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Diana Rigg
Diana Rigg en 2006
Diana Rigg in 2006

Birth Name

Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg


20 July 1938, Doncaster, West Riding of Yorkshire, England




Menachem Gueffen (1973–1976)
Archibald Stirling (1982–1990)

Years Active


Dame Enid Diana Elizabeth Rigg DBE (born 20 July 1938) is an English actress. She is probably best known for her portrayals of Emma Peel in The Avengers and Countess Teresa di Vicenzo in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Diana Rigg played Miss Hardbroom in the 1986 Worst Witch Movie.


Early life

Rigg was born in Doncaster in the West Riding of Yorkshire [1] to Louis Rigg and Beryl Helliwell; her father was a railway engineer who had been born in Yorkshire. Between the ages of two months and eight years Rigg lived in Bikaner, India, where her father was employed as a railway executive [1]. Rigg still speaks fluent Hindi. She was then sent to a boarding school, the Moravian school in Fulneck, near Pudsey. She disliked her boarding school, where she felt like a fish out of water, but she believes that Yorkshire played a greater part in shaping her character than India did.[2]


Rigg is particularly known for her role in the British 1960s television series The Avengers, where she played the secret agent Mrs. Emma Peel for 51 episodes between 1965 and 1968. Rigg tried out for the role of Emma Peel on a whim, without ever having seen the programme. Her career in film, television and the theatre has been wide-ranging, including roles in the Royal Shakespeare Company between 1959 and 1964. Her professional debut was in The Caucasian Chalk Circle in 1955, aged 17.

On the big screen she became a Bond girl in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), playing Tracy Bond, James Bond's only wife. She said she took the role with the hope that she would become well known in America.[4]Throughout the filming of the movie, there were rumors that the experience was not a happy one, owing to a personality clash with Bond actor George Lazenby. The rumors may have arisen from a reporter witnessing her say "I'm having garlic for lunch George [Lazenby] I hope you are!" before a love scene between the two. However, both Rigg and Lazenby have denied the claims, and both wrote off the garlic comment as a joke.

In the 1980s, after reading stinging reviews of a stage performance she had given, Rigg was inspired to compile the worst theatrical reviews she could find into a tongue-in-cheek (and best-selling) compilation, entitled No Turn Unstoned.

Rigg has continued to perform on stage; in 2004 she appeared as Violet Venable in Sheffield Theatres' production of Tennessee Williams's play Suddenly Last Summer. This enjoyed a successful national tour. In 2006 she appeared at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End in a drama entitled Honour which had a limited but successful run. In 2007 she appeared as Huma Rojo in the Old Vic's production of All About My Mother, adapted by Samuel Adamson and based on the film of the same title directed by Pedro Almodóvar. She appeared in 2008 in The Cherry Orchard at the Chichester Festival Theatre, returning there in 2009 to star in Noel Coward's Hay Fever.

Although she does not consider herself a singer, her performances in A Little Night Music, Follies and other stage musicals have been well received by audiences and critics alike. She made a highly memorable appearance on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in 1975, in which she played Nell Gwynne in a musical pastiche, joining Eric and Ernie to sing “How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Loved You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life?”.

She also appeared in the second season of Ricky Gervais' hit comedy, Extras, alongside Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, and the 2006 film The Painted Veil.

Personal life

She lived with Philip Saville for some time. A marriage to Menachem Gueffen, an Israeli painter, lasted from 1973 to 1976. She was married to Archibald Stirling, a theatrical producer and former officer in the Scots Guards, from 1982 to 1990. The marriage broke up when Stirling had an affair with the actress Joely Richardson.[5] With Stirling she has a daughter, the actress Rachael Stirling, who was born in 1977.

Rigg was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1988 and a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1994.

Patrick Macnee, her co-star in The Avengers, described Diana Rigg in a July 2006 documentary on BBC Four as “just like an angel coming down from heaven”.

Rigg is a Patron of International Care & Relief and was for many years the public face of the charity's child sponsorship scheme. She was also Chancellor of the University of Stirling, being succeeded by James Naughtie when her ten year term of office ended on 31 July 2008.



  • 1968- A Midsummer Night's Dream- Helena
  • 1969- Mini-Killers (Short film)
  • 1969- The Assassination Bureau- Sonya Winter
  • 1969- On Her Majesty's Secret Service- Contessa Teresa (Tracy) di Vicenzo/Mrs James Bond
  • 1970- Julius Caesar- Portia
  • 1971- The Hospital- Barbara Drummond
  • 1973- Theatre of Blood- Edwina Lionheart
  • 1977- A Little Night Music- Charlotte Mittelheim
  • 1981- The Great Muppet Caper- Lady Holiday
  • 1982- Evil Under the Sun- Arlena Marshall
  • 1987- Snow White- Evil Queen, Snow White's stepmother
  • 1994- A Good Man in Africa- Chloe Fanshawe
  • 1998- Parting Shots- Lisa
  • 2005- Heidi- Grandmamma
  • 2006- The Painted Veil- Mother Superior


