Robert Hardy, best known for portraying Siegfried Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small, has died, according to his family.

Hardy was 91 and had “tremendous life”, he most recently played Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter series.

A statement from his children (Emma, Justine and Paul) read:

“Dad is also remembered as a meticulous linguist, a fine artist, a lover of music and a champion of literature, as well as a highly respected historian, and a leading specialist on the longbow. He was an essential part of the team that raised the great Tudor warship The Mary Rose.

“Gruff, elegant, twinkly, and always dignified, he is celebrated by all who knew him and loved him, and everyone who enjoyed his work.”

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Born in 1925 he began his acting career after studying at Oxford University, where his tutors included JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. He was a contemporary of actor Richard Burton, with whom he became close friends.

It was early acting experience on stage which led to his life-long interest in medieval warfare. While playing Henry V in 1949, he learnt about the longbow and wrote 2 books on the subject. He was also one of the experts consulted when it came to raising the Mary Rose.

His first appearance on screen, was a BBC adaptation of David Copperfield (1956). He also appeared in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot on ITV a year later.

In the 60s and 70s he took on a number of film roles, including The Spy Who Came in From the Cold and Torpedo Run, but it was in 1977 when he became a household name.

He was cast as Yorkshire vet Siegfried in the BBC adaptation of Alf Wight’s books. All Creatures Great and Small became one of the BBC’s most popular dramas, partly down to his onscreen chemistry with Peter Davison (who played his younger brother). The series ran until 1990.

Later he would win a BAFTA for his portrayal of Winston Churchill for ITV.