Michael Palin facts: Monty Python star's age, wife, children and career explained

14 February 2024, 12:08

Michael Palin in 2014
Michael Palin in 2014. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Sir Michael Palin is a true national treasure.

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From his humble beginnings in Sheffield to his ascent as one of the most beloved figures in British entertainment, Michael Palin's journey is marked by an unwavering commitment to storytelling, curiosity, and a boundless passion for exploration.

As a comedian, actor, writer, and adventurer, he has traversed continents, enchanted audiences, and left a lasting legacy on British culture.

Palin's television career began with contributions to various programs such as the Ken Dodd Show, The Frost Report, and Do Not Adjust Your Set. He later became a pivotal member of Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969–1974), joining forces with comedic talents like John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, and Graham Chapman.

Palin's presence enriched many iconic Python sketches, including 'Argument Clinic', 'Dead Parrot sketch', 'The Lumberjack Song', 'The Spanish Inquisition', 'Bicycle Repair Man', and 'The Fish-Slapping Dance'. Beyond Python, Palin collaborated with Jones on projects like the co-written Ripping Yarns.

Monty Python - Dead Parrot

His creative contributions extended to co-writing and starring in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Life of Brian (1979), and The Meaning of Life (1983). His performance in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) earned him the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Notable film appearances also include Jabberwocky (1977), Time Bandits (1981), The Missionary (1982), A Private Function (1984), Brazil (1985), Fierce Creatures (1997), and The Death of Stalin (2017).

Since 1980, Palin has been renowned for his television travel documentaries, showcasing his talents as both a writer and presenter. His explorations have spanned the globe, from the North and South Poles to the Sahara, the Himalayas, Eastern Europe, Brazil, and even North Korea in a 2018 series aired on Channel 5. Additionally, from 2009 to 2012, he served as President of the Royal Geographical Society.

He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2019 for his contributions to the arts.

  1. How old is Michael Palin?

    Michael Palin in 1970
    Michael Palin in 1970. Picture: Getty

    Michael Palin was born on May 5, 1943, and he celebrated his 80th birthday in 2023.

    He was born in Broomhill, Sheffield, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

    Michael Palin's parents were Edward Moreton Palin and Mary Rachel Ovey. He had a sister named Angela, who passed away in 2017.

  2. How did Michael Palin get his start in comedy?


    Michael Palin's journey into comedy began during his time at the University of Oxford, where he joined the Oxford Revue, a renowned student comedy group.

    It was here that he honed his comedic skills and developed a passion for performance. After university, Palin continued to pursue comedy, eventually finding success in television through various programs such as The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set.

    His big break came when he joined the influential comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus, where he became a key member known for his wit, versatility, and comedic timing.

  3. Is Michael Palin married and does he have kids?

    Michael Palin and wife Helen in 2015
    Michael Palin and wife Helen in 2015. Picture: Getty

    Michael Palin was married to Helen Gibbins from 1966 until her death in 2023.

    They had three children: Rachel, Thomas, and William.

    Rachel is a journalist and writer, Thomas is a computer programmer, and William is a photographer.

    Michael Palin is also a grandfather of four grandchildren, as of 2023.