Michael Hordern was the son of Captain Edward Hordern, of the Royal Indian Navy, a Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire, and of his wife Margaret Emily Murray. He was educated at Brighton College, worked for a few tears as an office clerk, and got his first professional engagement on the stage with the part of Ludovico in a 1937 production of Othello. He was then in a repertory company at the Little Theatre, Bristol, from 1937 to 1939, and served throughout the Second World War in the Royal Navy, ending in 1945 as a Lieutenant Commander RNVR. In 1943 he married Grace Eveline Mortimer (she died before him, in 1986), and they had one daughter. After the war, Michael returned successfully to the stage, moving on to fame on radio, television and film.
In later life, many honours were loaded onto Michael Hordern in recognition of his distinction as an actor. In 1972 he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to the stage, and in 1983 he was knighted. In 1985 and 1987 he received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Exeter and Warwick, and also in 1987 became an honorary Fellow of Queen Mary College, London.
Michael's main recreation was fishing, and he was a member of the Flyfishers' Club in St James's, London. Genuinely horrified by the airs and pretensions of many screen stars, he lived simply, published his London address, corresponded with fans, and was perhaps best known in the last years of his long life as the narrator of the children's television series Paddington Bear.