  • 1959- A Midsummer Night's Dream (TV film) - Bit part
  • 1963- The Sentimental Agent- Francy Wilde (Episode: "A Very Desirable Plot")
  • 1964- Festival- Adriana (Episode: "The Comedy of Errors")
  • 1964- Armchair Theatre- Anita Fender (Episode: "The Hothouse")
  • 1965- ITV Play of the Week- Bianca (Episode: "Women Beware Women")
  • 1965-1968- The Avengers- Emma Peel (51 episodes)
  • 1970- ITV Saturday Night Theatre- Liz Jardine (Episode: "Married Alive")
  • 1973-1974- Diana- Diana Smythe (15 episodes)
  • 1974- Affairs of the Heart- Grace Gracedew (Episode: "Grace")
  • 1975- In This House of Brede- Philippa (TV film)
  • 1977- Three Piece Suite- Various (6 episodes)
  • 1979- Oresteia- Clytemnestra (TV miniseries)
  • 1980- The Marquise- Eloise (TV film)
  • 1981- Hedda Gabler- Hedda Gabler (TV film)
  • 1982- Play of the Month (BBC)- Rita Allmers (Episode: Little Eyolf)
  • 1982- Witness for the Prosecution- Christine Vole (TV film)
  • 1983- King Lear- Regan (TV film)
  • 1985- Bleak House- Lady Honoria Dedlock (TV miniseries)
  • 1986- The Worst Witch- Miss Hardbroom (TV film)
  • 1987- A Hazard of Hearts- Lady Harriet Vulcan (TV film)
  • 1989- The Play on One- Lydia (Episode: "Unexplained Laughter")
  • 1989- Mother Love- Helena Vesey (TV miniseries)
  • 1992- Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris- Mme. Colbert (TV film)
  • 1993- Road to Avonlea- Lady Blackwell (Episode: "The Disappearance")
  • 1993- Running Delilah- Judith (TV film)
  • 1993- Screen Two- Baroness Frieda von Stangel (Episode: "Genghis Cohn")
  • 1995- Zoya- Evgenia (TV film)
  • 1995- The Haunting of Helen Walker- Mrs. Grose (TV film)
  • 1996- The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders- Mrs. Golightly (TV film)
  • 1996- Samson and Delilah- Mara (TV film)
  • 1997- Rebecca- Mrs. Danvers (TV miniseries)
  • 1998- The American- Madame de Bellegarde (TV film)
  • 1998-2000- The Mrs Bradley Mysteries- Mrs. Adela Bradley
  • 2000- In the Beginning- Mature Rebeccah (TV film)
  • 2001- Victoria & Albert- Baroness Lehzen (TV miniseries)
  • 2003- Murder in Mind- Jill Craig (Episode: "Suicide")
  • 2003- Charles II: The Power and the Passion- Queen Henrietta Maria (TV miniseries)
  • 2013- Game of Thrones- Lady Olenna Tyrell
  • 2013- Doctor Who- Mrs. Winifred Gillyflower


  • 1964- King Lear- Cordelia
  • 1966- Twelfth Night- Viola
  • 1971- Abelard and Heloise- Heloise
  • 1974- Pygmalion- Elisa
  • 1975- Night and Day- Ruth
  • 1975- The Misanthrope- Célimène
  • 1982- Colette- Colette
  • 1983- Heartbreak House- Lady Ariadne Utterword
  • 1985- Little Eyolf- Rita
  • 1985- Antony and Cleopatra- Cleopatra
  • 1986- Wildfire- Bess
  • 1987- Follies- Phyllis
  • 1990- Love Letters- Melissa
  • 1992- Putting It Together
  • 1992- Berlin Bertie- Rosa
  • 1994- Medea- Medea
  • 1998- Phaedra- Phaedra
  • 1998- Britannicus- Agrippa
  • 2001- Humble Boy- Flora
  • 2002- The Hollow Crown
  • 2004- Suddenly, Last Summer- Violet
  • 2006- Honour- Honour
  • 2008- The Cherry Orchard- TGanevskyaer (Episode: The Crimson Horror)

Awards and Nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1967 Emmy Award Best Actress in a Drama Series The Avengers Nominated
1968 Emmy Award Best Actress in a Drama Series The Avengers Nominated
1971 Tony Award Best Actress in a Play Abelard and Heloise Nominated
1972 Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress (motion picture) The Hospital Nominated
1975 Tony Award Best Actress in a Play The Misanthrope Nominated
1975 Emmy Award Best Actress in a TV Movie In This House of Brede Nominated
1990 BAFTA TV Award Best Actress Mother Love Won
1994 Olivier Award Best Actress Medea Nominated
1994 Tony Award Best Actress in a Play Medea Won
1996 Olivier Award Best Actress Mother Courage Nominated
1997 Olivier Award Best Actress Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf Nominated
1997 Emmy Award Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie Rebecca Won
1999 Olivier Award Best Actress Britanicus and Phedre Nominated
2002 Emmy Award Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie Victoria & Albert Nominated
2013 Critics' Choice Television Award Best Guest Performer in a Drama Series Game of Thrones Nominated
2013 Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Game of Thrones Pending

Rigg also received a special BAFTA at the 2000 BAFTA TV Awards, along with the other Avengers actresses, Honor Blackman, Joanna Lumley and Linda Thorson.


  1. ^ a b Meet... Dame Diana Rigg, BBC South Yorkshire. accessed on 14 July 2006.
  2. ^ Article by Nigel Farndale in Sunday Independent, 17 August 2008, page 11
  3. ^ J.G. Lane, “Diana Rigg Biography”, accessed 15 December 2006
  4. ^,,20085500,00.html
  5. ^ Sunday Independent, 17 August 2008, op cit

External links

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