Elizabeth "Polly" Gray (née Shelby) is the matriarch of the Shelby Family, aunt of the Shelby siblings, the treasurer of the Birmingham criminal gang, the Peaky Blinders, a certified accountant and company treasurer of Shelby Company Limited.
She managed the Peaky Blinders when the Shelby boys were absent during the Great War. She is the unofficial head of the Shelby Family and often advises Thomas Shelby on the gang's business.
- 1 Character History
- 2 Relationships
- 3 Skills & abilities
- 4 Appearances
- 5 Quotes
- 6 Image Gallery
- 7 Reference
Character History[edit | edit source]
Background[edit | edit source]
Polly originates from criminal Gypsy family the Shelbys, daughter of Mr Shelby and Birdie Boswell. Polly tells her son Michael Gray that his Grandmother was Gypsy Princess named Birdie Boswell. Polly always wears the Black Madonna. Arthur Shelby Sr. calls her Pollyanna.
When she was young and the police were after her father, he used to take the family out, living in the wood. When she was sixteen she fell pregnant, however the father did not return and she was forced to abort the child on her own terms. 
She later married a river Gypsy Gray and had two children, Michael and Anna Gray. However, her husband died drunk, squeezed between a boat and a lock and both her children were taken from her by the parish authorities, in part due to the intervention of a neighbour.
Aunt Polly has looked after her nephews Arthur Jr., Thomas, John, Finn and niece Ada since they were young, managed the Peaky Blinders and its businesses, while the Shelby boys were fighting in WWI.
Series 1 · 1919[edit | edit source]
After John, Arthur and Thomas return from the war, they take over control of the Blinders, with Thomas eventually assuming leadership. However, Polly remains the matriarch and heart of the family. Thomas keeps many things close to his chest, such as the fact that his men accidentally acquired the wrong crate during a routine pick-up, instead of taking a crate that contained Lewis machine guns. Polly is the only one that Thomas will confide in. When she is eventually able to wheedle the information out of him, she tells him to dump the guns before he gets hanged for having them.
Polly finds out that Ada is pregnant with the child of Freddie Thorne, who has since fled the city from Inspector Chester Campbell. Polly tells Ada about how she was 16 when she first became pregnant and how she almost died from the abortion, hoping that the father of her child would come back. She tells Ada that they should take the train the following day, for Ada to get a proper abortion.
The next day at the train station, Freddie arrives as they are about to board the train. He proposes to Ada and she says yes, but he tells Polly that they are staying in Birmingham and that he is not afraid of Thomas. However, when Polly tells Thomas, he confides that he promised Campbell that Freddie wouldn’t come back. Polly tries to offer Freddie 200 pounds and a ticket to New York for him and Ada, but he again refuses to leave.
At John's wedding to Esme Lee, Ada’s water breaks and Polly takes her home to deliver the baby boy. She asks Thomas to allow Freddie to come to see his son and he agrees. However, after the baby is born, the police raid the house and take Freddie away. Polly is furious and bursts into the Garrison Pub, yelling at Thomas and calling him a liar.
When Arthur brings home his absentee father Arthur Shelby Sr. having happened upon him in a boxing club, Polly is disgusted to see the "thieving whore-monger" who abandoned his family. When Thomas walks in, his reaction is the same. While his father proclaims that he's a changed man, Thomas does not trust him. She is not surprised when he cons his son, Arthur, out of five hundred pounds.
Later, Polly tries to convince Ada to forgive Thomas. She tells Ada about her children and how the police took them away from her - Thomas is the one who brings strength and power to the Shelby family, so that the same thing won’t happen to Ada and that Thomas will get Freddie out of jail. Polly brings Ada and her son to the next family meeting and Ada tells Thomas that she forgives him, as long as he does what Polly promised.
On Black Star Day, when the Blinders learn that they have been betrayed by Inspector Campbell and his spy Grace Burgess, Polly tells Thomas that she'll deal with Grace. Polly visits Grace at The Garrison Pub just as she is about to leave. They share drinks and Polly tells Grace that though Thomas might accept Grace into the family, Polly herself never will. She tells Grace that if she sets eyes on her again she’ll kill her.
