Stage and screen star Simon Ward has died after a lengthy illness at the age of 70.

The Zulu Dawn and The Three Musketeers star was a staple of the British theatre, TV and film industries for five decades.

He joined the National Youth Theatre at the age of 13 and became a respected thespian in his late 20s after attending the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

He gained acclaim for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in director Richard Attenborough's epic Young Winston in 1972 and he portrayed the Duke of Buckingham in The Three Musketeers a year later.

His run of success continued in 1974 when he was cast as veterinarian James Herriot in the film adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small.

The 70s ended with two iconic roles - as William Trench in TV movie The Four Feathers (1978) and as Lt.

Vereker in star-studded classic Zulu Dawn (1979).

He returned to the theatre in his later years and enjoyed a string of West End successes, but he was back on TV at the end of his career, starring in hit series The Tudors (as Bishop Gardiner), Judge John Deed (as Sir Monty Everard) and Family Affairs (as Mr Lee).

Ward's eldest daughter is actress Sophie Ward.