Beloved EastEnders matriarch Peggy Mitchell said goodbye to Albert Square for the final time as she committed suicide in a heartbreaking scene.
The former Queen Vic landlady, played by Dame Barbara Windsor, took an overdose after breaking the news to son Grant (Ross Kemp) that her cancer had returned and taken a ‘proper grip’ on her.
Dame Barbara Windsor has played Peggy Mitchell for the last time (Kieron McCarron/BBC)
In a poignant final scene, after smelling cigarette smoke throughout the episode, Peggy hallucinated the return of her former love rival-turned-friend Pat Butcher (Pam St Clement), puffing away in thick pink lipstick and with ‘earrings rattling like Marley’s bleeding chains’.
Speaking to her friend, who passed away from cancer in EastEnders in 2012, Peggy said: “I’m being eaten alive and it hurts and I can’t wait.
The source of the smoke is revealed as Pat Butcher in a wonderful reunion scene (Kieron McCarron/BBC)
“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.”
She continued: “I will go as I have lived: straight back, head high, like a queen.”
The ghost Pat remained with Peggy as she took a handful of pills alone, with the camera panning over letters left to her children before a clock stopped to indicate the end of the Square’s most vivacious, loved and enduring residents.
Earlier in the episode, viewers had watched Peggy take one final trip to her former pub where sons Grant and Phil (Steve McFadden) tried to convince her not to go through with her suicide.
Peggy reasoned with them, saying, “It’s in my bones and it’s in my brain and I’m not going to get any better. I hurt. I’m not able to hold on to myself. I’m losing myself. All my thoughts, they slip through my brain like water.”
Phil replied: “You’re making out it’s romantic and easy and simple. It’s not just slipping off to sleep. It’s horrible. it’s terrible and it’s cruel.
Phil and Grant try to make Peggy see sense (Kieron McCarron/BBC)
“It’s our turn to look after you.”
Grant was seen leaving the Square to return to Portugal after a heart-to-heart with Phil about his liver cirrhosis, both sons wrongly convinced they had stopped their mother in time.
Dame Barbara, 78, made her debut in the soap in 1994 and it became the defining role of her career.
“Just in case you didn’t know it, you boys are my world” (Kieron McCarron/BBC)
She played Peggy full-time until 2010, and subsequently revived the Walford stalwart for occasional appearances.
As the landlady of the Queen Vic, Peggy was loved for her feisty temperament and her ‘Get outta mah pub!’ catchphrase, although she happily handed over the pub’s reins to Linda Carter (Kellie Bright) in her final episode.
Peggy’s funeral will see another EastEnders favourite return in the form of Danniella Westbrook, who played her daughter Sam Mitchell, as the family gather along with the soap’s fans for a final farewell.