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Royle Family star Liz Smith dies at 95

The Royle Family star Liz Smith has died at the age of 95, a spokeswoman for her family 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: "Devastating to lose two members of my second family in one awful year. RIP Liz Smith. Goodbye Nana. Xxx"

The episode of the much-loved sitcom in which Nana dies - called The Queen of Sheba - was repeated on the BBC during Christmas week.

In 2009, the Prince of Wales presented Smith with an MBE and told her that the sofa-bound TV characters in the show were "nothing like my family, thank God".

Smith 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 played eccentric baker Letitia Cropley in The Vicar Of Dibley but was devastated when her character was killed off, and is now best known for her role as Nana in The Royle Family, for which she won best actress at the British Comedy Awards at the age of 85.

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.

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"

Smith appeared alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in the 2005 film Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, playing the role of Grandma Georgina.

During her career she played Mrs Brandon in the long-running sitcom I Didn't Know You Cared, as well as Bette in 2point4 Children.

She also took to the stage to play Nell in a West End production of Samuel Beckett's Endgame.

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

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