Fellowes was born in Cairo, Egypt, the youngest son of Peregrine Edward Launcelot Fellowes, and his British wife, Olwen Mary (née Stuart-Jones). His father was a diplomat and Arabist who campaigned to have Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, restored to his throne during World War II.
Fellowes has three older brothers: Nicholas Peregrine James, wordsmith David Andrew, and playwright Roderick Oliver. The siblings' childhood home was at Wetherby Place, South Kensington, and afterwards at Chiddingly, East Sussex, where Fellowes lived from August 1959 until November 1988, and where his parents are buried.
The house in Chiddingly, which had been owned by the whodunit writer Clifford Kitchin, was within easy reach of London where his father, who had been a diplomat, worked for Shell. Fellowes has described his father as one "of that last generation of men who lived in a pat of butter without knowing it. My mother put him on a train on Monday mornings and drove up to London in the afternoon. At the flat she'd be waiting in a snappy little cocktail dress with a delicious dinner and drink. Lovely, really." A decided influence to arise from this place was the friendship that developed with another family in the village, the Kingsleys. David Kingsley was head of British Lion Films, the company responsible for many Peter Sellers comedies. Sometimes "glamorous figures" would visit the Kingsleys' house. Fellowes said that he thinks he "learnt from David Kingsley that you could actually make a living in the film business".
Fellowes was educated at several private schools in Britain including Wetherby School, St Philip's School, and Ampleforth College, which his father had preferred over Eton. He read English Literature at Magdalene College, Cambridge, where he was a member of Footlights. He studied further at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Fellowes moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and played a number of small roles on television for the next two years. Played a role in one of the "Tales of the Unexpected". He believed that his breakthrough had come when he was considered to replace Hervé Villechaize as the butler on the television series Fantasy Island, but the role went to actor Christopher Hewett instead. He was unable to get an audition for the Disney film Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985) in Los Angeles, but was offered the role when he was visiting England. When he asked the film's director why he was not able to get an interview in Los Angeles, he was told that they felt the best actors were in Britain.
After this, Fellowes decided to move back to England to further his career, and in 1991, he played Neville Marsham in Danny Boyle's For the Greater Good. Other notable acting roles included the role of Claud Seabrook in the acclaimed 1996 BBC drama serial Our Friends in the North and the 2nd Duke of Richmond in the BBC drama serial Aristocrats. He portrayed George IV as the Prince Regent for the second time (the first was in the film The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)) in the 1996 adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's novel Sharpe's Regiment, and Major Dunnett in Sharpe's Rifles. He also played the part of "Kilwillie" on Monarch of the Glen. He appeared as the leader of "The Hullabaloos" in the television adaptation of Arthur Ransome's Coot Club, called "Swallows and Amazons Forever!"
Aside from acting, he launched a new series on BBC One in 2004, Julian Fellowes Investigates: A Most Mysterious Murder, which he wrote and introduced onscreen. He was the presenter of Never Mind the Full Stops, a panel-based game show broadcast on BBC Four from 2006 to 2007. He created the hugely successful and critically acclaimed period drama Downton Abbey for ITV1 in 2010. He wrote a new Titanic miniseries that was shown on ITV1 in March–April 2012.
In April 2015, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Fellowes was at work on a new period drama series for NBC television, to be set in late 19th-century New York City, entitled The Gilded Age. In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Fellowes suggested that a younger version of Maggie Smith's Dowager Countess character from his Downton Abbey drama might appear in the new series, saying: "Robert Crawley would be in his early teens, Cora would be a child. A young Violet [the Dowager Countess] could make an appearance." As the title suggests, the series would be set during the time of America's so-called Gilded Age – the industrial boom era in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – and portray the upper echelons of New York's high society during that period.
Production and writing for The Gilded Age was updated in January 2016 indicating that filming would start at the end of 2016. As reported in RadioTimes: "NBC's The Gilded Age is set to start shooting later this year, Fellowes tells RadioTimes.com. Asked whether he would written the script yet, Fellowes replied, 'No I haven't, no. I'm doing that this year', before adding: 'And then hopefully shooting at the end of the year.'"
