Dame Barbara Windsor made an emotional speech on the set of EastEnders today (23 March) after co-stars and backstage personnel made a fuss over her damehood.
The actress was met with a rousing rendition of ‘There Is Nothing Like a Dame’ and asked “Have I made EastEnders proper?” as she accepted a bouquet of flowers from Executive Producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins.
“I want to thank you all so very much. I’m only sad that I’m coming back for this storyline [Peggy’s final goodbye] because I love this show with a passion but I’ve got to say goodbye to her. It’s been the best thing in all my sixty years in the business. Thank you everybody.” – Barbara Windsor
Barbara is back on the EastEnders set to film her final ever episodes as Peggy Mitchell after it was announced in January she is quitting the role for good. On-screen Peggy made a brief return to the soap and revealed to son Phil that her cancer has returned and is terminal with the beeb noting at the time that further episodes featuring the actress, her last ever, would transmit in late spring. It was later confirmed that Ross Kemp and Danniella Westbrook would reprise their roles of Grant and Sam for the emotional storyline.
The meddling Mitchell matriarch and long-time Queen Vic landlady has been at the centre of a number of memorable plots in the BBC One soap since Barbara’s first appearance in the role in 1994.
These include her marriage to Frank Butcher (Mike Reid) and fury upon discovering his affair with former wife Pat (Pam St. Clement), her grudge against Grant’s ex-wife Sharon (Letitia Dean) for having an affair with Phil, her battle with breast cancer and her marriage to manipulative former brother-in-law Archie (Larry Lamb) which resulted in her losing the Queen Vic.
Peggy’s outspoken views have sometimes caused offence in the Square including, in 1996, when she publicly exposed Mark Fowler’s HIV+ and barred him from the Vic, while her feud with Pat led to a surprising friendship and popular double act in the serial.
The character was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time in 1996, with the disease recurring in 1999 leading to Peggy having a mastectomy. The emotional scenes saw Barbara pick up an award for Best Actress at the British Soap Awards. In 2010 Peggy feared her cancer had returned but it was a false alarm.
Barbara originally played the role of Peggy between 1994-2010 and has since made a number of one off returns to the saga; including during the 30th anniversary live week last year.
The actress was made a dame at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday (22 March) by the Queen following her inclusion in the New Year’s Honours List for services to charity and entertainment. Barbara, also well known for her roles in the saucy Carry On movie franchise, is an ambassador for Age UK, patron of the Amy Winehouse Foundation, and the face of the British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal.