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Belgian-born British actress
Audrey Hepburn, original name Audrey Kathleen Ruston (see Researcher’s Note), (born May 4, 1929, Brussels, Belgium—died January 20, 1993, Tolochenaz, Switzerland), Belgian-born British actress known for her radiant beauty and style, her ability to project an air of sophistication tempered by a charming innocence, and her tireless efforts to aid children in need.
Her parents were the Dutch baroness Ella Van Heemstra and Joseph Victor Anthony Ruston, who later adopted the more aristocratic surname Hepburn-Ruston, believing himself to be descended from James Hepburn, 4th earl of Bothwell. Although born in Belgium, Audrey had British citizenship through her father and attended school in England as a child. In 1939, however, at the onset of World War II, her mother (Audrey’s father left the family when she was six years old) moved the child to the Netherlands, thinking that neutral country to be safer than England. Throughout World War II, Audrey endured hardships in Nazi-occupied Holland. She still managed to attend school and take ballet lessons, however. During this time her mother temporarily changed Audrey’s name to Edda Van Heemstra, worried that her birth name would reveal her British heritage. After the war, she continued to study ballet in Amsterdam and in London. During her early 20s, she studied acting and worked as a model and dancer. She also began to get some small film roles, credited as Audrey Hepburn.