In her native country, Dench has developed a reputation as arguably the greatest actress in post-World War II history, primarily through her work in theatre, which has been her main forte throughout her career. She has more than once come first in polls to find Britain's best actress  . Furthermore, she gained worldwide popular fame when she took over the role of M when the James Bond film series restarted in 1995.
Dench was born to Reginald Arthur Dench and Eleanora and was raised a Quaker. When Judi Dench was thirteen, she entered The Mount School, York.
In 1971 she married British actor Michael Williams and they had their only child, Tara Cressida Williams (aka "Finty Williams"), on 24 September 1972. Their daughter later became an actor like her parents. Dame Judi starred with her husband in the 1980s British sitcom, A Fine Romance. Michael Williams died of lung cancer, aged 65, in 2001.
Her notable relatives include Emma Dench, eminent Roman historian at Birkbeck College, London.
Today, she is a patron of Friends' School Saffron Walden. She is also the patron of the Archway Theatre, Horley, UK.
She received her dramatic training at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and made her professional debut as Ophelia in Hamlet in Liverpool in 1957. She subsequently spent several seasons in repertory in Oxford and Nottingham. In 1961, she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and made numerous appearances with the company in Stratford and London over the next two decades, winning several best actress awards.
Dench has also made numerous appearances in the West End and with the National Theatre in London. She is a multiple winner of the main awards for performances on the London stage, including a record six Laurence Olivier Awards. She has also appeared with success on Broadway in Amy's Room,and has occasionally directed plays.
As she enters her seventies, Dame Judi remains probably the biggest draw on the London stage. She is often compared and contrasted with Dame Maggie Smith, another British actress of the same generation, with whom she has appeared in several movies and on stage in David Hare's two-hander Breath of Life. She returned to the West End stage in April 2006 in Hay Fever alongside Peter Bowles, Belinda Lang and Kim Medcalf.
Her many television appearances include lead roles in the series As Time Goes By and A Fine Romance.
Dench was created an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970, and raised to Dame Commander (DBE) in 1988. She was made a Companion of Honour (CH) in 2005. In 2000-2001 she received an Honorary DLitt from Durham University.
She will soon appear opposite Ewan MacGregor in an advert for Film Four, in which she is dressed as a lobster.