Judith Keppel announces retirement from Channel 5’s Eggheads
Judith Keppel is retiring from Channel 5 quiz show Eggheads, it has been announced.
The popular show returns on Monday for a 24th series, and the show’s third outing on Channel 5, but will not see Keppel return to the quiz panel.
Keppel, 80, is one of the original Eggheads having joined the programme in 2003 after being catapulted to fame as the first UK winner of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in 2000.
She told the PA news agency of retiring from Eggheads: “I love doing it, but I have done it for 19 years and my memory is definitely not what it was.”
Eggheads sees teams of contestants try to beat a panel of specialist quizzers in a test of their general knowledge.
The programme began in 2003, airing on the BBC originally and moving to Channel 5 in 2021, with current host Jeremy Vine joining the programme in 2008.
Keppel said it was a “difficult” decision to make but added: “I have done it for 19 years and I’m quite old. I had a sort of horrible decade birthday the other day (she turned 80 in August) and I have noticed that I can’t learn as well as I did.
“So I just thought it was time to go.”
The TV quiz star, who is a distant relative of the Queen Consort, said doing Eggheads had been “great fun”.
She said: “Because it’s a game, we all get on very well. I love all the behind-the-scenes stuff, and make-up and wardrobe and all that. I mean, it’s just great fun, the whole thing, it’s been great fun.”
Asked what she will miss most about Eggheads, she said: “I think what I’ll funnily enough miss is having to concentrate.
“Because it was very good for me in that I started reading the papers, concentrating hard. Now, of course, I cast away any sports pages there are, don’t have to do that, don’t have to read about pop music or anything like that.
“So I’m going to get very out of touch with kind of popular stuff, I think.
“And I probably won’t concentrate like I used to.”
For her final question on Millionaire, then-host Chris Tarrant asked: “Which king was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine?”
Ms Keppel correctly answered Henry II.
Reflecting on her £1 million win from 2000, she recounted how the winning question was something that had crossed her path in the months leading up to appearing on the TV show.
She said: “I just think I was incredibly lucky, because I think there’s a huge amount of luck involved in all quizzes because nobody can answer every single question put to them ever.
“I was just very lucky with the questions. I didn’t have sport and I didn’t have pop music, and I didn’t have science either for that matter, which were all my weak points.
“I was just very, very lucky with the questions and particularly the last one, because I had just visited – the question was who was Eleanor of Aquitaine married to – and I had just literally two months before driven home through France, and been into this enormous, empty church, and in the church were four tombs, and one of them was Eleanor, one of them was her husband, Henry II, and her son, Richard I and his wife.
“I mean, that was really extraordinary. Because I would not have known it if I hadn’t gone into this church.”
Her fellow Eggheads panellist Kevin Ashman, who has been a fixture on the show since 2003, said: “We’ll miss Judith terribly.
“She brought a real touch of class to proceedings… I remember one team coming to set and they had a spreadsheet of our strengths and weaknesses.
“Judith they had identified as good at history, arts, books, as you’d expect, but they’d also put her down for ‘posh stuff’ whatever that category covers.”
Another of the Eggheads, Chris Hughes, said: “Judith was great fun as a teammate, with a real sense of the ridiculous.
“If she found something funny she would just start giggling.
“I asked her out for afternoon tea once, and after our third pot of tea she carefully wrapped up her smoked salmon sandwich and chocolate brownie and stashed them away in her handbag.”
The show’s host, Vine, said: “I think for all of us it’s sad, she was my great buddy in the studio, because she used to always sit next to me and we would spend most of the time laughing.”
He added: “Judith is genuinely TV quiz royalty. Because she’s, in Britain, the only woman ever to have won Millionaire, and the first person ever to have won the million.
“So she’s got those two things, that’s how we all discovered her, the whole country discovered Judith Keppel at the same instant which is a very powerful thing and actually she’s such an interesting person, you know, over the years I’ve got to know her… we are genuinely friends.”
Eggheads returns to Channel 5 on October 10 at 6.30pm.Published: by Radio NewsHub