Ruth Ellingham is Doc Martin’s Aunt and the middle sister of Aunt Joan. She was a psychiatrist in London helping the criminally insane. After her sister’s passing, Joan left the farm to Ruth. Instead of selling the farm, Ruth decided to stay and work on her novel (which she hasn’t started yet).
Dame Eileen June Atkins, DBE is an English actress and occasional screenwriter. Born in 1934 she has worked in the theatre, film, and television consistently since 1953. She has been nominated for and received many professional awards and was made a CBE in 1990 and later a DBE in 2001.
She appeared as Maggie Clayhanger in all six episodes of Arnold Bennett's Hilda Lessways from 15 May to 19 June 1959, produced by the BBC Midlands with Judi Dench and Brian Smith.
Among her accomplishments are the creation of two television series — along with Jean Marsh she created the concept for an original television series, titled Behind the Green Baize Door, which became the award-winning ITV series Upstairs, Downstairs (1971–75). Marsh played maid Rose for the duration of the series but Atkins was unable to accept a part due to stage commitments. The same team was also responsible for the BBC series The House of Eliott (1991–93).
As an actress her television work has included Three Sisters (1970), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1971), The Lady from the Sea (1974), Electra (1974), the villainess "Vanity Fair" in Dornford Yates' She Fell Among Thieves (1977), Sons and Lovers (1981), Oliver Twist (1982), Smiley's People (1982),Titus Andronicus (1985), The Burston Rebellion (1985), A Better Class of Person (1985), Roman Holiday (1987), The Lost Language of Cranes (1991), Cold Comfort Farm (1995), Talking Heads (1998), Madame Bovary (2000), David Copperfield (2000), Wit (2001) and Bertie and Elizabeth (2002).
Her other films include I Don't Want to Be Born (1975), Equus (1977), The Dresser (1983), Wolf (1994), Jack and Sarah (1995), Gosford Park (2001), Cold Mountain (2003), Vanity Fair (2004) and Ask the Dust (2006).
In the autumn of 2007, she co-starred with Judi Dench and Michael Gambon in the BBC1 drama series Cranford playing the central role of Miss Deborah Jenkyns. This performance earned her the 2008 BAFTA Award for best actress, as well as the Emmy Award.
In 2009 Atkins played the evil Nurse Edwina Kenchington in the BBC Two black comedy Psychoville. Atkins replaced Vanessa Redgrave as Eleanor of Aquitaine in the blockbuster movie Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe, which was released in the UK in May 2010. In 2010 Atkins played Louisa in the dark comedy film, Wild Target, with Bill Nighy, Emily Blunt and Rupert Grint.
Atkins and Jean Marsh, creators of the original 1970s series of Upstairs, Downstairs, are among the cast of a new BBC adaptation, shown over the winter of 2010–11. The new series is set in 1936. Marsh again played Rose while Atkins was cast as the redoubtable Lady Maud Holland.
In September 2011, Atkins joined the cast of ITV comedy-drama series Doc Martin playing the title character's aunt, Ruth Ellingham.
Atkins will star with Matthew Rhys in an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's The Scapegoat, to be shown in 2012.
Atkins was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1990. She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on her 67th birthday, 16 June 2001. On 23 June 2010 she was conferred the Degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, by Oxford University. On 5 December 2005 she received the Degree of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa, from City University London.
Eileen Atkins's IMDb page