Ronnie Corbett, the veteran entertainer and one half of The Two Ronnies, has died at the age of 85.

The diminutive star passed away surrounded by his family on Thursday morning, his publicist confirmed. It is understood that Corbett, who died in hospital, had been ill for several months.

He and the late Ronnie Barker became one of the funniest duos of their generation, hosting the BBC comedy sketch show that became one of the most popular TV programmes of the late 20th century.

Corbett and his wife Anne Hart, with whom he had two daughters, celebrated their golden wedding anniversary last year.

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The BBC aired a one-hour profile of the comedian and actor on New Year's Day, but it is understood that he was too ill to take part in the programme, which was produced in November.

The much-loved actor was awarded a CBE in the 2012 New Year Honours for his services to charity and the entertainment industry.

His wife later revealed that, during a celebration to mark the achievement, he had collapsed in a restaurant and was rushed to hospital.

A statement from Corbett's publicist said: "Ronnie Corbett CBE, one of the nation's best-loved entertainers, passed away this morning, surrounded by his loving family.

"They have asked that their privacy is respected at this very sad time."

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, described Corbett has having the "rare talent of making all generations laugh" and said he will be remembered as "one of the all-time great comedians".

Tony Hall, director-general of the BBC, said: "Ronnie Corbett was a wonderful comic and entertainer. A man of great charm and warmth who brought laughter and joy to millions.

"He was quite simply one of the true greats of British comedy. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time."

Corbett's health had suffered over the past few years, and in 2014 he was admitted to hospital with gallbladder problems.

Talking about his health following the incident, he said: "I have been in the business for 62 years. It's a match made in heaven. I still enjoy a glass of wine."

Comedians lead tributes to veteran star

Ronnie Corbett's best jokes

"French wine growers fear that this year's vintage may be entirely spoiled due to the grape treaders' sit-in."

"A cement mixer collided with a prison van on the Kingston by-pass. Motorists are asked to be on the look-out for 16 hardened criminals."

"We will be talking to an out of work contortionist who says he can no longer make ends meet."

"All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my right hand."

"This is a message for seven honeymoon couples in a hotel in Peebles: Breakfast was served three days ago."

"It was revealed in a government survey published today that the Prime Minister is doing the work of two men, Laurel and Hardy."

"There was a fire at the main Inland Revenue office in London today, but it was put out before any serious good was done."

"West Mersea police announced tonight that they wish to interview a man wearing high heels and frilly knickers, but the Chief Constable said they must wear their normal uniforms."

"We'll be talking to a car designer who's crossed a Toyota with Quasimodo and come up with the Hatchback of Notre Dame."

"We've just heard that in the English Channel, a ship carrying red paint has collided with a ship carrying purple paint. It is believed that both crews have been marooned."