Briers, who was acclaimed for his work on stage also appeared in TV shows including Ever Decreasing Circles and Monarch of the Glen and did extensive voiceover work, had been sick for several years with emphysema.

Kenneth Branagh, who he worked with at the Renaissance theatre company from 1987, paid tribute to the actor today. 

“He was a national treasure, a great actor and a wonderful man. He was greatly loved and he will be deeply missed,” he said.

Briers blamed years of smoking on his illness in an interview with the Daily Mail in January.

“It’s totally my fault,” he said. “So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside. Trying to get upstairs … oh God, it’s ridiculous. Of course, when you’re bloody nearly 80 it’s depressing, because you’ve had it anyway.”

His agent Christopher Farrar said: “I know he was incredibly touched by the strength of support expressed by friends and the public.”

He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and deepest sympathy go to his family at this sad time.”

QI host Stephen Fry worked with with Briers in the film Peter’s Friends in 1992. He took to his Twitter profile to make his feelings known: “Oh no, I’ve just heard the news that Richard Briers has died. How sad. He was the most adorable and funny man imaginable.”

Ricky Gervais also used the social networking site to pay tribute: “RIP the wonderful Richard Briers.”

Images via Getty