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Lady Prudence Fairfax

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Joan Benham in Upstairs Downstairs

Joan Benham as Lady Prudence Fairfax

Lady Prudence Fairfax was a character in the 1970s British period drama, Upstairs, Downstairs. She was played by the late UK actress, Joan Benham. 

Frivolous, gossipy, but staunchly kind and loyal

Lady Prudence was a recurring character who was seen in all five series (seasons) of Upstairs, Downstairs; Her premiere appearance was in the first series episode "A Suitable Marriage". She was seen in sixteen episodes during all five seasons, (including the landmark episode Guest of Honour, where she was brought in to help soothe Richard's frazzled nerves) and she was also seen in the final episode of the series, "Whither Shall I Wander?"

In the story, Lady Prudence was the long-time best friend of the late Lady Marjorie Bellamy. Apparently, they were friends of some standing as she was often included in many of the Bellamy family functions and as such, she was considered to be part of the family, even though she wasn't related to them.

Her personality, as was the case of most socialites, was that she was frivolous and somewhat gossipy, yet, like Marjorie, she was a kind-natured, warm-hearted and compassionate woman. 

She was called Pru, usually by only close friends and family, and James Bellamy often called her Aunt Pru, although they were not related by blood. 

In the earlier series of Upstairs, Downstairs, she was thought of to have had an elderly husband, Archie Fairfax and from their union, they had a daughter named Agatha, who was roughly the same age as James' sister, Elizabeth Bellamy.

In subsequent seasons, Lady Prudence was revealed to have been a widow (Archie having finally died) and with Agatha married off (to whom, was never revealed), was now living alone. She was often seen around 165 Eaton Place, where she was close friends with Richard Bellamy, and even after Lady Marjorie's death, was shown to be a frequent visitor, checking on her late friend's family and hoping that she would be the next Lady Bellamy. 

However, Richard married a war widow, Virginia Hamilton, and in spite of that, Prudence became friends with the new Lady Bellamy, and she remained close with them both. 

In the final episode, she and her old friend, Richard gossiped about some of the guests at the wedding and the spectacles they made of themselves, which caused an amused Virginia to shush them during the picture taking at Georgina Worsley's wedding.

She was so well liked and such a constant and familiar presence at 165 Eaton Place, that she was also well thought of and quite respected by the Bellamy servants. Nothing was mentioned of Lady Prudence in the 2010 continuation of the series, so, by this time, it was presumed that she was deceased (as the actress, Joan Benham, had been deceased since 1981).

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