Which residents of Albert Square from past and present have made the Top 10 of the greatest characters of all time?
And who has been crowned the king – or queen – of Walford?
Time to find out…
10. Dot Branning
June Brown 1985-93; 1997-
“Oh, I say!” One of British TV’s most recognisable characters, chain smoking laundrette queen Dot started out as a prejudiced hypochondriac who would quote Bible passages as you collected your service wash. Not one to pry, she was also a shameless gossip. But seeing her cope with her scumbag son Nick endeared her to audiences – every time we heard the words “Ello, Ma,” we knew that Dot was due more heartache. Helping to end the suffering of her best mate Ethel left poor Dot tormented, but her late in life marriage to Jim Branning gave her some happiness. A true national treasure.
9. Michelle Fowler
Susan Tully 1985-95
In the show’s first year, a teenaged Michelle announced her pregnancy to her disappointed parents Arthur and Pauline. ’Chelle’s refusal to name the babydaddy caused a huge stir, and viewers learned it was Den Watts long before Pauline or Sharon (Michelle’s best friend and Den’s daughter) ever did. Michelle was an un-showy character who was also quietly determined to achieve a better life for herself and daughter Vicki. Her weakness for Queen Vic landlords would later lead to another paternity secret when she became pregnant following a one night stand with Grant Mitchell. Wisely fleeing to America, she stayed away for years before coming back with a new head…
8. Angie Watts
Anita Dobson 1985-88
The original Walford drama queen, Angie did it all during her three years on the show. Neurotic and self-destructive, she was a force of nature whose big hair was matched by the scale of her emotional outbursts. Ange put on one hell of a show behind the Queen Vic bar and her flirty banter made her popular with punters, especially the men. But the one man she desperately needed to pay her some attention just wasn’t that interested. Angie’s doomed marriage to Den powered ’Enders to huge heights in the early days, and her alcoholism was truly painful to watch.
7. Phil Mitchell
Steve McFadden 1990-2003; 2005-
He’s survived prison, shootings, addictions, beatings, car crashes and numerous attempts to topple him from his perch, but Phil always bounces back. Ruthless, violent and controlling, he demands total loyalty from his faaaaamily. Anything less and his face turns red and his voice gets even growlier. He’s had feuds with plenty of pretenders to his throne, but for now Phil remains king of the castle. Phil destroys every romantic relationship he ever has, and no woman will ever live up to his dear departed mum.
6. Kat Slater
Jessie Wallace 2000-05; 2010-16; 2018-
One of the most complex creations to ever hit the Square, Kat is a combustible combination of vulnerability, strength, warmth and attitude. Standing out as the loudest of the Slater sisters – no mean feat – she instantly made an impression. Her leopard print wearing, all night partying, sarcastic good time girl persona masked a very dark secret though. The 2001 reveal that baby sister Zoe was actually Kat’s daughter through sexual abuse by their uncle Harry is still one of the biggest EastEnders shocks of all time. An absolute powerhouse of a character.
5. Pat Butcher
Pam St Clement 1986-12
Introduced as Pete Beale’s ex-wife, Pat was A Woman With A Past, an ex-prostitute who immediately caused trouble by claiming that Pete wasn’t actually Simon’s father. Her take no prisoners approach mellowed over the years, and Pat really came into her own when she married Frank and took over The Vic. Playing step mum to Frank’s kids gave her a chance to start again, but heartbreak was always just around the corner. Her commitment to blue eye shadow, leopard print, massive earrings and cigarettes was constant and her clashes with Peggy were legendary. Pat is greatly missed.
4. Janine Butcher
Charlie Brooks 1999-2004; 2008-2014
Her daddy didn’t love her enough, and everybody’s paid the price ever since. Starting off as a teenage troublemaker who caused grief for Frank and Peggy, Janine became a manipulative cow who would trample over anyone to get her own way. She had the morals of an alley cat and the cunning of a rattlesnake, clawing her way back whenever she ended up in the gutter. Obsessed with money, the Black Widow bumped off several husbands to get her hands on their cash. Janine’s long running feud with her step mum Pat was glorious, but her finest moment came when she pushed Barry off a cliff and later mournfully wailed: “If only he’d worn slip-on shoes!”
3. Peggy Mitchell
Barbara Windsor 1994-2010; 2013-16
All together now: “GET OUTTA MY PUB!” Pint-sized scrapper Peggy was proper East End, an old school landlady who could handle herself in most situations. Fiercely protective of her family, she was often blinkered when it came to her sons. Although she was fiery, she also had a vulnerable side and would hold her head high while crying on the inside. Her breast cancer diagnosis showed that she wasn’t invincible, and her marriage to Frank brought more grief. Frank’s affair with Pat was revealed in glorious style to a packed Queen Vic by Peggy on Bonfire Night 2000, followed by a slap for each guilty party.
2. Den Watts
Leslie Grantham 1985-89; 2003-05
“This, my sweet, is a letter from my solicitor telling you that your husband has filed a petition for divorce.” Over 30 million jaws hit the floor on Christmas Day 1986 when ‘Dirty’ Den Watts turned the tables on his trouble and strife, Ange. The record-breaking episode cemented Den’s status as a soap legend, but he’d already been instrumental in the popularity of the BBC’s still young soap.
An Alpha male who oozed charm and menace, Den spoiled his ‘Princess’ Sharon and drove wife Angie to drink. The original Queen Vic guvnor had a weakness for playing away from home and his involvement with local gangsters saw him ‘killed off’ with a bunch of deadly daffodils.
But like a bad penny, Den was resurrected over a decade later for one last stint. He hadn’t mellowed and he snarled his way around the Square, making an enemy of Phil and ruining the lives of Sam, Chrissie and Zoe only to end up clobbered with a doorstop and buried under The Vic. Oh, the indignity of it all.
1. Sharon Mitchell
Letitia Dean 1985-95; 2001-06; 2012-
If Sharon didn’t exist, Gay Twitter would probably grind to a halt. Her facial expressions and glorious pout have been GIF’d up to within an inch of their life, but there’s so much more to the queen of Walford than merely being a camp icon.
Sharon began as a spoilt pawn in her parents’ volatile marriage whose best friend was Roly the poodle. As an adult she’s made some terrible choices, but Sharon is also a born survivor who’s much stronger than people realise. She went on to get tangled up with both Phil and Grant for years, while also going toe to toe with Peggy and living to tell the tale.
She’s left the show a couple of times in suitably exciting fashion, but Sharon is also a big fan of a dramatic entrance. (Or at least that’s what it says on the Vic’s toilet walls). Her best comeback was in 2001, when she swept back in looking sleek and glossy, triumphantly declaring that she was the new owner of The Vic. As Sharon purred “Ello Peggy, bet you never thought you’d see me again?” her ex mother-in-law’s snarl said it all. Long may Queen Shazza reign over Walford!