In April 2016, it was announced that Fellowes would be the producer of The Gilded Age when it was reported that Fellowes is "about to begin writing The Gilded Age for NBC, a sort of American Downton about fortunes made and lost in late 19th century New York, which he will also produce."
On 4 June 2016, Fellowes was asked by The Los Angeles Times, "Where does The Gilded Age stand?" Fellowes replied, "It stands really with me up to my neck in research, and I’m clearing the decks, so that when I start Gilded Age, I'm only doing Gilded Age. These people were extraordinary. You can see why they frightened the old guard, because they saw no boundaries. They wanted to build a palace, they built a palace. They wanted to buy a yacht, they bought a yacht. The old guard in New York weren’t like that at all, and suddenly this whirlwind of couture descended on their heads. The newcomers redesigned being rich. They created a rich culture that we still have — people who are rich today are generally rich in a way that was established in America in the 1880s, ’90s, 1900s. It was different from Europe. Something like Newport would never have happened in any other country, where you have huge palaces, and then about 20 yards away, another huge palace, and 20 yards beyond that another huge palace. In England right up to the 1930s, when people made money, they would buy an estate of 5,000 acres and they’d have to look after Nanny. The Americans of the 1880s and ’90s didn’t want too much of that."
In August 2016, Fellowes indicated that his plans for The Gilded Age would not overlap substantially with the characters in Downton Abbey since most of them would have been children in those earlier "prequel" decades. Writing for Creative Screenwriting, Sam Roads quoted Fellowes as stating: "Someone asked if you (referring to Fellowes) would see any of the Downton characters (in The Gilded Age), but most of them would be children. They said that Violet wouldn't be a child, and I replied that 'Yes, I suppose you see a younger Violet'... It might be fun, but I doubt at the beginning, because I want it to be a new show with new people."
Fellowes has written an adaptation of Trollope's Doctor Thorne. The ITV adaptation aired on 6 March 2016.
Fellowes wrote the script for Gosford Park, which won the Oscar for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen in 2002. In late 2005, Fellowes made his directorial début with the film Separate Lies, for which he won the award for Best Directorial Début from the National Board of Review.
In 2009, Momentum Pictures and Sony Pictures released The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt, for which Fellowes wrote the original screenplay. Other screenwriting credits include Vanity Fair, The Tourist and From Time to Time, which he also directed, and which won Best Picture at the Chicago Children's Film Festival, the Youth Jury Award at the Seattle International Film Festival, Best Picture at the Fiuggi Family Festival in Rome, and the Young Jury Award at Cinemagic in Belfast. His greatest commercial success was The Tourist, which grossed US$278 million worldwide, and for which he co-wrote the screenplay with Christopher McQuarrie and Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
Other films in which Fellowes has appeared include Full Circle (1977), Priest of Love (1981), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982), Damage (1992), Shadowlands (1993), Jane Eyre (1996), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Regeneration (1997) and Place Vendôme (1998). He has continued his acting career while writing. He unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Master of Lake-town in the 2012-2014 The Hobbit series.
Fellowes and other co-workers on Downton Abbey have indicated in April 2016 an openness to consider possibilities for a feature film production of the television series, which ended with its final sixth season in 2015.
Fellowes' novel Snobs was published in 2004. It focuses on the social nuances of the upper class and concerns the marriage of an upper middle-class girl to a peer. Snobs was a Sunday Times best-seller. In 2009 his novel Past Imperfect was published. Another Sunday Times best-seller, it deals with the débutante season of 1968, comparing the world then to the world of 2008. He also wrote, under the pseudonym Rebecca Greville, several romantic novels in the 1970s. A period novel, Belgravia began broadcast, in 11 weekly episodes, from April 2016 and is available, via an app, in audio and text format.
