After her husband died, Judi Dench thought she'd never find love again. Then she met her 'chap'.

When Dame Judi Dench's husband Michael Williams died of cancer in 2001, work became her rock. Her acting was something she drowned herself in — a bid to keep her mind busy and to keep grief at bay.

For years, Dench said she never thought dating or romance would be on the cards after such a loss.

But in 2010, she met someone. A man called David Mills — a dairy farmer turned conservationist. And somehow, they clicked instantly, so much so, that they've been an item ever since. 

But don't ever call David Mills Judi Dench's boyfriend or partner. Because she doesn't like that. 

A poll was once conducted in the UK that found the Queen had been overtaken by Dench as the "most popular and respected woman in Britain". And it appears that sentiment has continued throughout the years. 

Here's everything we know about Judi Dench's life.

Watch Judi Dench answer questions from famous fans. Post continues below.

Video via British Vogue.

Judith Olivia Dench was born in 1934, in North Yorkshire, England. She had an Irish mother and English father.

From a young age, Dench knew the stage was where she wanted to be. After high school, she went on to study at the Central School Of Speech And Drama. By 23, she had hit the jackpot, cementing herself in the Shakespeare realm. 


By the '60s, Dench was starring in films. And so too was Michael Williams.

The pair had shared the screen on multiple occasions, as well as both being promising young stars in the Royal Shakespeare Company. But it wasn't until a decade later that they fell in love and began a relationship.

When Judi left for a six-week tour of Australia, Michael followed and proposed. "Ask me on a rainy night in Battersea, and I'll think about it," she replied.

By 1971, they were married after his second go at proposing was successful. The next year, they welcomed their only child, daughter Tara Cressida Williams, known as Finty. When Finty was born, Dench figured she would slow down with her work in order to focus on raising her child. But reflecting on that time, Dench said that Williams urged her not to give up her career.

"I wanted to give it up because I wanted to be a 'proper mother' and be around. And Michael said, 'No please don't do that'."

Dench said it wasn't just the future of her career that Williams was concerned about, but also the fact they were in need of a stable income.

"We used to refer to Shakespeare as the 'man who pays the rent'," she said, alluding to the fact they relied on the income for the "tiny apartment" they lived in. But they were in for some good fortune, because their respective careers as actors were about to skyrocket.

Judi Dench and Michael Williams with their daughter Finty in 1972. Image: Getty. 


After the birth of Finty, Dench's career progressed incredibly.

Her role as James Bond's boss, M, in GoldenEye in 1995 was major. She subsequently played two British queens, won an Academy Award, a Tony, four television BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

But in 2001, tragedy struck when her husband died from lung cancer. He was 65. When Williams died, Dench decided to still go full steam ahead with her work — but this time, it wasn't about money, rather about keeping mentally occupied. 


The day after his funeral, Dench went to Canada to film The Shipping News. Then, the day after she got home, she started filming Iris.

"It's all a bit of a haze to me. It wasn't the best time," she said. Over the years, Dench said she still feels Williams' presence around her and their daughter.

"His presence is very much in our house, and the garden and everything," Dench said on That Gaby Roslin Podcast in 2020. 

"I had said something out loud to Michael, and I went upstairs. The curtain in my bathroom had flicked open in some way. I straightened it, and when I did there was a bang on the wall and looked down to see a round tin with the words 'I love you' on the top of it. You can interpret it any way you like, But I think those are the kind of things that just happen at the most perfect time."

Judi Dench, Michael Williams and Finty in 2000. Image: Getty. 


For years, Dench never considered marrying again, let alone finding another romantic interest.

As she said on That Gaby Roslin Podcast, there was still a lot of pain and grief attached to Williams' death.

But in 2010, she met David Mills.

Mills began his career as a dairy farmer in England and soon discovered a passion for farming and animals. He then won awards for his herd of pedigree cows, before deciding to convert the land into a centre of conservation. It was originally titled "Conservation Through Education", before it became the "British Wildlife Centre" as it is today, in Surrey.

It's now the UK's largest breeder of red squirrels — a breed that was at risk of becoming extinct in Britain after being overrun by the grey squirrel species. By 2016, David was awarded The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his work.

Mills had invited Dench, who is known for her work in conservation and environmentalism, to his centre. They immediately hit it off and they've been together ever since. 


David Mills and Judi Dench. Image: Getty. 

In 2017, Dench sat down for an interview with Good Housekeeping.

When the journalist asked her about Mills, Dench was adamant the term 'partner' was not something she used to describe her romantic relationship with Mills. In fact, she struggles to find the appropriate terminology. 

"I have a jolly nice friend now. I don't know what the word is because I don't like the word partner," she said.

"Partner is something to do with dancing. Partner - horrible word. Friend? No. Boyfriend? No. Chap? Will chap do?" she asked before deciding on 'chap'.


"One hot night during the summer, we swam and then had a glass of champagne in the garden and I said, 'This is so fantastic'. But perhaps if I was a romantic I'd have been cool and calm about it. I get a bit over-excited about things. I love having a good laugh. A sense of humour is the most attractive thing of all. It's essential," she said.

As she told Radio Times: "Well, of course, you still feel desire. Does that ever go?"

As for the topic of marriage and vows, Dench said they had once considered it, but they had both decided they didn't need a marriage certificate to 'prove' their commitment to one another.

"He's not going to propose. No, no, no, no, no. Let's all just pull ourselves together and be our age."

The pair don't live together, with Dench instead living with her daughter Finty and grandson. Although she does pretty much live next door to Mills. As she explained to The Times: "David and I, we are much too independent. And he is very busy. He has a business to run."

But regardless of whether they live together or not, Dench said it's left her feeling very content.

"I wasn't even prepared to be ready for it... It was very gradual and grown-up. We got together, in a way, through the animals. It's just wonderful."

Image: Getty. 


Given the legacy Dench has, it makes sense why so many in Britain consider her to be a "national treasure". But hilariously, she hates the term. 

"It sounds pretty dusty to me," she said. "It's Alan Bennett [a fellow English actor] and I behind glass in some forgotten old cupboard. I don't like it at all. I wish there was another word for it. A working, job actor is better."

As for whether she plans on retiring, it's looking more and more likely.

In 2012, Dench was diagnosed with macular degeneration — making her ability to learn lines increasingly difficult. Over the last decade, Dench has spoken about the condition worsening.


"It has become impossible," she told Graham Norton on February 2023. 

"And because I have a photographic memory, I need to find a machine that not only teaches me my lines but also tells me where they appear on the page."

Now 89, Dench last appeared in the 2022 movie Spirited, starring as herself in Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds’ Christmas comedy.

Recently, she was approached by a journalist while attending the Chelsea Flower Show in London.

When asked if she has any projects coming up, Dench replied: "No, no, I can’t even see!"

Despite the difficulty, Dench says her condition has resulted not just in struggle, but in funny moments too. 

"I was doing The Winter’s Tale with Ken Branagh a couple of years ago, playing Paulina, and after we had been running for three weeks or so… he said to me — I have a long speech at the end — he said, 'Judi, if you were to say that speech about eight feet to your right, you’d be saying it to me and not to the [proscenium] arch,'" she recalled. 

"I rely on people to tell me!"

This article was originally published in September 2022, and has been updated since with new information.

Feature Image: Getty.

Are you actively taking steps to improve your health and general wellbeing? Take our survey now to go in the running to win a $50 gift voucher.