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Dame Judi Dench, 86, gazes at her conservator partner David Mills

Proud Dame Judi Dench, 86, gazes adoringly at her conservator partner David Mills, 77, as he receives an honorary fellowship at University Of Winchester

  • The actress beamed as she stood alongside the her partner as he collected his fellowship in recognition of his conservation work 
  • The couple were joined by Alan Titchmarsh, 72, who is a chancellor at the university, where Judi received an honorary doctorate in 2019 
  • David co-founded Surrey’s British Wildlife Centre zoo 21 years ago, which has a collection of native wildlife and is the UK’s biggest breeder of red squirrels 
  • Judi met her conservationist partner, who lives just a few miles away from her, back in 2010 when he asked her to open the new badger enclosure at Surrey Zoo 
  • Dame Judi was previously married to the actor Michael Williams, her co-star in the sitcom A Fine Romance, for 30 years. He died of lung cancer in 2001 


Dame Judi Dench was every inch the supportive partner on Thursday as her partner David Mills scooped his honorary fellowship for conservation work. 

The actress, 86, beamed as she stood alongside her partner, 77, as he collected his fellowship at the University Of Winchester in recognition of his conservation work, following on from his 2016 MBE for services to wildlife conservation.

David co-founded Surrey’s British Wildlife Centre zoo 21 years ago, which has a collection of native wildlife and is the UK’s biggest breeder of red squirrels. 

The couple were joined by Alan Titchmarsh, 72, who is a chancellor at the university, where Judi received an honorary doctorate in 2019. 

An honour: Dame Judi Dench was every inch the supportive partner on Thursday as her partner David Mills scooped his honorary fellowship for conservation work

David, a former dairy farmer and founder of the British Wildlife Centre, could barely contain his delight as he posed alongside the esteemed actress.  

Historian Michael Wood was also recognised by the university during the ceremony. 

Judi met her conservationist partner, who lives just a few miles away from her, back in 2010 when he asked her to open the new badger enclosure at Surrey zoo. 

Despite their lengthy union, Judi previously insisted she was adamant that they are not going to take their relationship to the next level. She said in 2017: ‘He’s not going to propose. No, no, no, no, no! Let’s all just pull ourselves together and be our age!..

An honour: The actress, 86, beamed as she stood alongside her partner, 77, as he collected his fellowship at the University Of Winchester in recognition of his conservation work, following on from his 2016 MBE for services to wildlife conservation

An honour: The actress, 86, beamed as she stood alongside her partner, 77, as he collected his fellowship at the University Of Winchester in recognition of his conservation work, following on from his 2016 MBE for services to wildlife conservation

Happy days: The couple were joined by Alan Titchmarsh, 72, who is a chancellor at the university, where Judi received an honorary doctorate in 2019 (Judi, Alan and historian Michael Wood are pictured)

Happy days: The couple were joined by Alan Titchmarsh, 72, who is a chancellor at the university, where Judi received an honorary doctorate in 2019 (Judi, Alan and historian Michael Wood are pictured) 

‘I have a jolly nice friend now. I don’t know what the word is because I don’t like the word partner. Partner is something to do with dancing. Partner – horrible word. Friend? No. Boyfriend? No. Chap? Will chap do?’

She told Good Housekeeping: ‘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.’

The happy couple: Judi met her conservationist partner, who lives just a few miles away from her, back in 2010 when he asked her to open the new badger enclosure at Surrey Zoo (pictured in 2019)

The happy couple: Judi met her conservationist partner, who lives just a few miles away from her, back in 2010 when he asked her to open the new badger enclosure at Surrey Zoo (pictured in 2019)

Dame Judi was previously married to the actor Michael Williams, her co-star in the sitcom A Fine Romance, for 30 years. He died of lung cancer in 2001, and the actress has previously said she did not think ‘for a second’ she would find someone again.

After meeting David, she said in 2015: ‘It’s wonderful to be in love. That state when you’re glad to see somebody and they make you laugh and you just like being with’.   

The actress, who has one daughter, also revealed she wishes she had had ‘lots more children’. 

She said: ‘I had planned to have six. Easily! The rewards you get out of it. Finty (her daughter) and I are so close, and also Sammy (her grandson).’ 

Her love: After meeting David, she said in 2015: ‘It’s wonderful to be in love. That state when you’re glad to see somebody and they make you laugh and you just like being with' (pictured earlier this year)

Her love: After meeting David, she said in 2015: ‘It’s wonderful to be in love. That state when you’re glad to see somebody and they make you laugh and you just like being with’ (pictured earlier this year) 

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