British screen legend Dame Barbara Windsor has died at the age of 83, her husband, Scott Mitchell, has confirmed.
Mr Mitchell told PA in a statement: “It is with deep sadness that I can confirm that my darling wife Barbara passed away at 8:35pm on Thursday 10 December at a London care home. Her passing was from Alzheimer’s/Dementia and Barbara eventually died peacefully and I spent the last seven days by her side.”
The Carry On and EastEnders icon was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2014, a disease which hastened the end of her six-decade acting career.
Mr Mitchell said: “I’ve lost my wife, my best friend and soulmate and my heart or life will never feel the same without you.”
Former colleagues and fans were quick to pay homage to the Cockney with the squeaky voice and unforgettable laugh, who was best known to her huge fanbase as “Babs”.
Former EastEnders star Patsy Palmer wrote on Instagram: “I’m extremely sad to hear that my friend “ Dame “ Babara Windsor has passed away . I’m sitting here thinking of the 100’s of memories we shared . Too many to comprehend. We were like family for a long time , ups downs , ins and outs but you will never meet a more professional actress than Babs .”
Another ex Albert Square star Danniella Westbrook, who played her daughter, Sam, wrote: “Today we lost a legend a national treasure and a woman who I looked up too for most off my life. A generous warm funny humble and beautiful lady & someone who gave us all much joy watching her act.”
— Kellie (@xKellieLou) December 11, 2020
Dame Barbara was born Barbara Ann Deeks in Shoreditch, East London, in 1937 and made her screen debut in the classic comedy The Belles of St Trinian’s (1954).
Her career traversed decades and genres – she became a core cast member of the hugely popular Carry On film series, revealing a gift for comedy that endeared her to the nation in the 1960s. The bikini scene in Carry on Camping is a comedy classic.
Dame Barbara wasn’t limited to farces: she was nominated as best lead actress at the 1964 BAFTA Awards for Joan Littlewood’s kitchen sink comedy drama Sparrows Can’t Sing.
By the 1970s she was enough of a star throughout the Commonwealth to take a one-woman show, Carry on Barbara!, on tour to South Africa and New Zealand, as well as the UK.
By the time she was the subject of a 1992 edition of This Is Your Life, Dame Barbara had established a stellar film career, starred on Broadway, appeared regularly in the West End and played Shakespearian roles.
Dame Barbara joined EastEnders in 1994 as Peggy, the matriarch of the Mitchell clan, with sons Phil and Grant at her side as the no-nonsense landlady of the Queen Vic, a role she played until 2009.
Peggy made up for her diminutive stature with a surfeit of belligerence and aggression in the soap and her classic line “Get out of my pub!” has become a national catchphrase.
She said of her career: “I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’ve worked in two iconic shows, Carry On and EastEnders. If it all ended tomorrow – and it could – I’d just be terribly grateful. I’ve been fortunate enough to do what I love and get paid for it.”
She was married three times. First to Kray brothers associate Ronnie Knight in the 1960s, then to chef Stephen Hollings in 1986, before she married former actor Mr Mitchell in 2000.
Dame Barbara didn’t have children and once said: “I don’t have any regrets about not having kids. I’ve just never had those maternal feelings. I am a nurturer by nature, but I nurture adults: my friends, the people I work with. I don’t want to nurture children.”
She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in the 2016 New Year’s Honours list.