Most devastating of all, Barbara realized that there was no going back as her condition began to deteriorate.
It would be the end of Peggy Mitchell.
Realizing that she would still be drawn to the iconic character she had created, Barbara made the decision that Peggy had to die.
In public, Barbara said the decision to kill Peggy was to shut the door forever – but she had another hidden emotional motive linked to one of her co-stars.
When Barbara reached out to Dominic Treadwell-Collins, who was then executive producer on EastEnders, the soap opera boss insisted he couldn’t kill such an iconic character.
It was her husband Scott who then went to visit the boss of EastEnders – and confided that Barbara was really having a hard time learning the lines and “would never come back after that”.
With that, Peggy’s fate was sealed, but she wouldn’t come out on her own.
Though fiercely independent, Peggy wouldn’t have been the same character without her bald boys.
The Mitchell’s on-screen relationship has been reflected in real life, with Ross Kemp and Steve McFadden both fiercely protective of their moms on TV.
When Ross was released in August 1999, Barbara was left in tears on her last day on the Albert Square set.
After leaving to make documentaries, Ross made cameo appearances over the years, but Barbara was determined to bring her two sons back with her for her final scenes.
But with Ross busy flying across the world in war zones and dangerous gangs, his on-screen mother realized Peggy’s death would be the only thing that would bring him back.
“My darling son, he’s come back,” Barbara told the Mirror in 2016 after playing Peggy for the last time.
“Look, I knew the only way to get him back, because we all wanted him to come back, maybe if I get rid of me, he’ll have to come to the funeral, you see, and like that I got it back. “
Barbara’s plan worked a treat, as Ross’s character Grant returned to Walford after finding out Peggy had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“Barbara is a very close friend, so when I learned the story I felt the Mitchell brothers were reunited with their mother for the last time,” he told the BBC.
“I can’t wait to get back to EastEnders and film what should be classic EastEnders episodes. ”
In November 2015, the Carry On star secretly filmed her last heartbreaking scenes, which didn’t air until May of the following year.
EastEnders fans were in tears when Peggy last visited her beloved Queen Vic pub and reunited with her two sons.
After talking to the ghost of best friend Pat Butcher, Peggy committed suicide and died peacefully in bed.
Ahead of the airing of her final scenes, Barbara told fans why it was finally time for her to quit the soap opera – but hid much of the reason for her last outing.
“I made the decision some time ago that I had to say goodbye to Peggy once and for all, otherwise she will still be there, urging me back, and that’s something I needed to shut down the door, ”said the EastEnders legend in January 2016.
“After thinking about it for a long time, I realized that it was time for me and the audience to say our final farewells to the lady I had loved for many years.
“When I finished filming the last scene, I couldn’t say anything. I knew if I opened my mouth I would sob. But I couldn’t do that, because it’s my choice. “
Barbara had an autocue on set but only used it to jog her memory between takes.
“If you’ve seen Peggy’s death scenes, you can see that she wasn’t reading them. Ironically, I think this is one of the best jobs she has ever done. I was incredibly proud of her, ”admitted her husband Scott.
At the time, Barbara was secretly in the middle of her battle with Alzheimer’s disease, but had not made her devastating diagnosis public.
When it became “more difficult for us to hide,” Scott decided with Barbara to announce his condition in 2018.
There was a surge of love for the National Treasure, which was supported by her husband and close friends including Ross.
Having been friends for over two decades, it was heartbreaking for Ross as Barbara began to forget who he was.
“The nature of the disease is that she initially knew exactly who I was, then three minutes she turned to me and asked me who I was,” he said, in s ‘opening up on the last time they spoke at her home.
“She looks at these pictures of her, her in her prime on the wall, fantastic pictures of her amazing career and she says, ‘Who is this lady? “. ”
Earlier this year, Ross filmed a two-part series for ITV, Ross Kemp: Living With Dementia, which saw him attempting to battle the disease.
Addressing the possibility of Barbara entering a nursing home, Ross said, “I don’t think it’s even a risk, it’s going to happen and it will happen in the near future rather than late. “
Barbara’s condition has worsened over the past few months and at times she is unable to recognize her own husband.
Opening up on the first time she didn’t recognize him, Scott told Ross, “My heart sank the first time Barbara looked at me and said, ‘sorry, who are you? ? ‘
“Your whole story, twenty years or so at that time, has disappeared in their eyes and they are looking at a stranger, and it’s hard to bear.
“It’s still changing, even now I can either be the most important part of her world or she’ll look at me and say, ‘do you know where my husband Scott is?’
“Sometimes I shake her hand and smile at her and she looks at me puzzled, or sometimes she says, ‘Don’t be so stupid, you’re not my husband.’ “
Despite her struggles, her devoted husband Scott stayed by her side, but admitted doctors told her he might need to place her in a care home as her condition worsened.
In the documentary, Scott told Ross that he had gone through “dark times” since a specialist consultation made him realize he might need to take care of her.
“It’s the thing I’ve always feared,” he says. “He’s basically telling me that I have to prepare that at some point it might not be viable to give her the kind of care she needs at home.
“I’ve had some pretty dark times since he said that because there’s a part of me that knows it’s probably the truth and that’s what has to happen. “
This month Scott shared her agony after putting her in a nursing home – admitting it feels like bereavement.
“I’ve been used to jostling myself in this small space, and then suddenly, silence… all you can hear are your thoughts, and it’s not always healthy,” he told The Sun.
Scott went on to confess that he couldn’t stop crying when he thought about how his wife felt about the move.
“I feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster. I walk around trying to keep busy, then I burst into tears. It’s like mourning. ”
He added: “It has always been my biggest fear, that one day I would have to take her somewhere and she would be like, ‘Why would he do this to me?’
“This fear has become a reality. This is something I never wanted. “