Born: July 20, 1938;

Died: September 10, 2020.

DAME Diana Rigg, who has died aged 82, was an actress who had a distinguished stage, television and big screen career, gaining plum roles and acclaim on all three.

Her work ranged from the surreal camp of The Avengers on television and Theatre of Blood on film to blockbuster productions such as Game of Thrones and an outing as the only Bond girl to get 007 to marry her.

She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company when barely into her twenties, playing opposite Laurence Olivier in King Lear, and won plaudits for heavyweight roles in classics ancient and modern, such as Medea and Mother Courage, and in new plays by Tom Stoppard, but also took leading roles in musicals, including productions of Follies and My Fair Lady.

She was almost certainly best known for three roles above all: as Emma Peel, the cat-suited, karate-kicking sidekick to Patrick Macnee’s Steed in The Avengers (1965-68),and then as Tracy (Countess Teresa di Vincenzo) opposite George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), the first post-Connery Bond film. In her latter years, she received the attention of a similarly fanatical global audience with her role as Olenna Tyrell in the Game of Thrones (2013-17).

She received dozens of award nominations, and won a Bafta (Best TV actress for Mother Love, 1990); a Tony (for Medea on Broadway, 1994), an Emmy (as Best Supporting actress for Mrs Danvers in Arthur Hopcraft’s adaptation of Rebecca, 1997) and two Evening Standard Theatre Awards for Best Actress (in 1992, for the London run of Medea and in 1996 for her roles in both Mother Courage and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf).

Other notable big-screen appearances included Portia in the 1970 Julius Caesar, with Charlton Heston and John Gielgud; Edwina, daughter of Vincent Price’s homicidal Shakespearean ham in the fabulously entertaining Theatre of Blood (1973); the film of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music (1977); The Great Muppet Caper (1981) and the following year’s all-star version of Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun.

On television she also played Hedda Gabler (1981); Regan in King Lear (1983); Lady Dedlock in Bleak House (1985); the Evil Queen in Snow White (1987); Mrs Golightly in 1996’s adaptation of Molls Flanders; and a memorable turn as Mrs Gillyflower in the Doctor Who episode The Crimson Horror (2013), written with her in mind.

She also popped up as herself on The Morecambe and Wise Show in 1975 and Rick Gervais’s Extras (2006); earlier this year, she appeared in the relaunched version of All Creatures Great and Small.

Her stage appearances included leading roles in plays by Euripides, Shakespeare, Molière, Racine, Shaw, Ibsen, Brecht, Tennessee Williams, Coward, Sondheim and Stoppard. From 1959 to 1964, she was a member of the RSC, and from 1972-1975 was in the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic.

Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg was born on July 20 1938 in Doncaster, the daughter of Louis, a railway engineer, and his wife Beryl, but when she was still an infant, the family moved to Rajasthan in India. She spoke fluent Hindi by the time she returned to England, aged eight, in order to attend a West Yorkshire boarding school.

In 1955, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, where her contemporaries included Glenda Jackson and Siân Phillips; her first professional role was in Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle at the York Festival in 1957, and her first television a bit part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream two years later.

She played Cordelia in the RSC’s European and American tour of Lear in 1964, and then Viola in Twelfth Night (1966), and had roles in ITV plays on Armchair Theatre and Play of the Week.

She auditioned for Emma Peel on a whim, after another actress had been cast as the successor to Honor Blackman and recorded two episodes. The producers, unhappy with her, thought Rigg “head and shoulders” above other candidates. But though it brought her widespread fame, she was never comfortable with the “sex symbol” aspects of the role, though she relished the programme’s subversive humour.

She also found it lonely on set – though she later became close to Macnee – and was incensed to discover that she was being paid not just less than him, but than the show’s cameramen. She successfully lobbied for a rise (from £150 to £450), but the press portrayed her as mercenary, which did not encourage her to stay.

After she left, her role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service did not prove much more congenial; she later denied that she ate garlic before love scenes with Lazenby, but they did not hit it off. Even so, she retained the distinction of being Bond’s only wife (Kissy Suzuki does not count), though she was killed immediately after the ceremony.

She was glad to return to theatre, though the critic John Simon unkindly likened her nude appearance in 1970’s Abelard and Heloise to a “brick mausoleum with insufficient flying buttresses”; she remained suspicious of nude scenes, and much later voiced support for the Me Too movement, saying she had received unwelcome approaches as a young actress.

She had success as Lady Macbeth opposite Anthony Hopkins (1972) and in the first productions of Stoppard’s Jumpers (1972) and Night and Day (1978), and never wanted for television work, though she deliberately tried to find roles that contrasted with Mrs Peel.

She had a relationship with the director Philip Saville in the 1960 and between 1973 and 1976 was married to the painter Menachem Gueffen. She had a daughter, Rachael, with Archibald Stirling of Keir in 1977, whom she married in 1982: they divorced in 1990.

She was a keen smoker from her teenage years until recentlybut abandoned her 20-a-day habit after serious illness, which eventually led to heart surgery in 2017. She was appointed CBE in 1988 and DBE in 1994; she served as Chancellor of the University of Stirling from 1998-2008, and also received honorary degrees from Leeds and London South Bank.