Arnold struggled to compose himself after being shown a four-year old interview with the British screen icon, whose death to Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 83 was confirmed by her husband Scott Mitchell on Thursday evening.
Looking back at the 2016 clip as he paid tribute to Dame Barbara, the visibly emotional 51-year old – who had previously described her as a ‘mate’ – choked up.
Emotional: Good Morning Britain showbiz correspondent Richard Arnold fought back tears on Friday while reflecting on his friendship with the late Dame Barbara Windsor
‘That’s just beautiful,’ he said, fighting back tears. ‘God it’s been a long time since I’ve seen that.’
Charlotte Hawkins added: ‘The words that sum it up are “national treasure.” She had a special place in all our hearts.’
Summing up the thoughts of many, Ben Shephard remarked: ‘She was the best of British. It’s a very sad loss.’
Arnold’s meeting with Dame Barbara ahead of the 2016 TV Choice Awards was especially poignant as it was filmed two-years after her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s – meaning she was already battling the degenerative condition.
Devastated: Arnold struggled to compose himself after being shown a four-year old interview with the British screen icon, whose death to Alzheimer’s was confirmed on Thursday evening
Face to face: The presenter met Dame Barbara for an interview ahead of the TV Choice Awards in 2016
Hours earlier husband Scott Mitchell, 57, confirmed Dame Barbara died at 8.35pm on Thursday evening at a London care home.
The actress – who was made a Dame in 2016 – announced she was suffering from Alzheimer’s in 2018, having been diagnosed four years earlier. She moved to a care home in July.
He described her final weeks as ‘typical of how she lived her life’ and ‘full of humour, drama and a fighting spirit until the end’.
In a tribute released shortly after her death, he said: ‘Her passing was from Alzheimer’s/dementia and Barbara eventually died peacefully and I spent the last seven days by her side.
‘Myself, her family and friends will remember Barbara with love, a smile and affection for the many years of her love, fun, friendship and brightness she brought to all our lives and the entertainment she gave to so many thousands of others during her career.
Moving: The visibly emotional 51-year old choked up, telling host Sean Fletcher it had been a ‘long time’ since he’d watched the interview
Sad: Arnold’s meeting with Dame Barbara ahead of the 2016 TV Choice Awards was especially poignant as it was filmed two-years after her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s
‘Barbara’s final weeks were typical of how she lived her life. Full of humour, drama and a fighting spirit until the end.
‘It was not the ending that Barbara or anyone else living with this very cruel disease deserve. I will always be immensely proud of Barbara’s courage, dignity and generosity dealing with her own illness and still trying to help others by raising awareness for as long as she could.’
Scott, who alongside his wife campaigned for greater dementia care from the Government, added: ‘Dementia/Alzheimer’s remains the UKs number one killer.
Farewell: Hours earlier Dame Barbara’s husband Scott Mitchell, 57, confirmed she passed away at 8.35pm on Thursday evening at a London care home
‘Although in challenging times, I urge the Prime Minister, his government and other parties to be true to their previous promises and invest more into dementia/Alzheimer’s research and care.
‘Thank you to all the doctors, nurses and carers who are angels at the care home for your kindness and care to Barbara and I throughout her stay with you. You are my heroes.
‘And my gratitude to our family, friends and everyone in the media and the general public for all the good wishes and warm support that has been shown to Barbara over the last few years during her illness. Barbara deeply appreciated that.’
At the end of his moving tribute, he said: ‘May you rest in peace now my precious Bar. I’ve lost my wife, my best friend and soul mate and my heart or life will never feel the same without you.
‘I will be making no further statements and now need the time to grieve this painful, personal loss.’