Emmerdale legend Elizabeth Estensen has announced her retirement from the ITV soap.
The actor has played Diane Sugden for 22 years but after a tumultuous couple of decades in the Dales has finally decided to call it a day and will bow out in the coming weeks.
Her storylines as Diane have included being treated for cancer twice, trapped at gunpoint in a siege and lost in a mirror maze, which ultimately claimed the life of her sister, Val.
Diane has served as The Woolpack's landlady for 17 years, been married and widowed, ripped off by conman lover Charlie and stabbed in the dark by Chas Dingle.
But viewers will most fondly remember her as the Sugden family matriarch, providing support and love to her children, stepchildren and grandchildren.
Fans of Diane need not worry about her meeting a grisly end as although full details of her exit storyline have not been revealed, we do know that she will pack her suitcases and head off for sunnier climes in her retirement.
Estensen said: “For the past 22 years I have loved playing Diane Sugden - she’s kind, reliable and fiercely loyal.
"However, I now feel the time has come to say goodbye. Emmerdale will always remain special to me. I’ve been treated with respect and kindness and I’ve had the very best friends and colleagues, both past and present. I’ll miss everyone dearly.”
Managing director of continuing drama and head of ITV in the North John Whiston paid tribute to the actor, saying: “For 22 years, Liz has shone through the screen and into our living rooms as the natural heart and centre of the Sugden family.
"It's a role she has made so totally her own, bringing compassion, humour and credibility to her portrayal of Diane. Whenever she's on screen, as a viewer, you just let out a contented sigh and say to yourself 'The Queen is on her throne and all is well with the world'.
"And off screen, you don't get to stay in a soap that long unless you are a truly professional actor and really, really lovely person. Liz is both.”
It was recently announced that Estensen would star alongside Doctor Who veteran Colin Baker, who is set for a guest role in the soap as a mystery date for Diane with an unusual passion.
Estensen has already filmed her final scenes but will still be on air for a number of weeks.
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