Finally, Polly is seen with Thomas, Arthur and John at the Garrison, sharing a toast to the success of the Shelby family.
Series 2 · 1922[edit | edit source]
Polly has become withdrawn and depressed and visits a medium because she had a dream about her daughter. The woman, Mrs Pryce of the Patch, tells her that her daughter is dead, and Polly breaks down into tears. However, Esme later warns her that the Gypsy woman is a charlatan.
Thomas is able to discover what happened to Polly's children. The girl died of spring fever, but he locates the boy, Michael. Thomas will not give Polly the address where Michael is and tells Polly that her son must choose to contact her if he wants. Even being threatened by Polly holding a gun to his head will not move Thomas. Polly fires her gun at the ceiling in impotent rage before heading out on a bender of epic proportions at the newly re-opened Garrison Pub. She is shown using opium and drinking alcohol, as well as having sex with a young man.
Polly is greeted the next morning by her son Michael, who has arrived in Birmingham to see her, and they catch up after almost eighteen years apart. As Michael offers to be the new accountant, Polly talks to Thomas and insists that her son not be involved in the illegal activities of the Peaky Blinders and negotiates his pay.
When her son is thrown behind bars by Major Campbell for the burning of the Marquis of Lorne pub, Polly takes matters into her own hands to get Michael out of jail. Major Campbell offers to sign Michael's release form, in exchange for Polly having sex with him. He specifically humiliates and both verbally and physically abuses her, demanding that she be 'small and weak' and cry for him. Polly is disgusted by the demand but reluctantly accepts in the end, thinking only of her son's freedom. However, Campbell rapes Polly forcefully despite her acquiescence.
The next day, she goes to pick up Michael, who states that the guards told him what she has done to have him released.
Before going to Epsom, Polly lays cash in front of Michael, telling him to take the money and start a new life for himself in London, away from the "Birmingham life", which is what she should have done at the start, but now has business to attend to. At Epsom, Polly corners Major Campbell in a phone booth whilst on the phone with Winston Churchill. Despite his pleading, she shoots him in the heart and exits the bar.
Series 3 · 1924[edit | edit source]
In 1924 Polly attends to Thomas and Grace’s wedding. A Russian Anton Kaledin comes and speaks with her because it's Aunt Polly who Thomas Shelby trusts most. She knows he's a spy, then he's killed by Arthur.
Polly also meets a portrait artist Ruben Oliver who plans to seduce her. Later Polly approaches Ruben to commission him to paint her portrait. While he's painting, he divulges that his main objective for seducing her. In the war against the Changrettas, Polly tells the boys to compromise but Thomas does not. Finally, Grace is shot. When there're conflicts in the family Polly manages to diffuse the situation with a call for family unity.
Thomas knows that Father Hughes is the traitor who passing information on to the Soviets and plans to kill him. Steaming drunk, Aunt Polly makes a big mistake, she goes to confession at church that her family is planning to murder "a man of the cloth". Father Hughes knows this means him and Thomas's plans fall apart.
Polly goes to see Ruben Oliver when portrait's finished and they have sex. The following day, Polly learns that Michael plans to kill Father Hughes and why Michael asks to do. Polly grieves over her son's pain, but she doesn't want her son to become a killer.
Charles Shelby is kidnapped by Father Hughes. He wants Thomas to blow up the train and wants the Russians' jewels including the Faberge Egg. Thomas starts accusing everyone in his immediate family, that someone leaked the information about Faberge Egg. Thomas in the end tells Polly it must be Ruben Oliver as she may leak when she's drunk. But it's not Polly who leaks and not Ruben who betrays, he comes to find Polly. Polly tells him that she wanted a dull life with him.
Michael kills Father Hughes and brings Charles home where Polly sees the blood and embraces him. When business is over, Thomas calls the family meeting and tells them the police have issued warrants for the arrests of Arthur, John, Michael and Polly. This was ordered by their enemies whom they betrayed last night. Polly is arrested for the murder of Chief Inspector Chester Campbell.
