Popular British actress, Dame Barbara Windsor, best known for her roles in EastEnders and the Carry On films, has died of Alzheimer’s disease at 83.
Her husband, Scott Mitchell, said she had died peacefully from Alzheimer’s at a London care home on Thursday evening.
She had been diagnosed with the disease in 2014 and had moved to a care home earlier this year, BBC reports.
Mr Mitchell said she would be remembered for the “love, fun, friendship and brightness she brought to all our lives”.
Dame Barbara appeared in nine of the 31 films in the comedy series Carry On, and Sparrows Can’t Sing, for which she was nominated for a Bafta, as well as small parts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and On the Fiddle with Sir Sean Connery.
She was well known to millions of TV viewers for her portrayal of landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, starring alongside her on-screen children Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden.
Her last appearance in the soap came in 2016, the same year she was made a dame for her services to charity and entertainment.
She also worked in theatre-making her stage debut at 13 – and appeared in productions including Oh! What A Lovely War and Fings Ain’t Wot They Used To Be.
After her dementia diagnosis Dame Barbara became an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and met Prime Minister Boris Johnson to raise awareness about the disease.
The star delivered a letter signed by 100,000 people pleading for better care for people affected by dementia and saying the system was “completely inadequate, unfair, unsustainable and in dire need of more money”.
Mr Mitchell, who campaigned alongside his wife, said of her death: “It was not the ending that Barbara or anyone else living with this very cruel disease deserved. I will always be immensely proud of Barbara’s courage, dignity and generosity dealing with her own illness and still trying to help others by raising awareness for as long as she could.”
The couple went public with her diagnosis in 2018 and Mr Mitchell had said they had been “really nervous” about revealing she was affected by the condition.
In his statement, he thanked the public, family and friends for support which he said. “Barbara deeply appreciated”.
He added: “I’ve lost my wife, my best friend and soul mate and my heart or life will never feel the same without you.”
Tributes have been paid from across the entertainment world with Danniella Westbrook, who played her on-screen daughter Sam Mitchell in EastEnders, tweeting: “My heart is broken. Bar, you will always [be] in my heart forever.”
Fellow EastEnders star, Patsy Palmer, who played Bianca Jackson in the BBC TV soap, said: “I’m extremely sad to hear that my friend ‘Dame’ Barbara Windsor has passed away. I’m sitting here thinking of the 100s 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.”
Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Mel Owen in EastEnders, tweeted that she was “meant to be sleeping but can’t”, and described the actress as an icon and national treasure. “All I can hear is ‘ello darlin’,” she added in reference to Peggy Mitchell’s cockney accent.
Little Britain star Matt Lucas said “it’s not an overstatement to say I think the whole country is in mourning today” and praised Dame Barbara for working “tirelessly” for charity “even when her own health was failing her”.
Singer Aled Jones described her as a “true national treasure” and veteran broadcaster Tony Blackburn said she was a “lovely lady who was always such fun”.
The Alzheimer’s Society said it was “incredibly grateful” to Dame Barbara and her husband for their work bringing awareness to the disease.
In a statement, the charity said, “Dame Barbara Windsor was an amazingly true, much-loved national treasure, and in speaking out about her experiences shone like a beacon for others affected by dementia.”
Like her EastEnders character, she was born in east London, in Shoreditch in 1937.