My haven: The All Creatures Great & Small star, Robert Hardy, 86, relaxes in the drawing room of his Cotswolds home
22:27 GMT, 6 April 2012
Robert Hardy in the drawing room of his Cotswolds home surrounded by some of his favourite possessions including a portrait of Churchill and a model of Nelson's ship the Victory
1 CUT AND THRUST
I first played Henry V on TV in 1960 in a series called An Age Of Kings, in which I got to carry this very fine replica of his sword. It’s 3ft 6in long with two sharp edges and a reinforced point – for thrusting. It was given to me afterwards and I got to use it again when I played him on stage a few years later. I’m absolutely devoted to Shakespeare’s history plays – the English is magnificent – although there’s much to admire in the comedies too.
2 ME AND BURTON
This photo of my old mate Richard Burton was taken in the 1950s. I met him at Oxford University in the 1940s. We hated each other at first, he thought I was stuck up and I thought he was arrogant. But we met again training with the RAF, hit if off, and went on to become great friends until his death. He was portrayed as a boozer, but he was also a great reader and mad about cricket and rugby. And he was a wonderful stage actor.
3 BULLDOG SPIRIT
A great hero of mine is Churchill. Growing up in the war I remember listening to his broadcasts of the most appalling news. But every one left the nation thinking, ‘Yes, we can win!’ It was an extraordinary skill, bordering on genius. I was lucky enough to meet him, and having played him six or seven times I got to know the family. This delightful oil of him at Chartwell was painted by his nephew, John Churchill, who gave it to me.
4 ALL CREATURES
James Herriot’s novels were enchanting and I leapt at the chance to play Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great & Small. I made close to 100 episodes between 1978 and 1990 but it was hard graft – those Yorkshire winters were damn cold. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, and I still have his cap and door sign. I also have a confession. I fell a little in love with my co-stars Carol Drinkwater and Lynda Bellingham too.
5 SHIPS AHOY
As a boy I loved stories of Nelson and his ship the Victory, and this model (on the left) reminds me of my absolute hero. I’m also a trustee of the Mary Rose Trust, which preserves the wreck of Henry VIII’s favourite ship (on the right). Launched in 1510, she was the first purpose-built warship, but she went down in 1545 with virtually all hands, all her armaments and the crew’s belongings. She’s a priceless time capsule from the era.
I’ve had a lifelong fascination for the longbow and had this replica made 30 years ago. It’s just over 6ft long and is a copy of one of the original yew longbows used by the Anglo-Welsh Army in the Hundred Years’ War at battles such as Crcy and Agincourt. I’ve been studying this astonishing weapon all my life, and even written a book about it. It’s amazingly accurate at a distance of up to 350 yards. So trespassers beware!
Longbow: A Social And Military History by Robert Hardy, is being republished by Haynes in August, 25.