Elizabeth "Polly" Gray (née Shelby) is the matriarch of the Shelby Family and the treasurer of the Birmingham criminal gang, the Peaky Blinders. 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.
When she was sixteen she became pregnant and aborted the child on her own. She later married and had two children, Anna and Michael. However, both her children were taken from her by the authorities, in part due to the intervention of a neighbour. During the Great War, Polly managed the Peaky Blinders and its businesses, while the Shelby boys were away fighting.
Series 1 Edit
After 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 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 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 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, 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, 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.
Series 2 Edit
Two years later (1922) Edit
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 Edit
Two years later (1924) Edit
"Don't fuck with the Peaky Blinders." - Polly to Major Campbell