Actress Helen McCrory, best known for her role in the hit show Peaky Blinders, passed away on Friday (16/04). The news was broken by her husband, actor Damian Lewis, through an announcement on Twitter.

He wrote: “[A]fter 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.”

The award-winning actress was born in London to a Welsh mother and a Scottish father, and began studying acting at the Drama Centre. Her stage debut in a 1990 production of The Importance of Being Earnest at Harrogate Theatre would be the start of an illustrious career both on and off the boards; just three years later she would win third prize at the Ian Charleson Awards for her starring role in a National Theatre production of Trelawny of the ‘Wells’. Her most well-known film and television roles are her portrayals of Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise, and Polly Gray, the iconic matriarch of the Shelby family in the BBC hit crime drama Peaky Blinders.

Since the announcement was made, friends and co-stars have been taking to social media to pay their respects.

Her Peaky Blinders co-star Cillian Murphy released a statement to the PA news agency saying he was “heartbroken” to lose “such a dear friend.” Benjamin Zephaniah, who will be reprising his role as Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus in the upcoming sixth season, said in a Twitter post: “Filming without Helen McCrory has been so difficult.”

“She was humane, intelligent, unflinching, and a fighter to the end. A truly amazing woman.”

The National Theatre recognised their long association with the actress, nodding to her “towering performance” as the eponymous tragic heroine in Medea. The Prince’s Trust, of whom McCrory was a celebrity ambassador, also released a statement recalling that the actress “gave so much energy and passion to help us continue changing young lives.”

In 2020, McCrory and Lewis began a non-profit campaign with comedian Matt Lucas and John Vincent of Leon restaurants to raise money to feed NHS workers. The campaign reached £1m in just 10 days, and is now serving 40,000 meals a day to 88 hospitals nationwide.

Helen McCrory is survived by Lewis and their two children, Manon and Gulliver.