The cast and crew of EastEnders donned pretend crowns as they welcomed Barbara Windsor back to the show, a day before she was made a dame by the Queen.
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.
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.
Barbara Windsor with husband Scott Mitchell after she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen (John Stillwell/PA)
She said: “They all – all of them – had crowns on. All the crew, everybody. Because I was coming here.
“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.”
Barbara Windsor with husband Scott and former agent Barry Burnett (John Stillwell/PA)
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.
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.”
Barbara Windsor and Steve McFadden in EastEnders (Gary Moyes/BBC)
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 and Pam St Clement (Pat Butcher) – at a special lunch at Fortnum & Mason in central London.
EastEnders’ Ross Kemp, Dame Barbara Windsor and Steve McFadden in 2006 (David Fisher/Rex/Shutterstock)
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.
Barbara Windsor as Peggy Mitchell (BBC)
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 his daughters, Peggy, 18, and Mary, 14, as well as his 88-year-old father.
James Nesbitt (Ian West/PA)
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.