Historian and author Christopher Lee who wrote BBC’s This Sceptred Isle dies aged 79


Historian and author Christopher Lee who wrote BBC’s This Sceptred Isle dies aged 79 after coronavirus battle

  • Christopher Lee passed away at his home in Sussex surrounded by his family
  • His wife Fiona Graham-Mackay said the author had tested positive for Covid-19
  • The 79-year-old won acclaim for the BBC’s This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4

Author and historian Christopher Lee has died at the age of 79 after contracting coronavirus.

The writer, who won acclaim for the BBC’s This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4, passed away at his home in Sussex surrounded by his wife and two daughters.

During his illustrious career, the former BBC defence and foreign affairs correspondent wrote more than 100 radio plays and series and became adviser to the British Forces Broadcasting Service.

His wife, portrait painter Fiona Graham-Mackay, said the author tested positive for Covid-19 after spending time in hospital.

Christopher Lee, who won acclaim for the BBC’s This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4, has died at the age of 79 after contracting coronavirus

A statement from his family said: ‘Christopher lived with his wife, the painter, Fiona Graham-Mackay in their home in the Sussex countryside where they enjoyed many happy celebrations with family, friends and grandchildren.

‘They both shared a love of the sea and would escape to their boat whenever work commitments allowed.

This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4 charted the history of Great Britain

This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4 charted the history of Great Britain 

‘Apart from his incredible academic achievements, Christopher was known for his kindness, sense of humour, his ability to forgive at the drop of a hat, and his endless generosity, especially in his willingness to inspire and encourage others to fulfil their own creative dreams. To know Christoper was to love him.

‘After a spell in hospital where he contracted the Covid virus, he died at home with Fiona, his two daughters Alexandra and Victoria plus the family dogs by his side and the cat snoozing at his feet.’ 

Before embarking on his career, Lee, who grew up in Kent, was expelled from school for attempting to burn down the school pavilion.

In his 20s, he re-started his education by reading history at London University and soon joined the BBC as a defence and foreign affairs correspondent which saw him being posted to Moscow and the Middle East.

He later swapped journalism for academia and became a quatercentenary fellow in contemporary history and a Gomes lecturer at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. 

His wife, portrait painter Fiona Graham-Mackay (pictured with Christopher Lee), said the author tested positive for Covid-19 after spending time in hospital

His wife, portrait painter Fiona Graham-Mackay (pictured with Christopher Lee), said the author tested positive for Covid-19 after spending time in hospital

The writer was best known for This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4, which charted the history of Great Britain from 55 BC

The writer was best known for This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4, which charted the history of Great Britain from 55 BC

Lee wrote more than 100 radio plays and series during his lifetime including The House, Our Brave Boys and the Los Angeles production of his The Trial of Walter Raleigh. 

The award-winning writer was best known for This Sceptred Isle on BBC Radio 4, which charted the history of Great Britain from 55 BC with the arrival of Julius Caesar and concluding, at least initially, in 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria. 

In 1999, the BBC and Lee extended the programme to cover the 20th century and three accompanying books were also published.  

During his later life, Lee was an adviser to the British Forces Broadcasting Service, which provides radio and TV to the armed forces.

In 2011, he edited and published a single-volume abridgment of Winston Churchill’s four-volume A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.

In 2013, the BBC ran Lee’s play, Air Force One, which explored the events that took place between the assassination of President Kennedy and swearing in of Lyndon B Johnson, in 1963. 

Speaking about the production of the play Lee told Great British Life in 2014: ‘The main play takes place in a transition of power and absolute chaos.

‘We got Stacy Keach to play Johnson and the tension during the recording was amazing.’ 

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