Patrick Macnee is Afraid to Get Married

All of the leading ladies in the series The Avengers, have praised Patrick Macnee, alias John Steed. But he himself too often feels disappointed by women.

Patrick McNee has reformed his life. Previously, he drank more than was good for him, he smoked a horrible number of cigarettes per day, ate an immense amount of meat, and he was mobbed by women. But he has renounced a life of excess. "Only no one believes me when I say it," he says with a kind of rueful grin. "But I just know that I am wiser, better, calmer and more honest than before and feel better for it. Let people gloat and chuckle. It doesn’t bother me."


Patrick is of noble birth and a distant cousin of David Niven. He's studied at Eton, the famous school for rich boys. According to his mother, Patrick is a descendant of the legendary outlaw, Robin Hood. In their home in Corsham (Wiltshire), they'd let visitors see the paper on which it was proved in black and white. But Patrick does not flaunt his knightly ancestor. And he has almost nothing but bad memories of Eton.

"The only positive thing about my student days is an introduction to the great Arab poet, Omar Khayyam," he says. "That was a wise man who wrote many things worth reading. Like, 'Do not think about yesterday or tomorrow, but just pay attention to the problems of today, otherwise you will never be happy.' I try to live according to those wise words as much as possible."

Patrick is right not to look back, because his past is actually not much more than a series of sad situations. His father, the famous jockey, Daniel "Shrimp" Macnee, had gone away when Patrick was eight years old. Patrick believes that this event, more than any other, has influenced his life unfavorably. When he graduated, he ran headlong into marriage. "That was during the war and you didn’t have much time to think. I was also barely twenty."

Patrick's first marriage with actress Barbara Douglas was consecrated in 1942. She bore him a son, Rupert, who is now 29 years and produces documentary films, and a daughter, Jenny, who is three years younger than her brother. The marriage was dissolved in 1956. "Perhaps I'm bad for marriage," said Patrick, "but I do not think it was just my fault that our ship ran into the rocks."

In 1961, when the first episode of The Avengers was recorded, Patrick met the actress Catherine Woodville. Four years later he married her. But that second marriage did not last. It ended after a year.

"When my second wife left me in the lurch, I was completely devastated. I thought, "What's wrong with me? Am I really such an impossible man to get along with? "But when Catherine's second and then also her third marriage ended I knew any shortcomings could not only be attributed to me," There is no lack of female companionship for Patrick in California, where he now lives. When on Malibu Beach- his favorite – he always has a handful of beauties around him because he has a reputation as a dreamer and a philosopher. Honor Blackman, his first leading lady in The Avengers always has a warm spot in her heart for Patrick.

"A finer man than he is difficult to find," says Honor. "Patrick is a true gentleman and the best friend I ever had. I feel like protecting him because he is too gentle and kind-hearted. People sometimes abuse him."

Honor's successors, Linda Thorson and Diana Rigg, also talk favorably about him, and describe him as a nice man. But always as a friend, because neither of them want to be married to him. "Patrick," says Linda, "always seem to me to be just looking for something, but I do not think he knows exactly what it is."

But Patrick does know. "Like every man, I'm looking for happiness. The question is only where to find it. Not in a third marriage, I'm sure. I do not intend to marry again. I played my role of husband and father. That it didn’t work out, I believe, is partly due to the war. Many of my generation had the same unfortunate experience I had. Like me, they were not yet ready for marriage when they climbed into the boat. When I now look back at my two marriages, I realise I was completely unprepared for it. I would have liked my first marriage to last longer. It would have been better for the children, because they were so young when my first wife and I broke up. Still, I have a fine relationship with them. My first wife is happy in her second marriage. For my second wife, I never cared. Marriage is not for me. I have learned my lesson. Getting married is not for me anymore. "

With thanks to Denis of Steedumbrella for the translation. (Back to Patrick Macnee articles)