Helen McCrory was 'a meteor in our life' says husband Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory arrive at the 60th London Evening Standard Theatre Awards at the Lond

Damian Lewis pays tribute to wife Helen McCrory after he death aged 52. - Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA

Damian Lewis has paid a heart-breaking tribute to wife Suffolk actress Helen McCrory saying he had "never known anyone able to enjoy life as much".

The actress, best known for playing powerful women such as Aunt Polly in the BBC gang drama Peaky Blinders, Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films and the home secretary in James Bond film Skyfall, died from cancer last week, aged 52.

McCrory also starred in ITV crime drama Fearless in 2017, which was partly recorded in Shingle Street, near Hollesley.

Lewis described his wife, who he married in 2007, as a "meteor in our lives".

Suffolk-based actors Damian Lewis and Helen McCrory have thanked donators as their FeedNHS scheme ra

Mrs McCrory and Mr Lewis launched their FeedNHS campaign to provide frontline healthcare workers with hot meals at the start of the pandemic. - Credit: Archant

They shared a daughter Manon and son Gulliver, and lived together at their family home near Sudbury.

Lewis said she had “lived by the principle of kindness and generosity” and always took an interest in others and “made them feel special”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, he said: “I’ve never known anyone so consciously spread happiness.

“Even when dying in her last few days, when talking to our wonderful carers, she repeatedly said, ‘thank you so much’ in her half-delirious state.

“She always asked people how they were, always took an interest, made each person she met feel special, as though they were the only person in the room.

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“Gave them her full attention.

“Made them laugh, always. There were few funnier people — she was funny as hell.”

McCrory was born in Paddington, London, and was the eldest of three children.

She attended school in Hertfordshire, then spent a year living in Italy, before returning to London to study acting at the Drama Centre.

She was made an OBE in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to drama, with Lewis saying his wife was "fiercely proud" of her career. 

He said she approached her work with “a rigour, an honesty and an intelligence that made others rise to meet her", adding she was even nicknamed "Dame Helen" by many. 

In the tribute, he went on to describe how McCrory believed you choose happiness.

"I've never known anyone able to enjoy life as much," he wrote.

"Her ability to be in the present and enjoy the moment was inspirational.

“Nor was she interested in navel-gazing. No real interest in self-reflection; she believed in looking out, not in.

“Which is why she was able to turn her light so brightly on others.”

He said that in the weeks before her death she joked about him having relationships in the future, saying he must love again as it is "not possessive". 

“She said to us from her bed, ‘I want Daddy to have girlfriends, lots of them, you must all love again, love isn’t possessive, but you know, Damian, try at least to get though the funeral without snogging someone’,” he said.

He said she had been "utterly heroic" in her illness and told her children repeatedly she had lived the life she wanted.

“She has exhorted us to be courageous and not afraid,” he said.

“She has been utterly heroic in her illness. Funny, of course — generous, brave, uncomplaining, constantly reminding us all of how lucky we’ve been, how blessed we are."

At the start of the coronavirus crisis last year, McCrory and Lewis launched their FeedNHS campaign to provide frontline healthcare workers with hot meals.

The scheme, in conjunction with fast food chain Leon, attracted more than £1million in donations and provided 25,000 meals in its first few weeks.

Tributes have been pouring in after McCrory's death was announced on Friday afternoon.

The Wizarding World Twitter account, home to the Harry Potter franchise, tweeted: "We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our beloved Helen McCrory, who played Narcissa Malfoy with such depth and brilliance in the Harry Potter film series.

"She was a wonderful actor and a very dear friend; Harry Potter fans will miss her very much."

Cillian Murphy, who starred alongside Mrs McCrory in the popular Peaky Blinders series, described her as a “beautiful, caring, funny and compassionate human being”.

He said she was a "gifted actor" labelling her as "fearless and magnificent", adding it was a privilege to have worked with her.

“I will dearly miss my pal. My love and thoughts are with Damian and her family," he said. 

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