Laurence Olivier

Laurence Olivier c. 1939, photo by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Birth Name: Laurence Kerr Olivier

Date of Birth: 22 May, 1907

Place of Birth: Dorking, Surrey, England, U.K.

Date of Death: 11 July, 1989

Place of Death: Steyning, West Sussex, England, U.K.

Ethnicity: English, as well as 1/16th French Huguenot

Sir Laurence Olivier was a British actor and director. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Hamlet (1948). He is also known for starring in the films Wuthering Heights, Rebecca (1940), Henry V (1944), Richard III (1955), The Prince and the Showgirl, Spartacus (1960), Uncle Vanya (1963), The Shoes of the Fisherman, Three Sisters (1970), Sleuth (1972), Marathon Man, and Clash of the Titans (1981), the mini-series Brideshead Revisited, and many stage roles. He also directed his Henry V, Hamlet and Richard III, all of which he was a writer on, as well as The Prince and the Showgirl, and co-directed Three Sisters and television’s Laurence Olivier Presents: Hindle Wakes.

He was the son of Agnes Louise (Crookenden) and The Rev. Gerard Kerr Olivier, who practiced high church, ritualist Anglicanism. Most of his ancestry was English. His great-great-grandfather, Daniel Stephen Olivier, was of French Huguenot descent. His uncles were painter Herbert Arnould Olivier and civil servant Sydney Olivier, 1st Baron Olivier, who was Governor of Jamaica (from 1907 to 1913) and Secretary of State for India (in 1924).

Laurence was married to actress Joan Plowright, until his death. He had a son with his former wife, actress Jill Esmond; and three children with Joan.

Laurence’s paternal grandfather was Henry Arnold Olivier (the son of Henry Stephen Olivier and Mary Milligen Dacres). Laurence’s grandfather Henry was born in Stoke Damerel, Devonshire. Laurence’s great-grandfather Henry was the son of The Rev. Daniel Stephen Olivier and Margaret Harriet Arnold. Mary was the daughter of Richard Dacres and Martha Phillips Milligen.

Laurence’s paternal grandmother was Anne Elizabeth Hardcastle Arnould (the daughter of Joseph A. Arnould and Elizabeth Hardcastle). Anne was born in Camberwell, Surrey. Joseph was the son of Joseph Arnould and May Field. Laurence’s great-grandmother Elizabeth was the daughter of Joseph Hardcastle and Ann Corsbie.

Laurence’s maternal grandfather was Isaac Adolphus Crookenden (the son of Adolphus Pelham Crookenden and Jane Margaret Chapman). Isaac was born in Deptford, Kent. Laurence’s great-grandfather Adolphus was the son of Isaac Crookenden and Elizabeth Fillany. Jane was the daughter of William Chapman.

Laurence’s maternal grandmother was Jane Sophia Mitton (the daughter of Joseph Mitton and Sarah or Sophia). Jane was born in Plumstead, Kent.

Laurence was a first cousin, three times removed, of singer and songwriter Roxanne Emery. Laurence’s paternal grandparents, Henry Arnold Olivier and Anne Elizabeth Hardcastle Arnould, were also Roxanne’s maternal great-great-great-grandparents.

Sources: Genealogies of Sir Laurence Olivier –

Sir Laurence’s maternal grandmother, Jane Sophia Mitton, on the 1851 England and Wales Census –


Curious about ethnicity

4 Responses

  1. andrew says:

    “Arnould” is a very French-sounding one. “Milligen” is Irish as @madman stated.

  2. madman says:

    English, 1/16th French Huguenot

    The surname “Milligen/Milligan” is Irish.

    Also, says that Laurence’s paternal grandmother was Emma Selina Eden. Is it clear which one is correct?

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