India-born Spike Milligan, one of Britain's top comedians and the last of the "Goons", died early today in London. He was 83.
Together with Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe, the quartet helped redefine comedy programmes for a generation. Milligan had been the last surviving member of the quartet.
Prince Charles, one of his ardent fans, said he is "deeply saddened" by his death.
The prince's spokesman said: "He knew Spike Milligan over many years and had a great affection for him." Milligan's agent said he died surrounded by his family at his East Sussex home. He is believed to have died from liver failure and had suffered ill-health for sometime.
In recent months he had been nursed by his third wife Shelagh.
Blessed with a sharp wit and sly comic tongue his later career encompassed television, films and novel writing, poetry and children's books.
He was a major influence on British comedy, taking music hall ideas and weaving into them his own sketches.
His fascination with language and the surreal qualities of everyday life broke new ground in humour and was reflected in both his sketches and popular children's books.
BBC Director General Greg Dyke said: "Spike Milligan was a comic genius. As the writing brain behind the Goon Show he was the founder of modern comedy." He received an honorary knighthood from Prince Charles last year.
He made his name with The Goon show in the 1950s but was always irritated being labelled "the ex-Goon".
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