After losing George Michael earlier this week, news has emerged that another cultural icon was lost this Christmas.

Actor Liz Smith, real name Betty Gleadle, best-known for her role as ‘Nana’ Norma Speakman in the hit BBC comedy The Royle Family, died on Christmas Eve. A spokeswoman for her family confirmed the news.

Liz starred in the sitcom for its three series from 1998 to 2000 and again in the 2006 special The Queen of Sheba, which told the story of her character’s death. Of the memorable Christmas episode, Smith had said: 'I felt it was an ending of a whole thing. It was not just one lift, it was the whole concert of the story. They each say goodbye in a way that it’s almost, ‘Goodbye, it’s being lovely knowing you’.'

She also starred as Mrs Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley, fronted by Dawn French, and appeared alongside Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She retired from acting in 2009 following a series of strokes.

Smith’s death comes in the same year as her co-star Caroline Aherne, who died from lung cancer.

Royle Family co-star Ralf Little tweeted:

Andrew Whyment, who starred in both Coronation Street and The Royle Family, tweeted:

Film and TV actor Richard E Grant, who starred with Smith in the 1997 film Keep the Aspidistra Flying, tweeted:

A statement from Smith’s 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.'