Series 4 · 1925-1926[edit | edit source]
Polly is about to hang, praying to god and waiting to be sent to heaven, when a letter comes from the King to set her free. She suffers terribly from her first near-death experience after that. She blames her nephew Thomas, then leaves him, Shelby Company Limited and the Peaky Blinders. She goes to bad ways using prison-tablets and whiskey for healing herself. Apparently, she believes since she put her head inside the noose, she's free to do what she wants.
When Luca Changretta comes to attack the Shelbys, as the matriarch, Polly must come back to protect her family despite the bad blood between her and Thomas. Because of the Mafia's attacking, John is dead and Michael is badly wounded. At John's funeral, Polly is the most upset at Tommy for using his own brother's funeral as a trap, using family members as baits and walks out. She also meets the hired hitman Aberama Gold for the first time. She knows he wants something other than just money with her second sight.
Michael persuades his mother to help Thomas and promises then he will go to Australia with her. Thomas also begs Polly to come back. Polly tells Thomas she understands what he said at John's funeral. Polly makes things clear, she changes because she realizes "when you're dead already you're free." and throws her tablets and whiskey away. Moreover, she's back to help him because of Michael. She advises her nephew on this situation especially asking Mr Gold what he really wants. Gold divulges to Thomas that he wants him to help his son Bonnie Gold to be a boxer.
Polly talks with her niece Ada about her lack of sex life and makes a New Year's resolution, looking for "someone unsuitable" to sleep with. She attends the board meeting about the reinstatement of Polly to the position of The Shelby Company treasurer and dropping the law of the bullet.
Later, she goes to the bar joining unexpected man Luca Changretta, who determines to kill her and her family. Polly makes a deal with Luca offering to sacrifice Thomas in exchange for the lives of Arthur, Michael and Finn, while they charm each other. Luca doesn't trust Polly easily, he uses Michael to threaten her that he can reach her son at any time and he will kill her only son if she can't deliver Thomas. Polly makes an appointment for Thomas that she will send him to Luca and put the black star in Thomas's diary. Michael knows his mother's plot but he chooses not to tell Thomas because he chooses his mother.
At last Luca realizes that was the plan that Polly sets him up because Thomas prepared machine gun and kills three of his men. The Shelby family find out what happened, it's was the plan that Polly and Thomas agreed on from the beginning.
Polly takes Michael Gray out into the woods with Gypsies, the Palmers and the Boswells, by Aberama's support. After her son is gone with Bonny, Polly and Aberama are alone by the river in the woods. They're falling for each other. She tells about her life after putting her head in the noose, she's got the second sight and she can do anything she wants because of her lack of fear of death. She makes out with him while threatens him with a knife that, if anything happens to her son, she’ll be his enemy. He understands her and they continue making out.
In the night of the fight Bonnie versus Alfie Solomons's nephew Goliath, Luca sends assassins to kill her family. It's her oldest nephew Arthur, who's attacked, his funeral's set latterly. Thomas wants Michael to do business in America however Michael doesn't want to go. Polly promises her son when this business's over, she and Michael will be free to make their own choices.
Polly and Thomas work together to finish Luca Changretta. Changretta takes over Solomons then came to Birmingham to take over Shelby Company Limited where he knows that Arthur's death had been faked. They make a deal with one of Luca's rivals, 'big' mafioso Al Capone, thus switching the loyalty of Luca's henchmen. Arthur pulls the trigger in the end.
When the war against Mafia is over, and Thomas' mental illness' back, It's Polly who tells him to shake hands with the devils and walk past them. Thomas's back and continues his bigger plans, Polly is the one who always stands by him.
Series 5 · 1929[edit | edit source]
With Tommy's initial absence, Polly takes a greater role within Shelby Company Limited and is alerted of the Wall St. Crash immediately after it happens. Due to this, she returns home to sit on the Board of Directors, wherein they discuss the situation and how it affects the company. She is glad to hear that all is not lost as Shelby Company Limited has diversified its portfolio and has investments around the globe.
She is one of the first people that Ada openly talks about regarding her unborn child. She asks for advice, with Polly expressing concern that the father will abandon the child and it will grow into the Peaky life. Ada, however is worried about Tommy's opinion, but Polly admits that he is already aware and hasn't shown much resistance.
