Barbara Windsor: Boris Johnson pays tribute to actress's 'British brand of harmless sauciness'

The actress, who played Peggy Mitchell in BBC soap EastEnders, died at a care home in London on Thursday evening following a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Dame Barbara’s husband Scott Mitchell announced her death and described the actress as his “best friend and soul mate,” adding: “my heart or life will never feel the same without you.”

“Myself, her family and friends will remember Barbara with love, a smile and affection for the many years of her love, fun, friendship and brightness she brought to all our lives and the entertainment she gave to so many thousands of others during her career,” said Mr Mitchell.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said Dame Barbara was a “national treasure” and her death marked a huge loss.

“Her acting brought a smile to people across Britain and she showed incredible courage after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” said Sir Keir on Twitter.

“The country’s thoughts are with Scott and the family.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock added on Twitter: “RIP Dame Barbara Windsor

“A true national icon, and an inspirational campaigner on dementia.”

Dame Barbara Windsor’s former EastEnders co-star Larry Lamb paid tribute.

Talking about the time they met on the set of the soap, he said: “The reason I was there was because she decided she wanted a new man in her life in the show, and I was the one that got chosen.

Oliver Dowden pays tribute to ‘national treasure’ Dame Barbara Windsor

“And she just looked at me because she was such a tiny thing, I did not realise, and she said: ‘You are tall, never mind darling! We’re all the same height lying down!’”

He added: “She was larger than life. She was the head girl at EastEnders, she was the one everybody respected and she liked everything to run smoothly.

“She was an old-school actress, that’s really what it was… She knew how to keep everybody together and make it a team, she was really special.”

Dame Barbara made her debut as Peggy in 1994 and soon became one of the small screen’s best-loved characters as she yelled at rogue drinkers to “get outta my pub!”.

It became the defining role of her career and saw her star alongside Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden as her fictional sons Grant and Phil, with the late Mike Reid as her on-screen husband Frank Butcher.

The character left our screens in 2003 when Dame Barbara took a sabbatical for medical reasons after being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, but she returned as a series regular in 2005.

In 2009, Dame Barbara announced she would be leaving the soap again in order to spend more time with her husband Scott, who she married in 2000.

She returned for cameo appearances in the soap over the next few years but in 2016 she played Peggy for the final time.

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