As an actor, Fellowes has appeared in several West End productions, including Samuel Taylor's A Touch of Spring, Alan Ayckbourn's Joking Apart and a revival of Noël Coward's Present Laughter. He appeared at the National Theatre in The Futurists, written by Dusty Hughes. As a writer, he penned the script to the West End musical Mary Poppins, produced by Sir Cameron Mackintosh and Disney, which opened on Broadway in December 2006. He wrote the book for the musical School of Rock which opened at The Winter Garden on Broadway in December 2015. In May 2016 he was nominated for a Tony.
On 13 January 2011, Fellowes was elevated to the peerage, being created Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, of West Stafford in the County of Dorset, and on the same day was introduced in the House of Lords, where he sits on the Conservative Benches.
Fellowes is Chairman of the RNIB appeal for Talking Books. He is a Vice-President of the Weldmar Hospicecare Trust and Patron of a number of charities: the south-west branch of Age UK, Changing Faces, Living Paintings, the Rainbow Trust Children's Charity, Breast Cancer Haven and the Nursing Memorial Appeal. He also supports other causes, including charities concerned with the care of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He recently opened the Dorset office of the south-west adoption charity, Families for Children.
Fellowes sits on the Appeal Council for the National Memorial Arboretum and is a Patron of Moviola, an initiative aimed at facilitating rural cinema screenings in the West Country. He also sits on the Arts and Media Honours Committee.
In March 1981, Fellowes wrote to The Times newspaper in indignation at the MP Geoffrey Dickens' taunting of his fellow parliamentarians about the identity of a paedophile whose name he was about to reveal. In the version of the letter that was published in The Times, Fellowes said: "The feeblest student of human nature must surely be aware of how slight the connexion between pornography and practices need be. To flirt with fetishes is hardly rare in the best circles [...] now he has to have his life, public and private, more thoroughly smashed than if he had murdered his kinsman in broad daylight."
The man in question turned out to be Sir Peter Hayman, who had been arrested for possessing a large amount of paedophile pornography. Fellowes maintained that his letter was not intended as a defence of Hayman, who was a stranger to him, so much as an attack on Dickens' "enjoyment" of the power granted by parliamentary privilege.
On 28 April 1990, Fellowes married Emma Joy Kitchener LVO (2000) (born 1963) a Lady-in-Waiting to HRH Princess Michael of Kent. She is also a great-grandniece of Herbert, 1st Earl Kitchener. He proposed to her only 20 minutes after meeting her at a party, "having spent 19 minutes getting up the nerve". On 15 October 1998 the Fellowes family changed its surname from Fellowes to Kitchener-Fellowes.
Lord Fellowes publicly expressed his dissatisfaction that the proposals to change the rules of royal succession were not extended to hereditary peerages, which had they been would have allowed his wife to succeed her uncle as The Countess Kitchener in her own right. As he put it "I find it ridiculous that, in 2011, a perfectly sentient adult woman has no rights of inheritance whatsoever when it comes to a hereditary title." Instead, the title became extinct on her uncle's death because there were no male heirs. On 9 May 2012, The Queen issued a Royal Warrant of Precedence granting Lady Emma Fellowes the same rank and style as the daughter of an Earl, as would have been due to her if her late father had survived his brother and therefore succeeded to the earldom.
Lord Fellowes and his wife have one son, the Honourable Peregrine Charles Morant Kitchener-Fellowes (born 1991).
Fellowes was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Dorset in 2009. He is also Lord of the manor of Tattershall in Lincolnshire and President of the Society of Dorset Men. Their main family home is in Dorset.
His wife, now Lady Fellowes, was story editor for Downton Abbey and works with charities, including the Nursing Memorial Appeal.Julian Fellowes, Esq. (1949–1998)
Julian Kitchener-Fellowes, Esq. (1998–2009)
Julian Kitchener-Fellowes, Esq., DL (2009–2011)
The Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, DL (2011–present)