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Barbara Windsor: I was unsure of public reaction after being made a dame

Published 27/04/2016

Dame Barbara Windsor with the portrait by Welsh artist Dan Llywelyn Hall
Dame Barbara Windsor with the portrait by Welsh artist Dan Llywelyn Hall

Dame Barbara Windsor has revealed she thought people would be too scared to talk to her in the street after she was honoured by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

The EastEnders star, who will soon be returning to the soap for her final scenes as Peggy Mitchell, was made a dame in March and said she thought fans would no longer stop her for a chat.

She added she was even scared to go out because she was unsure of the public reaction.

The actress, who sat recently for a portrait by Dan Llywelyn Hall, said the artist had captured the serious side of her that many people do not see because of her cheerful persona.

Speaking after she unveiled the painting, she said: "How can I get to 78 and see a portrait that is so me? He's really got me. I had the best time ever sitting, we talked about everything and then it was over before I even knew it."

She added: "I'm quite a serious lady and he's caught that in me."

Pulling a miserable face, she said: "You do put on a front, people don't want to see me walking down the road like this. If I did people would ask me what the matter is.

"The public do talk to me, people walk along the street with me, and I thought when I was made a dame they wouldn't talk to me, but they do, they are still exactly the same.

"I was scared to go out a little bit, but I'm still Babs, I'm still ''ello', I'm still 'get out of my pub'."

Dame Barbara said the artist caught her in a contemplative mood, adding: "I must have talked about my family in that picture because my mother would love that because, God bless her, she was a cockney snob.

"I've been in the business since I was 13 and she didn't like the Carry On films, she liked it when I was in theatre. She would think that painting was proper."

Scott Mitchell, Dame Barbara's husband, said: "He's caught a sight of you that isn't seen by the public. My instant reaction was, 'wow, that's the Barbara that I know'."

Llywelyn Hall said: "With a portrait like this you have to broach the private and the public, because the public have a very clear idea of who Dame Barbara is on the screen, but in private it's very different, it's somebody who is very sensitive, very personable and generous, so you're dealing with those two issues."

The portrait will be part of a Great Britons exhibition commemorating the Queen's 90th birthday and the centenary of the First World War.

The exhibition, hosted by Virgin Money, will be on display to the public at Virgin Money Lounges in Haymarket and Eagle Place from May 9 to 15 to benefit the Victoria Cross Trust and War Memorials Trust.

It will feature 20 portraits including depictions of the Queen, Lily Cole and Michael Palin.

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