Miriam Margolyes: Vogue interview explained - who is partner Heather Sutherland?

The Harry Potter and Call the Midwife star has been with her partner Heather Sutherland since 1967
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Miriam Margolyes, known for her roles in things like the Harry Potter franchise, Call the Midwife and Blackadder, has made her British Vogue cover debut aged 82. She features along with other “LGBTQ+ pioneers”, including Ncuti Gatwa (Sex Education, Doctor Who) and Emma D’Arcy (House of the Dragon, Truth Seekers), in the July edition of British Vogue.

The award-winning actress, known for her foul mouth and lovable eccentricity, said gay people are “not conventional” and that she “wouldn’t want to be straight for anything”.

This is everything you need to know. 

What did Miriam Margolyes say in her Vogue interview?

In her interview with Vogue, Margolyes talked about many different aspects of her life whilst gearing up to publish her second book, called Oh Miriam! Stories from an Extraordinary Life later this year. 

During the interview, Margolyes spoke about realising she was a lesbian whilst studying English at Cambridge. At the time, in 1966, homosexuality was still illegal - whilst there was no specific law criminalising lesbians, it was still heavily frowned upon. 

She said: “I never had any shame about being gay or anything really. I knew it wasn’t criminal because it was me. I couldn’t be a criminal.”

Her parents, however, were less accepting of the revelation, with Margoyles stating that she still regrets coming out to them. 

“It hurt them and I don’t want to hurt people,” she said. 

British actress Miriam Margolyes, who plays the part of Professor Sprout, poses for photographers as he arrives the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets world premiere November 3, 2002 in London. (Photo by John Li/Getty Images)    British actress Miriam Margolyes, who plays the part of Professor Sprout, poses for photographers as he arrives the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets world premiere November 3, 2002 in London. (Photo by John Li/Getty Images)
British actress Miriam Margolyes, who plays the part of Professor Sprout, poses for photographers as he arrives the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets world premiere November 3, 2002 in London. (Photo by John Li/Getty Images)

Shortly after coming out, her mother suffered a severe stroke, something which Margolyes felt she somehow caused, writing in her first book This Much Is True: “I always believed that my coming out in some way caused it. I had caused the person I loved most in the world a pain she could not bear. It was a horrendous time and I was very unhappy. I knew I couldn’t change what I was; I should not have told them.”

Margolyes cared for her mother over the following years until her death in 1974, with her father passing away in 1995 aged 96. Despite believing that her parents never accepted her sexuality, Margoyles has remained a proud lesbian. 

She told Vogue: “I think gay people are very lucky, because we are not conventional, we are a group slightly apart. It gives us an edge. We’re good artists, we’re good musicians. And I like being gay. I wouldn’t want to be straight for anything.”

Who is her partner Heather Sutherland?

Sutherland is an Australian historian and academic who was formerly a professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands. 

Born in 1943, Sutherland pursued a degree in Asian studies at the Australian National University in Canberra, graduating with an M.A in 1967. She began her academic career in 1970 as a history teacher in Malaysia, at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. 

Sutherland obtained her doctoral degree from Yale in 1973 with her thesis titled “Pangreh Pradja: Java’s indigenous administrative corps and its role in the last decades of Dutch colonial rule”. 

She joined the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Non-Western Sociology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in 1974 as an associate professor before officially being inducted into the team in October 1976. 

How long have they been together?

Margolyes and Sutherland met in 1967, when they were both working on a BBC radio drama, and have been together ever since. However, despite their decades long relationship, the pair have never actually lived together, with Sutherland living in Amsterdam. The two spend their time together in London, Tuscany and Australia. 

According to Margolyes, not living together is actually the secret to their long relationship, telling Vogue: “We were able to lead our lives without diminishing them. I didn’t want her to have to give up anything. And I didn’t want to give up anything. I wanted my cake and I wanted to eat it too. And so far, it’s worked.”

Miriam Margolyes attends the World Premiere of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 at Trafalgar Square on July 7, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)Miriam Margolyes attends the World Premiere of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 at Trafalgar Square on July 7, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Miriam Margolyes attends the World Premiere of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2 at Trafalgar Square on July 7, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)

The two are in a civil partnership together, and in 2012 Margolyes told the Guardian that Sutherland's family had become her own second family. 

She said: “I'm very fond of them and I'm particularly close to my partner's sister. My partner's cousin, a Melbourne estate agent, gave a party for me a few years ago and said how proud he was that I was part of the family.

"I responded by saying that was incredibly generous of him because a fat Jewish lesbian was probably the last thing he wanted for his family. Everyone laughed and clapped, which was sweet of them. And although it probably was the last thing they wanted because they are very, very conservative business people, they like me – so it doesn't matter.”

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