'The Royle Family' actress Liz Smith dies aged 95

The actress, who played Nana in the British comedy show, died on Christmas Eve

'The Royle Family' actress Liz Smith dies aged 95

Picture by Yui Mok PA Wire/PA Images

The Royle Family actress Liz Smith has died aged 95, a spokeswoman for her family has said.

The actress, who played the ailing Nana in the hit comedy show, died on Christmas Eve.

Her death comes in the same year as her co-star Caroline Aherne, who died from lung cancer.

A statement from the spokeswoman on Monday night said: "The BAFTA award-winning actress Liz Smith has died, on Christmas Eve, at the age of 95, her family has announced."

The Royle Family actor Ralf Little tweeted: 

Andrew Whyment, who has starred in both Coronation Street and The Royle Family, tweeted: "What a fantastic actress she was absolutely hilarious RIP lovely Liz x"

Richard E Grant, who starred alongside Smith in the 1997 romantic comedy Keep the Aspidistra Flying, said: "I loved working with you on the George Orwell film and privileged to have played and danced together RIP."

And Anna Friel, who made her name as Beth Jordache in 1990s soap Brookside, added: "I loved Liz Smith. What a great actress."

Smith played leading roles, both comedy and serious, on stage and on television, well into her 80s. 

But she only got her first professional roles in her 50s when Mike Leigh was looking for a middle-aged woman capable of improvisation for his debut feature Bleak Moments.

Her career took off after she played the lead role in his first television film Hard Labour and she once said: "I owe everything to Mike."

The actress also played eccentric baker Letitia Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley but was devastated when her character was killed off.

At the age of 85 she won a best actress award at the British Comedy Awards for her portrayal of Nana.

Smith also won a BAFTA for best supporting actress for her performance as Maggie Smith's organ-playing mother in the film A Private Function.

Smith announced her retirement from acting in 2009, following a series of strokes.

The episode in which Nana dies - called The Queen of Sheba - was repeated during Christmas week.