When Michael finally returns from New York, Polly is among those who meets him at the train station and asks for the truth regarding the journey home — in which it is suspected that Michael is plotting against Tommy with IRA help. Polly tells Michael that he does not have a home until he is proven innocent, much to his shock. She is also present when he is questioned by Tommy and Arthur at the Garrison, pleading with Tommy to take it easy on him as she believes him to be telling the truth; nevertheless Tommy and Arthur are both hard on Michael despite Polly's plead.
On her birthday, Polly visits Aberama Gold in hospital following the death of his son. Having visited him, she breaks him out of his room to stay with his sister. On the journey, he hands Polly a single rose and wishes her a happy birthday. Polly warns Aberama to lay low and allow Tommy to take care of Jimmy McCavern and the Billy Boys. However he leaves for Scotland the moment Polly is out of sight. This is the first we see of a developing relationship between Aberama and Polly — after they had sex in the woods — which eventually leads to Tommy promising he will be allowed to marry Polly if he called truce with the Billy Boys while they do business together. He agrees and, not long later in The Loop Aberama proposes to Polly and she accepts.
Relationships[edit | edit source]
Thomas Shelby[edit | edit source]
The relationship between Thomas and Polly is a close one. She is perhaps his closest advisor with things related both to the family business, Shelby Company Limited, and the Peaky Blinders. She holds a high ranking position within the Peaky Blinders due to her close relationship with her nephew, and on multiple occasions he puts Polly in interim charge — he also states on one occasion that if he does not return, she is to assume charge permanently.
Michael Gray[edit | edit source]
After recurring dreams of her daughters death, Polly seeks answers about her children and their current whereabouts. This eventually leads her son, Michael, back to her. She quickly becomes affectionate with him, devoting her life to him and introducing him to the family business and the Peaky Blinders. She does, however shield him within the Peaky Blinders in order to keep his hands clean.
Her Husband Mr. Gray[edit | edit source]
Polly tells Michael Gray about his father that he's a Gypsy, died drunk, squeezed between a boat and a dock. She tells when her past husband was sober, he was kind and gentle. He could sing, play the piano, has got a beautiful smile and has got the same beautiful eyes as Michael's. His trouble was he fell in with the wrong crowd when he was a boy. 
Ruben Oliver[edit | edit source]
In 1924 at the wedding of Thomas and Grace, Polly knows Ruben Oliver is giving her the eyes. She thinks that he looks harmless and talks to him. Later Polly approaches Ruben to commission him to paint her portrait. He's fascinated by her beauty, saying she's a woman of substance and class.
They came from a different society, he's a well-educated artist but she has never been educated, is the matriarch of a criminal gang and a murderess. However, he pursues and seduces her until things have begun to develop between them. Finally, Polly decides to come for him at night and sleeps with him. Polly trusts him, leading her to share the secret of her involvement in the murder of Campbell with him.
The next day, he leaves her. When Charles Shelby is kidnapped, Thomas leads her to believe that Ruben betrayed her. She is heartbroken. However, he appears and makes it clear that he was not the one who betrayed her. He tells her he is ready to enter her world. She tells him that she wants a dull life and him, then they embrace and kiss.
Later in 1925-1926, Polly's alone without Ruben Oliver and she looks for "someone unsuitable" to sleep with. Moreover, she says "I've lost a man" to Ada Shelby. 
Aberama Gold[edit | edit source]
What starts off as a man that Polly describes as a savage and a dangerous element, ends up being somebody that she becomes fascinated by quite quickly. They're both Gypsies, widows and criminals.
Thomas brings in Aberama Gold because he needs this man’s specific expertise fighting against Luca Changretta. She meets him the first time at John Shelby's funeral, while he looks at her flirtatiously, she knows he wants something other than just money with her second sight.
When Polly and Aberama are alone in the wood. They develop their romantic relationship. He's the man with a bad reputation but treats her with respect while she tells about her second sight, his dead wife and her life after a near-death experience. They're falling for each other. She seduces him and calls him "a strong, handsome man". They make out while she threatens him with a knife that, if any harm comes to her son, Michael, she’ll be his enemy. He understands her and calls her "a beautiful ghost". They continue making out in the forest.
