WCW: Diana Rigg


Diana Rigg is easily my first true woman crush. I wanted to be Emma Peel when I was four years old. As I say in the bio I use for Costume College and similar places, my first costume was tights and a trench coat as a toddler, when I ran around pretending to be Mrs. Peel. That early role of Diana Rigg’s was the epitome of a kick-ass cool woman, and I wanted to be just like her. Kids today probably know her as the devious and snarky Olenna Tyrell from Game of Thrones, but you can also catch her in the latest episodes of Victoria. And this Shakespearean actress shows no signs of stopping. As Dame Rigg has said: “The older you get, I have to say, the funnier you find life. That’s the only way to go. If you get serious about yourself as you get old, you are pathetic.” Words to live by!


Mrs. Peel in The Avengers, “Escape in Time” (1966)

I can’t remember if she’s time-traveling or it’s just fancy-dress, but I’m including it!


Sonya Winter in The Assassination Bureau (1969)

Diana Rigg, The Assassination Bureau (1969)

It’s a turn-of-the-last-century murder-mystery thing.


Portia in Julius Caesar (1970)

DianaRigg, Julius Caesar (1970)

With Jason Robards as Brutus.


Charlotte Mittelheim in A Little Night Music (1977)

The 1900s costumes by Florence Klotz were nominated for an Oscar.


Clytemnestra in Oresteia (1979)

Diana Rigg, Oresteia (1979)

Bad-ass vengeful women, FTW!


Hedda Gabler in Hedda Gabler (1981)

Diana Rigg, Hedda Gabler (1981)

Ever dramatic.


Christine Vole in Witness for the Prosecution (1982)

Diana Rigg, Witness for the Prosecution (1982)

An Agatha Christie adaption.


Regan in King Lear (1983)

Diana Rigg, King Lear (1983)

With Laurence Olivier in the title role.


Arlena Marshall in Evil Under the Sun (1982)

1930s glam.


Lady Honoria Dedlock in Bleak House (1985)

Diana Rigg, Bleak House (1985)

With Denholm Elliott as John Jarndyce.


Lady Harriet Vulcan in A Hazard of Hearts (1987)

Diana Rigg, A Hazard of Hearts (1987)

A Regency romance based on a Barbara Cartland novel, also starring Helena Bonham Carter. Maybe I can find this for Snark Week…


Lady Blackwell in Avonlea, “The Disappearance” (1993)

Diana Rigg, Avonlea (1993)

Just being a completist here.


Mrs. Golightly in The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders (1996)

Diana Rigg, The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders (1996)

Rigg plays a very important role in, ehem, relation to Alex Kingston’s Moll Flanders.


Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca (1997)

Diana Rigg, Rebecca (1997)

Rigg won an Emmy Award for her portrayal of the suspicious housekeeper in this adaption of the Daphne du Maurier novel.


Adela Bradley in The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries (1998-2000)

The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries (1998)

A short-lived but FABULOUS series. Find it, watch it, love it!


Baroness Lehzen in Victoria & Albert (2001)

Diana Rigg, Victoria & Albert (2001)

With Victoria Hamilton as the queen.


Queen Henrietta Maria in The Last King (2003)

The Last King - Charles II: The Power & the Passion (2003)

Rockin’ the widow’s weeds and telling everyone off.



Grandmamma in Heidi (2005)

Diana Rigg, Heidi (2005)

Yes, the children’s tale.


Mother Superior in The Painted Veil (2006)

Diana Rigg, The Painted Veil (2006)

A nun advising an unhappy couple working in rural 1930s China.


Mrs. Gillyflower in Doctor Who, “The Crimson Horror” (2013)

Dame Diana Rigg gets a good Victorian mourning gown.

Rigg plays the founder of a utopian community in 1880s Yorkshire who is actually trying to launch a rocket and poison the world (and is stopped by the Doctor, of course).


Duchess of Buccleuch in Victoria (2017)

Diana Rigg, Victoria (2017)

And she just keeps going!


What’s your favorite historical costume movie or TV role of Diana Rigg’s?

22 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Besides Mrs Peel, my favourites are Mrs Bradley, Baroness Lehzen, Duchess of Buccleugh, Lady Deadlock, Sonya Winter and Mrs Danvers. I also love her nun in In This House of Brede. Also Christine Vole.

  2. Barbara

    It’s a shame Broadway roles aren’t included here. I saw her a few months ago in My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center, playing Mrs. Higgins, and she was glorious in all her late Edwardian splendour. And for anyone who hasn’t seen the Mrs. Bradley mysteries, go look for them! Adela Bradley will give Phryne Fisher a run for her money any day of the week.

  3. Kay

    Hazard of Hearts is on YouTube. It’s a pretty crappy quality video, but I was strangely compelled to watch it all.

    • avrilejean

      It’s also got some of the best one liners ever. The writers clearly were having a huge amount of fun not taking it seriously. “Lord Vulcan is so…unemotional.”

  4. Frannie Germeshausen

    I watched The Avengers with great devotion at age 8. Had no idea what was going on, except for the fact that Mrs. Peel was my idol. And, of course, Mrs. Bradley. When I grow up, I want to be her (except I don’t look at good in helmet cloches).

  5. Heather Millard

    Yay, you included Mrs Gillyflower! Ioved that episode. (it’s even funnier when you live a couple of miles from Saltaire, which the housing and factory were blatantly based on! The description of Bradford as the Babylon of the North had me hooting) .
    Lots of little nods to her Avengers role too iirc.

  6. Jillian

    Just read the synopsis for Escape in Time. It is time travel, but she’s apparently sent back to the sixteenth century. I see a #SnarkWeek mention on the horizon….

    • nkkingston

      Off the top of my head, there isn’t actual time travel, but a guy has rigged his mansion so through various spinning mirrors / trick corridors / drugs (I can’t remember which trick goes with which weird house episode!) you think you’ve gone back in time to various periods. One’s C16th and one’s C18th. It’s the period when Avengers is very excited to be in colour so everything is incredibly lurid and trippy even before rooms start spinning around.

  7. MrsC (Maryanne)

    Isn’t she magnifique!!! But Mrs. Bradley Mysteries wins hands down. I have the whole lot on DVD and love them to bits. such a cool character!

  8. gail

    She was wonderful in the new “My Fair Lady” at Lincoln Center, and resplendent in Edwardian finery. Much more so than the horrible costumes they put on her in “Victoria.” And if anyone is wondering she has been replaced by Rosemary Harris, I believe, as Mrs. Higgins.

  9. Karin

    A Hazard of Hearts definitely is a candidate for Snark Week… some very dodgy fabric choices going on! Must have been the first thing I saw her in if I remeber right.

  10. Charity

    I totally forgot she played Baroness Lehzen! But I LOVE that version of Rebecca. She’s wonderful in it.

  11. Laura

    She’s fabulous in everything she’s in but I LOVED her in Evil Under the Sun! She’s so wonderfully b*tchy as Arlena Marshall – it’s one of my favorite movies.

  12. Jilly

    I was terrified of her as a child, because I knew her as Ms Hardbroom in The Worst Witch movie. Since I always think of her as a more mature woman, I only recently realized how much her daughter resembles her (Rachael Stirling, currently in The Bletchley Circle).