updated: 01/04/2009

look-alikes: Marcia Williams

Baroness Falkender, formerly Marcia Williams, (born 1932) was the private secretary to, and then the political secretary and head of political office to, Harold Wilson. After graduating she became secretary to the General Secretary of the Labour Party in 1955. In 1956, she became Harold Wilson’s private secretary, a position she retained until 1964, when she rose to be his political secretary and head of the political office in his position as Leader of the Labour Party and as Prime Minister from 1964 until 1970 and again from 1974 to 1976. Questions were raised in the press at the time about her commercial dealings, and both Wilson and Williams sued many London newspapers for libel. She was made baroness Falkender of West Haddon in the County of Northamptonshire in 1974. When Wilson resigned Wilson’s press spokesman accused Marcia Williams of being responsible for the first draft of Wilson’s Resignation Honours – referring to it as the ‘Lavender List’ because of the colour of the notepaper on which it was written. Both Lady Falkender and Harold Wilson denied this, maintaining that the list was dictated by Wilson.

The Plot Against Harold Wilson (2006): A dramatised documentary which explored the reasons behind the sudden resignation in 1976 of Harold Wilson as British prime minister. At the time he alleged to journalists that the British intelligence services had made his position as prime minister untenable, and that Britain was on the brink of a military coup with Lord Mountbatten, the Queen’s cousin, lined up to head an interim government after he had been deposed. Elizabeth McKechnie played Marcia Williams, and certainly looked more the part than Gina McKee thanks in part to a – presumably prosthetic – toothy look. I don’t have the makeup credits, if anyone can advise me please themakeupgallery.

The Lavender List (2006): This docu-drama by journalist Francis Wheen for the BBC depicted the alleged events leading up to the drafting of the document. Gina Mckee played Marcia Williams – a great actress but far to delicate of feature to capture Marcia’s look. I don’t have the makeup credits, if anyone can advise me please themakeupgallery. Baroness Falkender was apparently deeply offended by the claims made in the programme; once again she sued and the BBC ended up paying her £75,000 and an estimated £200,000 costs in an out of court settlement over and promised never to broadcast the programme again. Her solicitors stated:

The programme claimed – wrongly – that it was Lady Falkender, rather than the prime minister himself, who compiled Lord Wilson’s resignation honours list in 1976 and that, in doing so, she included the names of individuals who had assisted her personally or from whom she hoped to receive assistance personally in future… It also suggested – again wrongly – that Lady Falkender had had a brief adulterous affair with Lord Wilson and had subsequently used this to blackmail him.