Angela Lansbury’s London connections: What was her grandfather famous for?

Angela Lansbury’s famous grandfather was jailed twice for his political beliefs.

The star of Murder She Wrote, Angela Lansbury has died at the age of 96. Her family released a statement which said: "The children of Dame Angela Lansbury are sad to announce that their mother died peacefully in her sleep at home in Los Angeles at 1:30 AM today, Tuesday 11 October 2022, just five days shy of her 97th birthday."

Although she spent most of her life in the United States, Lansbury was born in London in St Pancras, Central London on October 16, 1925.

London-born Angela Lansbury was best known for her role as sleuth Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote

A little-known fact is that the actress was related to a famous politician. Her paternal grandfather was George Lansbury, the leader of the Labour party from 1932 to 1935. "My grandfather was a very large figure in my life as a child," Dame Angela said in an interview in 1998.

"He was an extraordinary individual who garnered the admiration and love of the British labour movement, which he led, and because he was the most charismatic figure, a very kind simple plain man. He never drank, he never smoked."

In 1921, George Lansbury was the mayor of Poplar in London’s East End, one of the most deprived boroughs in the United Kingdom.

Lansbury and 29 other Poplar councillors were jailed for refusing to hand over what they believed was an unfair tax. With the money, they wanted to build homes with better sanitation and also introduce equal pay for male and female council workers.

He was also a strong supporter of women's rights, and was particularly appalled by the treatment of suffragettes in London prisons.

“No one will want to argue that these women have undertaken this imprisonment, and the torture of forcible feeding merely for the fun of the thing or merely to get notoriety.” Lansbury, said in a speech in the House of Commons, 22 May 1912.

In November 1912, Lansbury decided to resign his seat and seek re-election as a women's suffrage candidate.

Dame Angela was 15 years old when her grandfather died, but his impact on her was to make a strong and lasting impression. She remembered him as a man whom she felt "awed" by and considered "a giant in my youth".

The actress and musical star was educated at London’s South Hampstead high school for girls from 1934 until 1939. During 1940, She trained at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in Kensington, West London.

For the next few years, Lansbury spent in the United States, although she returned in 1949 to marry Peter Shaw at St Columba's Church in Knightsbridge, London.

In 1972, Lansbury made a return to the London West End stage to star in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Edward Albee's All Over at the Aldwych Theatre. 

In 2015, Lansbury won an Olivier Award for Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre. Her career had turned full circle, as she was following in the footsteps of her mother, the Irish actress Moyna Macgill who had made her debut on the same London stage almost one hundred years previously.

West End star Elaine Paige said Dame Angela was “always so kind and generous”.

Paige tweeted:“So upset to hear the news that the legendary Dame Angela Lansbury has died. One of the last Golden Age of Hollywood stars & a Broadway & West End icon."

She added: “So upset to hear the news that the legendary Dame Angela Lansbury has died. One of the last Golden Age of Hollywood stars & a Broadway & West End icon. Always so kind & generous when I met her. She will will be sadly missed. RIP dearest Angela.”