Enid Diana Rigg was born July 20, 1938, in Doncaster, Yorkshire, England. She trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made her professional stage debut in 1957 in a production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle. In 1959 she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company and was later a member of the National Theatre Company at the Old Vic.
She triumphed in productions of Medea (Evening Standard Award for Best Actress), Mother Courage, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Phedre, and Britannicus in the 1990s, while the first decade of the new century included roles in Suddenly, Last Summer; Honour; All About My Mother; The Cherry Orchard; and Hay Fever. She returned to Shaw's Pygmalion in 2011, this time playing the role of Mrs. Higgins in a cast that also included Rupert Everett.
Ms. Rigg's TV résumé was equally impressive, including her career-making role as secret agent Emma Peel on the British television series The Avengers from 1965–1968. The role would earn the actor two Emmy nominations, in 1967 and 1968. Decades later, she received four Emmy nominations—in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2018—for her recurring role as Olenna Tyrell, Queen of Thorns, in HBO's Game of Thrones. In between were Emmy nominations for playing Philippa in In This House of Brede (1975) and Baroness Louise Lehzen in Victoria & Albert (2002). She won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Special in 1997 playing Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca.
She also starred in the sitcom Diana, which was seen on NBC in 1973, and was host of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery from 1989–2004. In 1990, she won a BAFTA playing an obsessive mother in BBC's Mother Love. Her most recent TV credits included You, Me and the Apocalypse; Detectorists; Victoria; A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong; and All Creatures Great and Small.
In 1988 Ms. Rigg was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire at the Queen's New Years Honours for her services to drama, and in 1994 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II, also for her services to drama.
In a statement Ms. Rigg's longtime friend and agent Simon Beresford said, "Dame Diana was an icon of theatre, film, and television. She was the recipient of BAFTA, Emmy, Tony, and Evening Standard Awards for her work on stage and screen. Dame Diana was a much loved and admired member of her profession, a force of nature who loved her work and her fellow actors. She will be greatly missed.”
Ms. Rigg was married to painter Menachem Gueffen and producer Archibald Stirling; both ended in divorce. She is survived by her daughter, actor Rachael Stirling.