My heart stopped ticking during operation – Dame Diana Rigg

The star joked that God sent “the old bag” back again.

Victoria star Dame Diana Rigg has told how she faced a brush with death when her heart stopped during a recent operation.

A devout Christian, the 79-year-old joked that God had decided to send her back when she was revived by doctors during surgery.

She told the Telegraph newspaper: “I had a heart operation two months ago; it was called a cardiac ablation.

“When I came round, the nurse said, ‘You might find a bit of a burn mark on your chest.’ That’s where they jump-started me.

Film – The Assassination Bureau Promotion – Hilton Hotel, London
Rigg promotes 1969 movie The Assassination Bureau (PA)

“My heart had stopped ticking during the procedure, so I was up there and The Good Lord must have said, ‘Send the old bag down again, I’m not having her yet!'”

Assuring fans that she is “fine now”, she confessed that the surgery – which followed her becoming “seriously ill” – was the deciding factor that encouraged her to stop smoking.

The Bafta, Emmy and Tony award winner rose to fame as Emma Peel in 1960s TV series The Avengers, and as Bond girl Tracy in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969).

She now plays the foreboding Duchess of Buccleuch in the ITV royal drama and has become known by fantasy fans as Olenna Tyrell in Game Of Thrones.

Having this year become a grandmother, she paid tribute to the parenting skills of both her daughter, actress Rachael Stirling, and her husband, Elbow frontman Guy Garvey.

Commenting on the new arrival in the family, she said: “I intend to be a fun granny. And Rachie really is a wonderful mother.

“(Guy is) a wonderful father, so protective. When you see Guy and Rachie together, they’re so right for each other.”

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