Barbara Windsor is to be made a Dame in the New Year's Honours list, it has been revealed. The EastEnders and Carry On film actress was awarded an MBE in 2000 and will now be given the higher honour for her charity work. The 78-year-old is an ambassador for Age UK and supports other charities for the elderly. She also launched this year's British Legion Poppy Appeal in October.
Windsor is popular with Queen Elizabeth II. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said: "The Queen was delighted when Barbara's name was put forward. Like Her Majesty, she is someone who has been part of the fabric of the way of life in Britain for many years. "Windsor made her film debut in The Belles Of St Trinian's in 1954 at the age of 17, but achieved fame in the Carry On film series, acting in nine of them during the 1960s and 1970s. Later she acted in the BBC EastEnders soap opera, as the Mitchell family matriarch and Queen Vic landlady Peggy from 1994 to 2010 and in several subsequent one-off episodes.
Some of Windsor's past associations remain controversial and it is not clear to what extent the Queen's delight might encompass them too. Windsor's first marriage, in 1964, was to Ronnie Knight, who at that point was already a career criminal and associate of the Krays (East End gangsters and murderers - who also gave a great deal of support to charities). Indeed, she also had brief affairs with both Reggie Kray and his elder brother Charlie Kray.
Knight helped to carry out a £6m armed robbery at a Security Express depot in Shoreditch in 1983. He subsequently fled to Spain to evade arrest, following which Windsor divorced him. Following his return in 1993 he was jailed for seven years. Nevertheless, prior to her imminent Damehood, Windsor was awarded an MBE in 2000, as well as the Freedom of the City of London in 2010.