Her Majesty The Queen became Patron of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund from her Accession until the year 2000. The ABF expressed their gratitude and appreciation to The Queen for her valuable patronage over a period of 47 years.
With the advent of the Millenium His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales succeeded Her Majesty as Patron. Prince Charles remains a greatly appreciated and valued Patron to the present day.
The ABF is proud that since 1931 when the then Prince of Wales became its Patron that the charity has been under Royal Patronage ever since.
HRH The Prince of Wales 1931 – 1936
HM King George VI 1937 – 1953
HM Queen Elizabeth II 1953 – 2000
HRH The Prince of Wales 2000 –
The ABF has had illustrious Presidents too from its founding President in 1882, Sir Henry Irving, to Dame Penelope Keith from 1989 to the present day.
Sir Henry Irving 1882 – 1905
Sir Charles Wyndham 1905 – 1919
Lady Wyndham (the actress Mary Moore) 1919 – 1929
Sir Gerald du Maurier 1930 – 1933
Charles B. Cochran 1934 – 1939
Sir John Gielgud 1940 – 1953
Sir Laurence Olivier (later Lord Olivier) 1954 – 1989
Dame Penelope Keith 1989 –
May 14th 2002
Two years before, when HRH The Prince of Wales became the ABF’s Patron, there was a meeting at St James’s Palace attended by Penelope Keith (President), Milton Johns (Honorary Treasurer), Peter Bourke (Council Member) and Jane Skerrett (General Secretary). At this meeting Prince Charles asked what he could do to help us. He loves actors, and is particularly interested in our beneficiaries. He wondered if a trip to his Highgrove garden in Gloucestershire would be a good idea, and of course we enthusiastically agreed. The invitation duly arrived, and May 14th was the day.
On June 13th 2002 Dawn Keeler (Council Member) gave an evocative talk about the Highgrove visit at the Annual General Meeting of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund. For the full transcript of the talk please click here.
Two quotes from the thank-you letters received sum up this very special day:
"I had no idea Highgrove would be such fun; so beautiful, so artistic and so personal. Turning every corner was magic, not knowing what you would come across."
"I came away with many gorgeous images, that I can return to in my mind for the rest of my life."
5th August 2009
On 5th August 2009, the first benefit in aid of the Actors' Benevolent Fund since the 1930s was held. The guest speaker at the 2009 ABF AGM, Simon Callow, left after the meeting for the Theatre Royal Haymarket, where he was appearing in a production of Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'. Simon floated the idea of a benefit, and the idea came to fruition thanks to the Theatre Royal’s Chairman, Arnold Crook, the theatre’s staff, and the actors. On 5 August 2009 there was a Special Benefit Matinee of 'Godot' with its outstanding cast: Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Ronald Pickup and Simon Callow. Richard Linnell played the Boy, and the director was Sean Mathias.
The benefit was a success, with a full house. Sir Ian McKellen spoke at the curtain about the work of the ABF, and generously donated all the money from the sale of his pictures on display in the theatre. All the profits from the performance went to helping the beneficiaries of the Actors’ Benevolent Fund. On their behalf, the ABF expressed their heartfelt gratitude to everyone at the Theatre Royal Haymarket – both onstage and off – for their kindness and generosity.
12th February 2014
Trustees and beneficiaries of the Actors' Benevolent Fund were invited by our royal patron, HRH the Prince of Wales, to his official residence at Clarence House on 12th February 2014. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall hosted an evening reception to meet the guests and support the work of the ABF.
A guest wrote afterwards:
"Penelope Keith, President of the Fund, introduced me to The Prince of Wales and Milton Johns to The Duchess. It really was a lovely evening, and what struck me most was just how vital the Fund is and how warmly those it has helped speak of it."