Dame Diana Rigg was a guiding light on the stage and screen.

Dame Diana Rigg was a guiding light on the stage and screen.


In her wake, Dame Diana leaves a trail of extraordinary performances for actors to emulate. Famous for roles including Emma Peel in TV series ‘The Avengers’ and Olenna Tyrell in ‘Game of Thrones’, she died in London at the age of 82.

Her daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, announced the news by writing online that her mother: “… died peacefully in her sleep early this morning, at home, surrounded by family. I will miss her beyond words.”

She said that Diana Rigg died of cancer, after being diagnosed with the illness in March 2020.

“She spent her last month’s joyfully reflecting on her extraordinary life, full of love, laughter and a deep pride in her profession,” she added.

Diana Rigg’s management agent Simon Beresford said “her family … have asked for privacy at this difficult time.”

He added: “Dame Diana was force of nature who loved her work and her fellow actors.”

Dame Diana died at her family home on 10 September 2020. As a trained actor, she had a long career in theatre, television, film, voice-overs and video.

Background on Diana Rigg

The Yorkshire-born star Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born near Doncaster on 20 July 1938. While still young, she travelled to India, where her father worked as a railway engineer for the Maharaja of Bikaner.

By the time she returned to England after the Second World War, she spoke Hindi as a second language. As a teenager, Diana Rigg was educated at a Yorkshire boarding school run by the Moravian church.

She left boarding school in 1955 and trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). She made her professional debut in a production of Bertolt Brecht’s ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ as part of the 1957 York Festival.

As a RADA graduate, Diana Rigg joined the Royal Shakespeare Company. She played a number of roles, receiving praise for her portrayal of Cordelia in a touring production of ‘King Lear’.

After her training as a theatre actress, Diana Rigg became a household name overnight by playing Emma Peel in ‘The Avengers’ television series in the 1960s. She was later quoted as saying “It was a job, they sent me a script, and I thought ‘I can do this.’”

Dame Diana appeared in 51 episodes of the British espionage show, which also starred Patrick MacNee as special agent John Steed.

Dame Diana’s notable achievements

In 2000, Rigg won a special award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) for ‘The Avengers’, shared with the series’ other female stars Honor Blackman, Joanna Lumley and Linda Thorson.

Diana Rigg is the only actor to play a character in a James Bond film who became Mrs James Bond on the screen. Playing Countess Tracy di Vicenzo, her character married George Lazenby’s 007 spy character in the 1969 film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.

While Dame Diana became the only Bond girl to get the secret agent to the altar, the screen marriage was cut short when her character was shot dead soon after the wedding.

In real life, the English actress was married twice. Her first marriage was to Israeli artist Menachem Gueffen, from 1973 to 1976.  She had one child, Rachael Stirling (b. 1977) before wedding her daughter’s father, theatre producer Archie Stirling in 1982.  The married couple divorced in 1990.

Final curtain for Dame Diana

In 2017, the 20-a-day smoker found herself seriously ill and underwent a heart operation. Post-surgery, Dame Diana continued her professional performances.

Her versatility as a stage and screen actor was matched only by her popularity. That is to say, that her performances maintained her portrayal of independent, hard-working, determined female characters.

Australian actor George Lazenby, who starred with her in the film ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’, led the tributes. He said that he was saddened to hear the unfortunate news.

Text copyright: BBC 2020 and Fiona Rothchilds 2020.
Dame Diana Rigg: Avengers, Bond and Game of Thrones actress dies at 82 – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-54106509 retrieved Friday,
11 September 2020, at 8:36 AM AEST.

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