Saturday 16 November 2019

Former Eurovision host Katie Boyle, Lady Saunders dies aged 91

The star had a career that started in the 1950s.

Katie Boyle, Lady Saunders (Handout/PA)
Katie Boyle, Lady Saunders (Handout/PA)

By Lucy Mapstone, Press Association Deputy Entertainment Editor

Former Eurovision Song Contest host and actress Katie Boyle, Lady Saunders died “peacefully at home” aged 91, her agent has said.

Lady Saunders, who was married to the late producer of The Mousetrap Sir Peter Saunders, was best known for presenting the music spectacular in the 1960s and 1970s.

The Italian-born British star’s career started as a model, before working as a continuity announcer for the BBC in the 1950s.

The Queen met Katie Boyle whose husband Peter was the first producer of The Mousetrap at the 50th anniversary of the world’s longest-running play, in 2002 (PA)

She went on to dip her toe into many other areas of the entertainment industry and had a career that spanned more than six decades.

In her capacity as a host she fronted shows such as the Ivor Novello Awards, and she had a long-running radio programme called Katie and Friends on BBC Radio 2.

She appeared on panel game shows and programmes including What’s My Line? and Juke Box Jury.

Lady Saunders was also known as an agony aunt for TV Times Magazine, and for writing a weekly column on fashion and beauty in Sunday Graphic.

A lover of dogs, she was a committee member of Battersea Dogs Home for more than 25 years and wrote Battersea Tales – stories of rescues from the dogs home in 1997.

Born in Italy in 1926, the former Vogue model came to prominence in the 1950s when panel games were the hit of the nation’s one and only channel.

Her English rose beauty, despite her Italian heritage, plus her charm and cut-glass accent were the perfect combination for the BBC at the time.

When the Eurovision song contest began to grab audience attention, she seemed the obvious choice to host it, famed for her poise, unflappability and perfect French.

It was her highest calibre role, which she performed four times across 13 years when the event was held in the UK – most notably in 1974 in Brighton when a little known Swedish foursome who went by the name of Abba triumphed.

She married three times and wrote about her life in showbiz in 1980 in autobiography What This Katie Did.

In 1998 she told the Press Association: “My whole career really started by accident. There was a time when I was on the BBC three times a week – it seems very strange to think of that now, but it was the only thing people watched.”

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home wrote on Twitter: “We’re saddened to hear that Katie Boyle, one of our lifelong supporters, has passed away.

“Katie was a devoted dog lover and a much-loved TV personality who contributed so much time and energy to helping Battersea during her 25 years as a Trustee. She will be greatly missed.”

Broadcaster Jonathan Ross wrote Boyle was a “class act”.

He added on Twitter: “Sad to hear that Katie Boyle has gone. I worked with her once and she was lovely.”

PA Media

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