Barbara Windsor has died at the age of 83, after a prolonged battle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Best known for her longstanding role as landlady Peggy Mitchell in the British soap EastEnders, Windsor had been diagnosed with the disease in 2014.
"It is with deep sadness that I can confirm that my darling wife Barbara passed away at 8.35pm on Thursday, December 10 at a London care home,” her husband Scott Mitchell said.
"It was not the ending that Barbara or anyone else living with this very cruel disease deserves," Mitchell added. "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," he added.
“Barbara’s final weeks were typical of how she lived her life. Full of humour, drama and a fighting spirit until the end.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Windsor "cheered the world up with her own British brand of harmless sauciness".
Windsor made her EastEnders debut in 1994, taking a sabbatical from the show for medical reasons in 2003, before returning as a series regular in 2005. She left the show again in 2009, saying she wanted to spend more time with her husband.
Before EastEnders, Windsor was known predominantly as a comedy actress, having shot to fame after starring in the Carry On series in the 1960s and 70s. She also starred in Sparrows Can't Sing, for which she was nominated for a Bafta, and appeared in small parts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and On the Fiddle with Sir Sean Connery. She made her stage debut in the theatre at the age of 13.
After her dementia diagnosis, she became an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Society, delivering a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, signed by 100,000 people, asking for better care for dementia suffers, saying the system was "completely inadequate, unfair, unsustainable and in dire need of more money".
On Twitter, actor Danniella Westbrook, who played Windsor's on-screen daughter Sam Mitchell on EastEnders, echoed the sentiments of many, referring to Windsor as a "national treasure".
“A generous warm funny humble and beautiful lady and someone who gave us all much joy watching her act,” Westbrook wrote.
Actor Tamzin Outhwaite, who starred alongside Windsor in EastEnders, also took to Twitter to pay her respects, writing: "I'm meant to be sleeping but I can't… RIP Barbara Windsor… All I can hear is "Ello Darlin'".