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Acclaimed Welsh actor, Richard Burton (1925-1984), was in kinship care as a child and foster care as a teenager. 

Richard Walter Jenkins was born the twelfth of thirteen children to Richard and Edith Jenkins. The family lived in a mining village, Pontrhydyfen, in the Afan Valley, South Wales. Edith Jenkins was forty-four when she gave birth to her last child and died of puerperal fever shortly after. On the death of her mother, Cecilia Jenkins, or Cis as she was known, took the two-year-old Richard to live with her family in Port Talbot.  

Richard did well at school, graduating into high school at the age of eleven. He also enjoyed playing sport, particularly cricket and rugby. He left school at fifteen and worked in retail, but after eighteen months of hating it, Richard went back to school. Philip Burton, a new teacher, became the boy’s mentor, encouraging him to act and stay at school. When Richard left home at seventeen, he moved in with Philip Burton.

[Philip Burton] guaranteed successful schooling; fed him; clothed him; taught him manners; broadened his reading; coached his acting; and gave him a surname (Burton Website). 

When it came to Richard getting into Exeter College, Oxford, Philip Burton became Richard’s legal guardian and Richard’s surname was changed by deed poll. 

Richard Burton joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1944 and in 1946 took leave to play a role for television. It was not long after he had left the RAF that Burton was being contracted to play on stage and for the BBC. 

Richard accepted a contract with Twentieth Century Fox which allowed him freedom to pursue two parallel careers: one in Hollywood and one on the London stage (Dictionary).

In 1957 Richard and his first wife, Sybil, moved to Switzerland to “become a tax exile” (Dictionary).

Burton continued to perform in Hollywood movies, including Cleopatra. Burton’s relationship—and on-off marriages—with Cleopatra co-star Elizabeth Taylor became the talk of the tabloids for years. 

Richard Burton made more than forty films and was nominated for seven Academy Awards.  He also won the BAFTA for Best British Actor in 1966 for his performances in The Spy who came in from the Cold and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and a Golden Globe in 1978 for his role in Equus.

In 2011, a bust of Richard Burton was unveiled by his daughter, Kate Burton, at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. The bust is on display outside the College’s Richard Burton Theatre.


“Burton, Philip Henry (1904-1995), teacher, writer, radio producer and theatre director.” Dictionary of Welsh Biography.[]=en&sort=sort_name&order=asc&rows=12&page=1 

“Burton, Richard (Jenkins) (1925-1984), stage and film actor.” Dictionary of Welsh Biography.[]=en&sort=score&order=desc&rows=12&page=1 

“Life.” The Official Richard Burton Website. 

“Richard Burton’s daughter unveils tribute at £22.5m college.” WalesOnline, 24 June 2011. 

The Richard Burton Online Museum. 

Image available here.