969 Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, she also shared a kiss with Leonardo DiCaprio while starring in the Martin Scorsese crime drama The Wolf Of Wall Street and appeared in two Pink Panther films.

In 2016 she and her co-star Jennifer Saunders made a triumphant return to the big screen as Edina Monsoon and Patsy Stone for Absolutely Fabulous The Movie, which included celebrity cameos from Kate Moss, Jon Hamm and more.

Born 9,000 feet up in the Himalayas, in Kashmir, where her father was an officer in the Gurkha Rifles, Lumley was educated at a convent in Hastings, East Sussex.

After starting out as a model, her talents extended beyond the catwalk and she soon made a name on the stage.

Lumley has two Baftas under her belt for her performance in Ab Fab, and in 2000 she claimed the Special Award for her work in The New Avengers.

Other recent television stints include a guest role in sitcom Motherland as well as ITV’s Finding Alice.

Joanna Lumley and Absolutely Fabulous co-star Jennifer Saunders Credit: PA

Her 2022 TV projects include Joanna Lumley’s Secret Cities, a three-part documentary series for ITV in which she visits Rome, Paris and Berlin.

She said of the project: “I’m drawn to cities crammed with human life, trailing clouds of history and experience, harbouring secrets and flashing their achievements. Cities are magnets to every kind of person, including me – I’m going to lift the curtain on some of their strange and surprising secrets – join me and be amazed.”

In 2019 she was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Chester in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the arts.