Awarded the Papal knighthood well into his struggle with cancer and days before his death, British actor Michael Williams responded to the honor with typical zeal and sincerity, "This has been one of the best days I have had. Could I have a match replay?" A respected and versatile actor of stage and screen as comfortable with Shakespeare as with sitcoms, Williams was well known to U.K. television audiences through his role in the popular sitcom A Fine Romance, though his tireless on-stage career is a testament to an actor with a great love for classical roles.
Born in Manchester in 1935, and attending Liverpool's St. Edward's Christian Brothers school in his youth, Williams was a devout Roman Catholic who maintained a close relationship with the church throughout his life, serving as an enthusiastic and supportive member of the Catholic Stage Guild for a number of years. Gaining popularity through his powerful roles in such productions as The Taming of the Shrew and perhaps most notably in Troilus and Cressida (opposite Helen Mirren's Cressida), Williams married actress Judi Dench in 1971. Remaining close friends long before matrimony (not unlike their fictional counterparts on Romance), Dench and Williams remained together until Williams' death in 2001, often appearing together on stage (The Pack of Lies) and in film (Tea With Mussolini). In 1972 Williams and Dench had their only child, actress Finty Williams (The Secret Rapture) (1993). His other popular television parts included that of a brilliant Oxford scholar reduced to hamburger slinging in Double First, and a co-starring role opposite actress Gwen Taylor in the mid-life marital drama Conjugal Rites (1993).