A host of stars turned out for the funeral of one of King Charles’s favourite entertainers, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, who died ‘unexpectedly’ last month.
The screenwriter, performer and composer was known for his work on shows including The Vicar Of Dibley and the 1987 film Maurice, which starred a young Hugh Grant.
His management confirmed he died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ aged 65 on February 6 while listening to BBC Radio 3.
He was preparing for a cabaret show with long-time collaborator James McConnel, which they were due to perform that night.
The Royal Family were big fans of Hesketh-Harvey’s work, and at a service yesterday at the actors’ church, St Paul’s in Covent Garden, his son Rollo read part of a letter he received from the monarch, for whom his father used to perform.
Kit Hesketh-Harvey was known for his work on shows including The Vicar Of Dibley and the 1987 film Maurice, which starred a young Hugh Grant
At a service yesterday at the actors’ church, St Paul’s in Covent Garden, his son Rollo read part of a letter he received from the monarch, for whom his father used to perform
Alan Titchmarsh was among the celebrity guests at St Paul’s in Covent Garden yesterday
Rollo and his sister Augusta were joined on the front pew by their mother, Kate Rabett, 62, a former Bond girl, Hot Gossip dancer and girlfriend of Prince Andrew
Hesketh-Harvey and his wife on their wedding day in 1986 – however they split up during the pandemic after she became close to Old Etonian financier Ian Harrison
Rollo said: ‘King Charles speaks of a true polymath, much loved and admired, and whose wonderful humour and comic genius contributed so much to our general well-being. It’s a tragedy that he has been taken away from us all too early.’
Rollo and his sister Augusta were joined on the front pew by their mother, Kate Rabett, 62, a former Bond girl, Hot Gossip dancer and girlfriend of Prince Andrew.
She and Hesketh-Harvey wed in 1986, but split up during the pandemic after becoming close to Old Etonian financier Ian Harrison.
Rabett and her husband shared a three-storey Georgian rectory in a Norfolk village for 35 years.
Hesketh-Harvey moved into the vestry of the church he owned across the road from their marital home.
Some 500 mourners at the service were led, at the King’s request, by Dame Penelope Keith, 82, who played social-climber Margo Leadbetter in The Good Life and the upper-class Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in To The Manor Born.
Best-selling author Lord Jeffrey Archer was also in attendance, while Oscar winner Sir Tim Rice, 78, arrived with his ex-lover Elaine Paige, the singer and actress.
Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, was among society figures including TV personality Jodie Kidd, 44.
Her elder sister, model and make-up artist Jemma, Marchioness of Douro, 48, was accompanied by her boyfriend, the financier Arpad ‘Arki’ Busson, 60.
Poignantly, one of the pall bearers was Hesketh-Harvey’s nephew Henry Sands, whose father, the celebrated actor Julian Sands, has been missing since January after disappearing on a solo hiking trip in California.
Henry’s mother is Sarah Sands, former editor of Radio 4’s Today programme and the London Evening Standard.
She recalled: ‘As Vanessa Redgrave once said, ‘Grief is a strange and unfamiliar landscape. We will all travel there.’
Princess Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, was among society figures in attendance
Bonnie Langford was among the stars in attendance at St Paul’s in Covent Garden yesterday
Gyles Brandreth also joined mourners at St Paul’s to mourn the death of Kit Hesketh-Harvey
Dame Penelope Keith led mourners at the service at the King’s request
Model and make-up artist Jemma, Marchioness of Douro, 48, was accompanied by her boyfriend, the financier Arpad ‘Arki’ Busson, 60
Oscar winner Sir Tim Rice, 78, arrived with his ex-lover Elaine Paige, the singer and actress
TV personality Jodie Kidd was among those paying tribute to the legendary entertainer
Rabett and her husband shared a three-storey Georgian rectory in Norfolk for 35 years
Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Katie Rabett on their wedding day at Canterbury Cathedral in 1986
Announcing Hesketh-Harvey’s death last month, McConnel shared a statement on the official Facebook page for their cabaret act Kit and McConnel, which said: ‘Desperately sad to report that we lost Kit over the weekend.
