Princess Anne unveils memorial to screen goddess Anna Neagle
17:15 06 March 2014
Princess Anne came to east London today to put something right after 28 years when she unveiled a memorial to Dame Anna Neagle, one of the best-loved British and Hollywood screen legends who has a street named after her where she was born.
The Princess Royal lifted the Union flag covering the newly-installed memorial stone on the Robertson family grave marking the final resting place of the stage and screen goddess.
Neagle died in 1986 and was buried in the grave alongside her award-winning film director husband Herbert Wilcox, who died in 1977.
But fans who came to pay homage to the star of 13 award-winning films could never find the grave at Manor Park’s City of London Cemetery because she was interred in her married name Florence Marjorie Wilcox.
Princess Anne put matters right with today’s unveiling and met members of Neagle’s family.
Neagle’s biographer Michael Thornton said: “Fans from all round the world were frustrated when they arrived and couldn’t find her grave—we got so many angry emails complaining, including a group from California saying they’d come all that way for nothing.”
Among special guests at the unveiling were film, TV and radio veteran Leslie Phillips, who turns 90 in two months, and 1960s pop star Joe Brown, both of whom have appeared on the London stage with Dame Anna in their careers.
Anna Neagle’s great great-niece Hannah Gill, 21, who presented a bouquet to Princess Anne, later went with her sister and three cousins to see Anna Neagle Close in Forest Gate, the cul-de-sac a mile away named after the famous actress who was born in the neighbourhood in 1904.
“We never knew about the street,” Hannah said. “How amazing there’s a turning named after her.”
The five cousins looked around for a few minutes in the warm lunchtime sun, sitting on a garden wall, before the chauffeur hurried them back from their ‘close’ encounter.