EastEnders star Barbara Windsor dies aged 83

Dame Barbara Windsor, best known for her roles in EastEnders and the Carry On films, has died aged 83, her husband Scott Mitchell announced.

Windsor died peacefully from Alzheimer's at a London care home on Thursday evening, Mitchell said.

“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.

“Barbara’s final weeks were typical of how she lived her life. Full of humour, drama and a fighting spirit until the end."

Windsor made her debut as Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders in 1994 and soon became one of television’s best-loved characters as she yelled at rogue drinkers to “get outta my pub!”

It became the defining role of her career, starring 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 actor was given a number of high-profile storylines during her time on the soap, including a groundbreaking breast cancer arc.

Dame Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell in Eastenders

In 2003 Windsor took a sabbatical from EastEnders for medical reasons after being diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, but she returned as a series regular in 2005.

Her final episode, in which Peggy killed herself after refusing treatment for her returning breast cancer, received praise from critics and fans.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who both met Dame Barbara, paid tribute to her acting and charity work

Prime Minister Boris Johnson added: "So sad about Barbara Windsor, so much more than a great pub landlady and Carry On star."

Johnson added that she was "one of those people that just cheered you up, and cheered everybody up because she had a kind of irrepressible naughtiness that was totally innocent.

The BBC announced it is dedicating Friday's Evening schedule on BBC One to Dame Barbara "in loving memory". It is showing Babs at 19:35 GMT- a dramatisation of her life story - followed by EastEnders at 21:05 GMT.

The life of a star

The only child of a costermonger and a dressmaker, Windsor was born Barbara Deeks in Shoreditch, London, in 1937. She trained at the Aida Foster Theatre school in Golders Green and made her stage debut at 13.

She appeared in nine films in the Carry On comedy series, plus Sparrows Can't Sing, for which she was nominated for a Bafta, as well as parts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and On the Fiddle with Sir Sean Connery.

Barbara Windsor and Sid James in Carry On Girls

After her dementia diagnosis, Dame Barbara became an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society and met Mr 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".

Windsor received a damehood for services to charity and entertainment in the 2016 new year honours list. She continued to work in film, broadcasting and onstage in her later years, providing voice work for Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice Through the Looking Glass, and presenting occasional series for Radio 2.

Windsor married three times. She also had a brief relationship with Reggie Kray before her marriage to local gangster Ronnie Knight, the Kray associate who was jailed in 1995 for his role in the 1983 armed robbery of a Security Express depot.

After her separation from Knight in 1985 she married the restaurateur Stephen Hollings, whom she divorced in 1995, and then she married Mitchell.