Friday 9 December 2016

EastEnders cast and crew hail Dame Barbara's soap return

Published 22/03/2016 | 02:51

Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell.
Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell.
Dame Barbara Windsor first appeared in EastEnders in 1994
Barbara Windsor after the ceremony
Television star Barbara Windsor is made a Dame Commander of the order of the British Empire by the Queen

The cast and crew of EastEnders donned pretend crowns as they welcomed Barbara Windsor back to the show - one day before she was made a dame by the Queen.

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Everyone involved in filming on Monday bowed and curtseyed as the star returned for a six-week stint to mark her final exit from the popular soap, Dame Barbara said.

Television star Barbara Windsor is made a Dame Commander of the order of the British Empire by the Queen
Television star Barbara Windsor is made a Dame Commander of the order of the British Empire by the Queen

Famed for her role as Peggy Mitchell, the 78-year-old Londoner was made a dame for her services to charity and entertainment on Tuesday.

She said: "They all - all of them - had crowns on. All the crew, everybody. Because I was coming here.

© BBC ROSS KEMP as Grant Mitchell, BARBARA WINDSOR as Peggy Mitchell and STEVE MCFADDEN as Phil Mitchell.
© BBC ROSS KEMP as Grant Mitchell, BARBARA WINDSOR as Peggy Mitchell and STEVE MCFADDEN as Phil Mitchell.

"I said 'Oh shut up, you daft lot'. It was just so wonderful, because I am the first dame they've ever had.

"My scenes were with June Brown - Dot Cotton - who is one of my dearest friends and I absolutely adore her.

"It was an absolutely wonderful day."

The actress added that she thought it was funny she had been asked to go in for two early shifts either side of the investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

EastEnders star Dame Barbara Windsor said despite her decision to leave for good, her love for the show would never change
EastEnders star Dame Barbara Windsor said despite her decision to leave for good, her love for the show would never change

She said: "Typical - they call me in first thing in the morning. It made me laugh - 'You might be a dame but you're still in first thing in the morning' - I loved it!"

Wearing a figure-hugging purple lace dress with button detailing, a ruffled collar and matching fascinator, the petite star said it was lovely to meet the Queen - "another small lady".

She said she was impressed by the monarch's "gorgeous" skin and joked to guests - "I wonder what she uses."

The Queen, wearing a green knee-length dress, presented honours to 59 people, as 260 family members and guests watched on.

Barbara Windsor and husband Scott Mitchell at The Pride of Britain Awards
Barbara Windsor and husband Scott Mitchell at The Pride of Britain Awards

Dame Barbara was joined by her husband Scott - "also a Mitchell!"- and her former agent, Barry Burnett, at the ceremony.

The Carry On! star, who was previously awarded an MBE, is an ambassador for Age UK and backs other charities supporting the elderly, as well launching the British Legion's Poppy Appeal in October.

She will celebrate later with family and some EastEnders colleagues - June Brown (Dot Cotton) and Pam St Clement ( Pat Butcher) - for a special lunch at Fortnum & Mason in central London.

The EastEnders theme tune was played by the orchestra just before the Queen arrived, Dame Barbara's husband said proudly.

The actress said receiving her award felt like performing on an opening night, but she relaxed when she started talking to the Queen.

"I wished her happy birthday, I was quite amazed at how beautiful she looks," Dame Barbara said.

Cold Feet and The Hobbit actor James Nesbitt said he was "thrilled" to be awarded an OBE for his services to drama and to the community in Northern Ireland - after spending years helping families affected by the Troubles.

Watching proudly were Nesbitt's daughters, Peggy, 18, and Mary, 14, as well as his 88-year-old father.

Others honoured at the ceremony include former Lord Mayor of London Alan Yarrow, who received a knighthood for his services to international business, inclusion and the City of London.

Collette Kallee, from Bury in Greater Manchester, was made an OBE for her services to the Ebola response in Sierra Leone, and the chief executive of Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, Steven Pleasant, picked up an MBE for his services to the welfare and housing of asylum seekers and refugees.

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