In Friday night’s episode, soap fans were stunned when Peggy Mitchell made an appearance completely out of the blue, to deliver the devastating news to her son, Phil Mitchell (Steve McFadden), that she was dying of cancer.
It has now been confirmed that the iconic former Walford resident’s final scenes will air later this year, with Barbara explaining why she decided to bow out as Peggy, explaining she felt it was the right time to “shut the door” on the character.
Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell
She has explained: “Everyone knows I love ‘EastEnders’ and that will never change. Peggy is a character close to my heart but I made the decision a while ago that I need to say goodbye to Peggy once and for all as otherwise she will always be there, urging me to go back and that is something I need to shut the door on.
“After thinking long and hard about it, I realised that it is time for me and the audience to say our final farewells to the lady who I have loved for many years and I thought that whilst the guvnor [executive producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins], who I adore, is still in charge, I want him to be the one to oversee it.
“I am grateful that Dominic has accepted my decision and together, since late last summer, we have been secretly plotting Peggy’s last scenes.”
Her final scenes as Peggy will be aired in late spring 2016.
Peggy delivers the shocking news
Barbara’s return to Albert Square had been kept secret from soap fans ahead of transmission, with the character being given a visit from her son, who learned she was back from abroad.
Producer Dominic Treadwell-Collins has also said: “In Peggy Mitchell, Barbara has created one of the greatest ever characters on British television, someone who has become as synonymous with ‘EastEnders’ as The Queen Vic itself.
“So this is the end of an ‘EastEnders’ era. But it is also an opportunity to send Peggy Mitchell out in style in what will be one of the most heartbreaking, uplifting and epic exits an ‘EastEnders’ character has ever had.”
Since leaving the soap in 2010, Barbara has made several guest appearances in the soap, most recently last year, when she starred in scenes opposite new Queen Vic landlord, Mick Carter, played by Danny Dyer.
Away from the soap, Barbara was honoured with a damehood in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, at the tail-end of 2015, for her charity work.