Actress Helen McCrory, known for her role as Aunt Polly in Peaky Blinders, died of cancer at the age of 52, her husband announced.

The actress Helen McCory OBE has passed away from cancer aged 52, her husband, the actor Damian Lewis, announced on Friday.

McCrory was widely considered a national treasure from her rich acting career. She had a renowned stage career, as well as playing iconic roles in Peaky Blinders as the fearsome matriarch Aunt Polly, and the Harry Potter franchise as Narcissa Malfoy. She also starred in popular films like The Queen, playing Cherie Blair and Skyfall, as well as hit TV productions such as Anna Karenina, Quiz and Roadkill.

Lewis said he was “heartbroken”, writing, “She blazed so brightly.

“Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you.”

Helen McCrory

Image Credit: GETTY Images

National Theatre’s artistic director Rufus Norris said she was “unquestionably one of the great actors of her generation”. Her two appearances at the National Theatre were as Medea, in a play based on Euripides’ Greek tragedy, and as Hester Collyer in a revival of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 modern classic, The Deep Blue Sea.

Michael Coveney from The Guardian paid tribute, writing, “McCrory was small of stature but huge of spirit, ferocious, even feral, on the stage… She was elemental, fire and earth, and could encompass the world in a tragic embrace.”

Helen McCrory recorded a much-loved episode of Desert Island Discs last year.

She revealed she didn’t typically discuss her career or life. “I’m a bit of a goldfish” she said. “I don’t really reflect. When I was asked to look at different bits of my life for this programme I had to look on the internet to see what I’d done. I’ve lived life at 150 miles an hour.

“I just think that is the truth of it and I’ve never really stopped, and that is a by-product.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, McCrory and her husband supported FEED NHS, a programme designed to give food from high street restaurants to NHS staff, raising £1 million by early April 2020.

She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2017 New Year Honours list for services to drama.

Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight said, “Helen was one of the great actors of her generation. She was so powerful and controlled and this is so sad.”

Cillian Murphy, who played Tommy Shelby in the show, added he was “broken-hearted to lose such a dear friend”. He went on to describe her as “a beautiful, caring, funny, compassionate human being.

“She was also a gifted actor – fearless and magnificent. She elevated and made humane every scene, every character she played.” He added it was “a privilege to have worked with this brilliant woman… I will dearly miss my pal”.

She is survived by her husband Lewis and their children, Manon and Gulliver; by her parents and by her siblings, Catherine and Jon.

Platinum’s thoughts are with her family and friends during this difficult time.