Dame Barbara Windsor bows out of EastEnders

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Dame Barbara Windsor has said her final farewell to EastEnders in an emotional exit that saw her character Peggy Mitchell take her own life. "I will die as I have lived. Straight back, head high, like a queen," promised the iconic landlady, before taking an overdose of tablets after discovering that her cancer was terminal. The moment marked the end of Barbara's 22-year career on the soap.

In her poignant final scene, Peggy hallucinated the return of her former love rival-turned-friend Pat Butcher, played by Pat St Clement, who passed away in the soap from cancer in 2012.

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Dame Barbara Windsor has exited EastEnders after 22 years

"I'm being eaten alive and it hurts and I can't wait," Peggy said. "I don't want that to be me, I don't want to be that little old lady in the bed, with people saying, 'Remember her? Peggy Mitchell? She's all skin and bones.'"

After the credits rolled, the camera returned to the room, showing an empty glass of water, empty bottle of pills, an envelope addressed to her son, Phil, and a clock.

Dame Barbara, 78, joined the soap in 1994, and has become one of the show's most iconic characters. She played the role full-time until 2010 and has returned occasionally since for special appearances.

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Her character Peggy Mitchell hallucinated the return of friend Pat Butcher in the final episode

As the Mitchell family matriarch, her biggest storylines included her battle with breast cancer, her marriage to Frank Butcher, her feud and friendship with Pat Butcher and her marriage to Archie Mitchell, which resulted in the family losing The Queen Vic pub.

In honour of her exit storyline, Ross Kemp, who plays her son Grant Mitchell, returned to the soap after a ten-year absence to join his onscreen brother Phil, played by Steve McFadden.

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Ross Kemp returned to the soap in honour of Peggy's departure

Following Peggy's exit, viewers took to Twitter to say goodbye to the beloved character. "Peggy and Pat in #EastEnders absolutely brilliant! Literally feel like a family member has died. R.i.p Peggy :) #PeggyMitchell," one user wrote, while another added: "I swear to god the writers for #EastEnders are trying to make me an emotional wreck!"

Another fan wrote: "I can't believe I've actually got tears rolling down my face. That got to me that did. #EastEnders."

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