Skip to main content

Famous alumni

We aim to inspire our students to succeed and many of our alumni have achieved greatness

Royal Holloway has been a special institution from day one, so it’s no surprise that it has produced some famous graduates.


One of the first Bedford College students was George Eliot (christened Mary Ann Evans), who is justly famous for the novels Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1872) and Daniel Deronda (1876). Her insightful psychological novels anticipated the narrative methods of modern literature, prompting D.H. Lawrence to write: "It was really George Eliot who… started putting action inside."

Emily Wilding Davison was renowned for her leading role in the suffragette movement, with extreme protest to demand women’s right to vote. She attacked the Chancellor of the Exchequer, went on hunger strike and, fatally, jumped in front of King George V's horse during the 1913 Epsom Derby.

One of the most beloved faces on British television, Lenny Henry is an actor, writer, comedian and television presenter, as well as a founder of Comic Relief. He was knighted in the Queen's 2015 Birthday Honours for services to drama and charity.

Elizabeth Blackwell faced extreme sexual prejudice in her attempts to qualify and practice as a doctor. In 1857 she attended Bedford College and became the first woman doctor to be entered on the General Medical Council register. Later she founded the National Health Society with her friend Florence Nightingale, and the London School of Medicine for Women.

Jean McFarlane was one of nursing's great pioneers, and her work on the ‘nursing process’ is now integral to the nursing curriculum. In 1974 she became England's first Professor of Nursing, at Manchester University. She was one of the first fellows of the RCN, and the first chair of the Royal College of Nursing Congress.

Described by Sir Ian McKellen as "the greatest living actor in England right now", Mark Strong is known for his roles in the TV series Our Friends in the North and films such as The Young Victoria, Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. In 2015, Strong won the Olivier Award for Best Actor for his role in A View from the Bridge.

Director of Red Nose Day and a co-founder of Comic Relief, Emma Freud has collaborated with her husband Richard Curtis CBE as an associate film producer and script editor on Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and The Vicar of Dibley. She is a former TV and current radio presenter and writes a column for The Telegraph.

Tunstall’s 2004 debut album Eye to the Telescope launched her music career, with songs winning awards including an Ivor Novello, and being featured in many films and TV series as well as Hillary Clinton’s 2008 US presidential campaign. She has since released four more albums and has co-written songs for the soundtrack of the 2016 comedy film Bad Moms.

Explore Royal Holloway

Get help paying for your studies at Royal Holloway through a range of scholarships and bursaries.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones.

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start.

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help.

Discover more about our academic departments and schools.

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Royal Holloway is a research intensive university and our academics collaborate across disciplines to achieve excellence.

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway.

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future.

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today.

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable.

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today.