‘Wonderfully flamboyant, multi-talented writer and lyrical genius, performer, musician, director, cabaret partner – and friend of over four decades.
‘The funniest, gentlest man I’ve ever known. He brought joy and laughter to so many. RIP old chum.’
Following the news, stars from the world of entertainment offered their condolences to the family and remembered their time with the screenwriter.
Lyricist and author Sir Tim Rice tweeted: ‘Tragic news that Kit Hesketh-Harvey has died. Delightful fellow, charming, witty, the lyricist’s lyricist, a cross between Michael Flanders & Stephen Sondheim.
‘And a fine musician. And fun on Barbados beaches or at Savoy lunches. And much more. RIP.’
The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, Surrey, where Hesketh-Harvey appeared regularly, also paid tribute to the ‘extremely funny and kind’ performer and scriptwriter, tweeting: ‘All at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre are devastated to learn of the death of actor, composer and writer Kit Hesketh-Harvey, our much loved friend and colleague.
‘A regular on the Arnaud stage in our annual pantomime, usually playing the villain, and with his cabaret act Kit and the Widow and later Kit and McConnel.
‘He and his partner James McConnel were one of the first acts back on the Arnaud stage when we reopened from the pandemic closures.
‘Kit was talented, naughty, witty, fearless, extremely funny and kind. He will be much missed by our audience and those who knew and worked with him. Our thoughts are with his family.’
After graduating from the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the Cambridge Footlights comedy sketch troupe, Hesketh-Harvey produced a number of arts documentaries at BBC TV Music and Arts.
He later left to write screenplays for Merchant Ivory, including Maurice, with subsequent projects including Full Throttle and The Vicar Of Dibley for Tiger-Aspect, Hans Christian Andersen for Hallmark, and The Lost Explorer for Tim Walker.
Best-selling author Lord Jeffrey Archer was also in attendance with his wife, Mary
Ukip leader Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine were among the mourners
Former newsreader Angela Rippon arrived to pay her respects to Kit Hesketh-Harvey
Model, racing driver and TV personality Jodie Kidd, 44, right, attended the service
Kit Hesketh-Harvey and wife Katie Rabett at the Royal Court 30th Anniversary Party at Kensington Roof Gardens in west London in 1986
The screenwriter, performer and composer was known for his work on shows including The Vicar Of Dibley and the 1987 film Maurice, which starred a young Hugh Grant
Hesketh-Harvey was nominated in the West End three times for Olivier Awards with his musical comedy duo Kit and the Widow.
They starred in the musical spectacular Y at the Piccadilly Theatre, Salad Days at the Vaudeville Theatre, and Tomfoolery and Cowardy Custard, and were frequently seen on the West End and international circuits accompanying US comedian Joan Rivers.
In 2011, they co-starred at the Royal Albert Hall in the first BBC Comedy Prom, their final appearance on stage together.
A statement from PBJ Management, which represented him, said: ‘We are devastated to learn today of the death of long-term PBJ Management friend and client Kit Hesketh-Harvey. Kit died unexpectedly but peacefully, listening to Radio 3 and preparing for a Kit & McConnel show tonight.
‘A client for over three decades, Kit was a uniquely talented and erudite performer, writer, composer, wit, singer, actor, all-round entertainer and above all devoted father.
‘Peter (Bennett-Jones, the founder of PBJ Management) originally knew kind, clever Kit at university and toured the UK and USA with him in The Comedy Of Errors in 1978.
‘He joined the agency on it being formed in the late 1980s. Kit’s Edinburgh performances in Kit and the Widow and Kit & McConnel for over 40 years are the stuff of legend and consistently one of the funniest shows in town.
‘He will be hugely mourned by so many people who were fortunate enough to have known this special man.
‘We wish all his family and friends deep sympathy and condolences at this very sad time. Kit left indelible joyous memories for us all and he leaves an unfillable gap in all our lives.’