Early Life and Family
Rachael Atlanta Stirling was born on 30th May 1977 in London, England, to Yorkshire-born actress Dame Diana Rigg and Scottish landowner Archie Stirling. Her parents were married from 1982-1990. She has two elder half-brothers, Ludovic (Ludo) and William (Willie), from her father’s first marriage (1964-1977) to Charmain Scott. She also has a younger half-brother David (born 2004) from her father’s third marriage (2000-present) to Sharon Silver. Rachael’s great uncle, Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling, was the founder of the S.A.S.
Rachael grew up partially in Scotland, partially in London, but still considers Scotland to be her true home. She attended Wycombe Abbey girls’ boarding school in Buckinghamshire, England for her secondary education. Despite knowing that she wanted to act ever since playing Mary in the school Nativity, Rachael opted for a degree in Art History at The University of Edinburgh, Scotland. While studying for her MA, she began taking on theatre roles and was cast in her first two films: Still Crazy and an adaptation of the Iain Banks novel Complicity. By the time she graduated, Rachael was already a fully-fledged actress with a promising career ahead of her.
In 1995, Rachael won her first major theatre role, playing the part of Desdemona opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor in the National Youth Theatre‘s revival of Othello. In 1999, she was named as one of the Shooting Stars of European film by the European Film Promotion. By the age of 21, Rachael had starred in her first feature film: rock revival comedy Still Crazy. The period of 2000 to 2001 saw her cast in another play, a further five films, and two television dramas. Again cast in Othello, this time a modern-day television adaptation of Shakespeare’s well-known play, Rachael was brought together with director Geoffrey Sax and script-writer Andrew Davies, who would cast her in Tipping the Velvet.
Rachael’s portrayal of Nan King (neé Astley) in Tipping the Velvet brought her much recognition, and she won both the prestigious Sir James Carreras Award for Outstanding New Talent, an Outtakes Dallas award for Best Actress, and a French award. She was later cast as Caroline Crale in LWT’s Poirot: Five Little Pigs and Hester Worsley in A Woman of No Importance at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, directed by the widely-acclaimed Adrian Noble. In 2010, she was nominated in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category at the Olivier Awards for her role as Rebecca in The Priory.
Theatre has remained a large and important part of Rachael’s work, and to date she has, when the parts have been available, taken on new stage roles almost yearly. These have included the role of sharp-tongued Katherina in Nick Hutchison’s The Taming of the Shrew, Lady Chiltern in An Ideal Husband — for which she received a second Olivier Award nomination — and the eponymous anti-heroine in a stunning, gut-wrenching adaptation of Medea.
Being cast in the Donmar Warehouse‘s The Recruiting officer brought Rachael together with director Josie Rourke — it was her first production as artistic director at the theatre — and well-known actors Mackenzie Crook and Mark Gatiss. Working with Rachael inspired Mark, a writer for Doctor Who, to create an episode called The Crimson Horror, which centred around both Rachael and her mother. This exciting opportunity was the first time a project involving the pair had come to full fruition, providing a golden opportunity for Rachael and Dame Diana to work together on screen. They enjoyed the experience immensely.
Rachael’s success on-screen has continued to rise, and she has starred prominently in many television dramas, most significantly the BBC’s adaptation of D.H. Lawrence’s wild, erotic classic Women in Love and 1950s mystery drama The Bletchley Circle. She is also no stranger to the big screen, with recent roles in movie blockbusters Snow White and the Huntsman and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Rachael is always keen to vary her roles between drama and comedy, and her work spans a multitude of genres.
The Lady Herself
Rachael lives in a Victorian cottage in West London. Besides acting, she is a guest interviewer on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends and a restaurant reviewer for Diplomat Magazine. She trained with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in preparation for playing the part of influential dancer Marie Rambert in Riot at the Rite, and has since continued ballet. Despite her busy schedule, Rachael finds the time to work with The Butterfly Literacy School, helping children to read. She also enjoys boxing and travelling. Additionally, she was involved in raising money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Too Many Women campaign, in conjunction with Rachael-Stirling.com and Bonnie.