Actress Miriam Margolyes has opened up about falling in love with longtime Australian partner Heather, and her devastating regret about coming out to her parents.
The Call the Midwife and Harry Potter star has written her memoir, This Much Is True. The outspoken actress shares candid anecdotes about her life and career in the new book.
Margolyes opens up about coming to terms with being a lesbian in the 1960s, in excerpts published by the Daily Mail.
The actress explains that while at school, she’d had “crushes on girls” which were “all-consuming.”
“But I didn’t have a mature loving relationship until I was 27. Once I found her, I knew,” she writes of meeting longtime partner Australian academic Heather Sutherland.
“When Heather and I first met in 1968, through a mutual friend, we didn’t get out of bed at my flat in Paddington for a week.
“On the first night, she phoned the friend she was staying with to explain that she wouldn’t be back.
“I heard her say, ‘I like Miriam’. Next to getting into Cambridge, that was the best moment of my life.”
Margolyes said not long afterwards, she travelled home and came out as a lesbian to her mother, who told her father.
“I don’t think they really believed it,” she writes in the book.
“They knew it was possible, but Miriam wasn’t going to be like that.
“Because Miriam was perfect and to be a lesbian was imperfection. So it simply couldn’t be entertained for one moment.
“Mummy really couldn’t handle it. It was shameful in the Sixties. People weren’t supposed to do that sort of thing: it wasn’t proper.
“She and my father insisted I come into the drawing room and swear on the Torah never to have relations with a woman again.
“I did as they asked, but I broke my promise.
“I stayed with Heather because I loved her, because my whole soul cleaved to her.
“It would have been impossible to stop. And because, somewhere along the line, I knew they were making an unreasonable request.”
Miriam Margolyes blamed herself for her mother’s stroke
Margolyes explained just days later, her mother had her first stroke and Margolyes said she always blamed herself.
“I always believed that my coming out in some way caused it,” she writes in her memoir.
“Her second, devastating stroke came three months later. [It] started a long period of appalling illness leading up to her death in 1974.
“I had caused the person I loved most in the world a pain she could not bear.
“It was a horrendous time and I was very unhappy. I knew I couldn’t change what I was. I should not have told them.”
53-year relationship with partner Heather
Miriam Margolyes said she and her longtime partner, academic Heather Sutherland, have been together now for 53 years, a “big achievement”.
“Heather is my polar opposite: reticent, incredibly private and reserved,” Margolyes said.
“We’ve probably lasted this long because we have always led completely separate lives.
“To begin with, Heather, who is Australian, was working in Malaysia. But for many years she has been in Holland.
“Normally we see each other about eight times a year, but speak every day on the phone.
Margolyes said she and Heather “have never lived together for long periods, except when we had holidays.”
“Our houses in Italy and Australia have filled our lives in the way others have children,” she writes.
“Our farmhouse in Tuscany is where we come together. It has meant that when we do have that time, I am always happy to say hello and sad to say goodbye.
Margolyes said she and her partner “often talk about whether to live together.”
“Maybe we will only get to do that when we’re in an old people’s home,” she writes.
“I always had the idea that we would build our own and gather our friends there, and that’s what I’d still like to do.”
Miriam Margolyes became Australian citizen in 2013
Miriam Margolyes became an Australian citizen on Australia Day in 2013, at age 71.
Last year, she embarked on a 10,000 kilometre, two-month journey across the country for her ABC documentary series Almost Australian.
And at the time, the actress shared the one place in Queensland she’s not keen to return to.
Miriam Margolyes’ memoir This Much Is True is out next week.
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