Helen McCrory has been remembered by husband Damian Lewis as “beautiful and mighty” after her death from cancer at the age of 52.
The actress was best known for playing powerful women such as Shelby family matriarch Aunt Polly in the BBC gang drama Peaky Blinders, Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and the home secretary in James Bond film Skyfall.
In a tweet on Friday afternoon, Lewis wrote: “I’m heartbroken to announce that after an heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family.
“She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now Little One, into the air, and thank you.”
The actress also played Cherie Blair, wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, in both The Queen and The Special Relationship.
She has been a regular figure in prestige TV dramas, including the ITV hit Quiz, the BBC political series Roadkill, psychological thriller MotherFatherSon and the adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
Piers Wenger, director of drama at the BBC, said: “Helen was one of the finest actresses this country will ever see.
“From Potter to Peaky, from Blair to Bond, Helen’s fearlessness made every part she played unique and unmissable.
“Her body of work speaks of her extraordinary talent, what it doesn’t speak of is her kindness, intelligence and sense of fun.
“This is too soon, too cruel. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this incredibly sad time.”
A statement from His Dark Materials on Twitter said: “We are heartbroken to report that the uniquely talented, #HelenMcCrory, who voiced Lord Asriel’s daemon Stelmaria, has passed to another world after battling cancer.
“We have lost one of the finest actors of our generation. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.”
McCrory and Lewis married in 2007 and share a daughter Manon, born in 2006, and son Gulliver, born in 2007.
They starred together in the 2015 comedy Bill, about William Shakespeare, with McCrory in the role of Elizabeth I, after meeting while performing in Five Gold Rings at London’s Almeida Theatre.
The pair were also ambassadors for the Prince’s Trust.
McCrory’s break-out role was as Anna Karenina in the 2000 TV adaptation of the classic novel but to a generation of viewers she will be best remembered as the Malfoy matriarch, wife of Lucius Malfoy, mother of Draco Malfoy, in Harry Potter.
Potter author JK Rowling paid tribute saying: “I’m devastated to learn of the death of Helen McCrory, an extraordinary actress and a wonderful woman who’s left us far too soon.
“My deepest condolences to her family, especially her husband and children. Simply heartbreaking news.”
McCrory was born in Paddington, London, to a Welsh mother and Scottish-born father and was the eldest of three children.
She attended school in Hertfordshire, then spent a year living in Italy, before returning to London to study acting at the Drama Centre.
She was made an OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to drama.