The comedy legend died on Thursday (31Mar16) aged 85. His passing came as a surprise to many, as Ronnie and his family had made a decision to keep his ill health a secret.

On Friday (01Apr16), Ronnie's wife Anne revealed he began suffering around Christmas 2014, and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as motor neurone disease, in March 2015.

"As you can imagine, it just knocked us both back," Anne told Britain's Daily Mail newspaper of the diagnosis. "We had not really heard of it. If it hadn't been for Stephen Hawking (who suffers from the disease) and the Eddie Redmayne film about him, The Theory Of Everything, we would not have heard of it at all."

Anne, 82, and Ronnie's daughters Emma, 48, and 47-year-old Sophie took it in turns to nurse The Two Ronnies star. But his health gradually declined and he became increasingly reliant on his ventilating machine.

"Some days all he managed was a few pieces of melon, a glass of champagne, and a Liquorice Allsort. His weight dropped drastically and he simply began to fade away," she said.

"But I would like people to know about the machine that kept him alive. It is called ResMed, a ventilator which helps people to breathe. Without that we would have lost him much sooner."

In the touching interview, Anne admitted she was proud to witness her husband's bravery in battling the debilitating disease.

"Ron wasn't just my husband, and the love of my life. He was also my best friend," she added. "Throughout his whole illness, he never once grumbled or complained. No one could have been more courageous."

Meanwhile, it has also been reported Ronnie was due to receive a knighthood in recognition of his contribution to the comedy industry later this year (16).

A discreet campaign had been launched by stars including comedian David Walliams to get Ronnie dubbed a "Sir", and he was due to receive the honour as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June, multiple newspapers report.

He was given a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2012 and the rules are that recipients have to wait a further five years to be given a higher honour such as a knighthood. These conventions can be altered, however, in situations such as the honoree being gravely ill.