Caroline Aherne (Credit: BBC One)

Caroline Aherne at the BBC: The heartbreaking reason she died alone

The late comedian is celebrated in a special new show

The life and work of beloved comedian Caroline Aherne is to be celebrated in a new BBC One documentary – but when did Caroline Aherne die?

What did she die of? And how old was she at the time of her death?

The actress and writer was well known for her comedic roles, including Mrs Merton and Denise Royle in The Royle Family.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Caroline Aherne's career is celebrated in a new BBC One documentary (Credit: BBC One)
Caroline Aherne’s career is celebrated in a new BBC One documentary (Credit: BBC One)

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Caroline Aherne career: what is she famous for?

Writer and performer Caroline is probably best known for her role in The Royle Family, and also as Mrs Merton.

Her first TV appearances were as Mrs Merton in a semi-regular spot on the Granada TV discussion show Upfront in 1990.

She made brief appearances in The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer in 1993 and alongside Steve Coogan and John Thomson in a Granada TV pilot entitled The Dead Good Shows.

She rose to prominence in 1994 as her created character Mrs Merton on the mock chat show The Mrs Merton Show under her married name of Caroline Hook.

The guests were real-life celebrities who found themselves the subject of her scathing wit…

Who could forget her asking Debbie McGee: “So, what first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

The series ran in various formats from 1994 to 1997, winning a BAFTA for Best Chat Show in 1997.

The Mrs Merton character was later given a sitcom, Mrs Merton and Malcolm, with her “mummy’s boy” son played by co-writer Craig Cash.

Between 1994 and 1997, Caroline appeared in and wrote for the BBC comedy series The Fast Show.

One of her most notable characters was the ‘Chanel 9 Neus’ meteorologist Poula ‘Scorchio!’ Fisch.

Her final onscreen appearance was in the Sky One show After Hours, where she was reunited with Craig Cash who produced and directed the show.

She played Sheila in two episodes in 2015.

The Royle Family

Her most popular creation by far has to be the sitcom The Royle Family, which she co-created and wrote with Cash.

The programme ran for three series from 1998 to 2000, and starred Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston.

In 2020, Caroline Aherne said The Royle Family would end in December 2000 after a Christmas special, and that she would not appear on television again, although she would continue to write.

Her final role was as narrator of the Channel 4 comedy reality series Gogglebox.

Caroline Aherne at the BBC pays tribute to the late comedian (Credit: BBC One)
Caroline Aherne at the BBC pays tribute to the late comedian, but when did Caroline Aherne die? (Credit: BBC One)

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When did she die? Why was she alone when she died?

Caroline tragically died on July 2 2016 at her home in Timperley.

At the time, her Royle Family co-star and friend Ricky Tomlinson said: “Her death was the biggest shock in the world. It knocked me for six.”

Ricky knew Caroline was ill, but believed she was recovering.

In fact, Caroline died alone, with only a few family and close friends knowing she was terminally ill.

Ricky said: “I was so shocked. She was absolutely wonderful and amazing to work for. Kind, funny, witty.

“A true professional and one of the most generous people I ever worked with.”

What did Caroline Aherne die of?

Caroline died following a battle with lung cancer.

She publicly revealed she was battling lung cancer in 2014 at the Macmillan Cancer ­Improvement Partnership.

However, she later refused to put her nearest and dearest through the torment she suffered.

When the cancer returned, she only told a handful of her closest friends she had between three and 12 months to live.

She sadly passed away just two months later.

Caroline had previously battled bladder cancer, and a rare cancer of the retina.

She also struggled with depression and alcoholism, and had attempted suicide in July 1998.

The Royle Family starred Craig Cash as Dave Best, Caroline Aherne as Denise Best, Sue Johnston as Barbara Royle, Liz Smith as (Nana) Norma Speakman and Jessica Hynes as Cheryl Carroll (Credit: BBC One)
The Royle Family starred Craig Cash, Caroline Aherne, Sue Johnston, Liz Smith and Jessica Hynes (Credit: BBC One)

How old was Caroline when she died?

Caroline was just 52 when she died.

She was born Christmas Eve 1963 in Ealing, London.

Her funeral was a private service for her close family and friends in her home town Manchester.

Many of the Royle Family cast and crew attended and Craig Cash, who played her on-screen husband Dave, gave a speech.

It took place on July 14 2016.

Was Caroline Aherne married?

Caroline was previously married to New Order bassist Peter Hook.

​They wed in 1994, but divorced three years later in 1997.

During their marriage, he appeared in her TV series The Mrs Merton Show as leader of Hooky & the Boys, the show’s house band.

She was single at the time of her death.

Caroline Aherne starred in The Fast Show (Credit: BBC One)
Caroline Aherne starred in The Fast Show opposite Paul Whitehouse (Credit: BBC One)

Did she have children?

Caroline Aherne did not have children.

As a single woman with no children, who did not make a will, her estate was inherited by her next of kin.

This was her mother, to whom she was very close.

Who replaced Caroline on Googlebox?

Caroline narrated Gogglebox from its conception in 2013.

Craig Cash filled in when she became sick and took over the role permanently in April 2016.

Caroline Aherne at the BBC

Cold Feet star John Thomson pays tribute to the late comedian in this special BBC One documentary.

Fast Show fans will know that he was Roy to her Renee.

This celebration of comedy writer and actress Caroline features highlights of her work for the BBC.

These include The Mrs Merton Show and The Royle Family.

Caroline Aherne at the BBC airs at 9pm on Tuesday March 09 2021 on BBC One.

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