Finally, he does not betray her and brings her son back for her. They're talking happily together in Shelby family party.
Luca Changretta [edit | edit source]
Luca Changretta is the Mafia mobster who has a vendetta against the Shelbys especially plans to kill her. Luca's mother Teacher Audrey Changretta knows Polly's mother and she taught her how to read. Audrey knows Polly and said to his son that "Polly Gray, that child would never let go of a grievance and she loves to dance."  Polly makes a deal with Luca giving Thomas Shelby, sparing the rest moreover they charm each other. At last, he realises that was the plan that Polly sets him up, it's was the plan that Polly and Thomas agreed on.
Skills & abilities[edit | edit source]
- Business: She's a certified accountant and company treasurer of Shelby Company Limited. She managed the Peaky Blinders when the Shelby boys were absent during the Great War.
- Leadership: She is the matriarch of the Shelby Family and, as mentioned, is often in charge of the Peaky Blinders while her nephew, Tommy, is away on family business.
- Second Sight: She believes she sees spirits and can speak with the dead.
Appearances[edit | edit source]
|Series 1 Appearances|
|Episode 1.1||Episode 1.2||Episode 1.3||Episode 1.4||Episode 1.5||Episode 1.6|
|Series 2 Appearances|
|Episode 2.1||Episode 2.2||Episode 2.3||Episode 2.4||Episode 2.5||Episode 2.6|
|Series 3 Appearances|
|Episode 3.1||Episode 3.2||Episode 3.3||Episode 3.4||Episode 3.5||Episode 3.6|
|Series 4 Appearances|
|Episode 4.1||Episode 4.2||Episode 4.3||Episode 4.4||Episode 4.5||Episode 4.6|
|Series 5 Appearances|
|Black Tuesday||Black Cats||Strategy||The Loop||The Shock||Mr Jones|
Quotes[edit | edit source]
Series 1[edit | edit source]
- "Speak. God and Aunt Polly are listening."
- "I know having four kids without a woman is hard, but my boot's harder."
- "Rule one. You don't punch above your weight."
- "You know the words. You're a whore. Baby's a bastard. But there's no word for the man who doesn't come back."
- "I'm having trouble these days and I'm twice the man you are."
- “Men and their cocks never cease to amaze me.”
- "You can never tell with men. They go for whoever their dicks point at and there's no changing their minds."
- Tangina mo'
Series 2[edit | edit source]
- "This is a respectable fucking neighbourhood!."
- "We don't need more fucking men! It's men that have done the damage! It... It is men fighting like cockerels"
- "You like it small and weak, well now small and weak has a gun"'
- "Don't fuck with the Peaky Blinders."
Series 3[edit | edit source]
- "My senior position within the Shelby company means I don't often have to ask permission from anyone to do anything."
- "It's a family united that shall never be defeated."
- "I think when men want sex, they become hilarious. Like a dog, when you pick up a lead, and he knows he's going for a walk."
- "You should call this painting Fuck Them All."
- “I swear to God if my son pulls the trigger, I will bring this whole fucking organisation down around your ears."
- "So at an alternative time, when we have all recovered I would like to put before the family an alternative view of the future of the Shelby Company Limited. A more hopeful view. Which I, for one, would quite like to hear"
Series 4[edit | edit source]
- "I never thought my high fucking heels from Paris would be stepping through the whole shit of Small Heath ever again."
- "When you're dead already you're free."
- "Just me and someone unsuitable."
- "Whilst working for this company, I have killed a man, I have lost a man, I have found a son, I have almost lost a son, I have almost lost my own life. Now, I will accept my job back if the terms on offer are favourable, but I will not behave myself."
- "You take Tommy. Spare the rest."
- "Men don't have the strategic intelligence to conduct a war between families. Men are less good at keeping secrets out of their lies."
- "Came back when I put my head in the noose. It's like putting your head through a window and seeing the whole world. ... When you've put your head out of that window you can do anything you want, cos there are no rules, cos there are no risks."
- "None of your knives can kill me."
- "We live somewhere between life and death. Waiting to move on. And in the end we accept it. We shake hands with the devils and we walk past them."