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A Brief History of the Gielgud Family

The Gielgud family has its roots in Poland, where to this day remains a castle – Gielgudyszky. There was a General Anthony Gielgud, who was assassinated in 1831 but it was his brother John Gielgud (born 1794) who was in the polish cavalry who brought the family over to England in 1837.

River Niemen and Zamek of Gielgudyszky, Poland

John’s grandson Frank married Kate Lewis in 1893. Kate was the daughter of the actress Kate Terry and niece of the legendary actress Dame Ellen Terry and the actor Fred Terry.

Click here to see a family tree showing the linkage between the Gielguds and the Terrys.

Frank Gielgud

This great theatrical dynasty continued with Frank and Kate’s children - the actor Sir John Gielgud, one of the finest actors of British history, and his brother Val who was a BBC Drama Director and novelist. Val married actress Barbara and the theatre tradition continued with granddaughter Kate Gielgud – an actress, theatre director and drama coach who married actor Tim Killik. Kate met Tim on the set of the film where she was coaching Hollywood star Tim Robbins.

Gielgud Family - Kate with her children,
John (seated), Val (standing), Lewis and Eleanor

Distantly related to the family is the legendary dancer Isadora Duncan, who was the lover of Gordon Craig – son of Dame Ellen Terry and architect, stage and costume designer Edward William Godwin (whose clients included Oscar Wilde).

Gordon and Isadora, Berlin 1904

A ballet branch has also grown from this family tree.  Maina Gielgud (Sir John’s niece) first established herself as a professional ballerina, most notably with the Royal Ballet before going on to become a respected Artistic Director of several companies including the Australians Ballet and the Royal Danish Ballet.

Kate and Piers with 2nd cousin Maina

This dance connection continues with Maina’s 2nd cousin Piers Gielgud (Sir John’s great nephew and grandson of Val) who is a choreographer whose main focus is feature films (he has worked with Oliver Stone and Robert de Niro). Piers married professional ballet dancer Suzanne Dobson and their first child is continuing the theatrical tradition, having made her stage debut at the Hawth Theatre in Crawley aged four in a ballet performance.

Cartoon of John (top R) and Val (top L) appeared in a London newspaper, 1944

© 2007 Gielgud Films Ltd