Joanna Lumley explains why she sent son to boarding school despite own ‘grim’ experience

Joanna Lumley discusses her son's boarding school experience

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Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley, 74, has opened up about why she decided to send her son to boarding school. Speaking to Esther Rantzen and Adrian Mills on their podcast That’s After Life!, the James Bond bombshell said that the experience taught her resilience and to “endure unpleasantness”.

You learn how to get over things and you learn how to endure all sorts of unpleasantness

Joanna Lumley

Speaking candidly about her decision to send her only child Jamie to boarding school after being cast in TV series The New Avengers in 1976, the star opened up about her own experiences.

Addressing her time in the Kent school, the star said she had her reasons for sending her son to one.

“Apart from the initial heartbreak, it sounds terrible this doesn’t it, you learn how to get over things and you learn how to endure all sorts of unpleasantness knowing they will come to an end,” she started.

Joanna had first-hand experience of boarding school as when she was eight, her parents returned to Asia, sending her and her sister Aelene to be educated in England.

She sent her son, who she had at 21, to boarding school after being cast in hit seventies TV series, The New Avengers.

Podcast host Esther stated: “The toughest thing to happen to you was to be sent to boarding school very young,” which Joanna agreed with.

She replied: “I know, I was eight, my sister was two years older. She was with me.

“It was a small school and it was fairly wretched because – only for a little bit, I’m quite good, I bounced back, but my sister was quite homesick.”

The actress went on to reveal that there were only 11 boarders at the tiny establishment.

She continued: “England was so cold compared with the Far East and so different, that’s all, just different.

“The food was tasteless and I don’t know, everything was hard and strange.”

The star went on to reveal that the first books she read at school when she was eight were about the bubonic plague.


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She added: “We were frozen in bed at night and I could remember lying there under a measly blanket cold as hell, thinking I’d have lumps under my arms like the bubonic plague, so that was grim.”

The star also revealed to the podcast hosts that she had made a pact with her son in case he ended up disliking his time away from home.

She recalled: “But I made a pact with him, I said, ‘Look, if you hate it just write to me and say ‘I hate it’ and I’ll come and sweep you away. It doesn’t matter a jot’.”

However, the award winning actress went on to reveal that she suspected the headmaster of intercepting her son’s letters and never knew the extent of his unhappiness before it was too late to act on it.

The star explained: “Anyway he wrote me letters but I discovered much later that the headmaster had taken all the letters, because boys had to give their letters to the headmaster before they were sealed up and posted.

“And he was made to rewrite the ones which said, ‘Please take me away.'”

The star began to choke up as she remembered the guilt she felt after finding out Jamie was desperate to come home.

“And so he could never get the message through to me,” she admitted.

“So I never knew and I could never take him away and that’s one of the biggest pains still in my heart.”

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