Dame Shirley collects royal honour

Singing star Shirley Bassey has been made a Dame Commander by the Queen at a ceremony in Buckingham Palace.

She collected the award after receiving recognition in the Millennium New Year’s Honours List for services to entertainment.

Actress Barbara Windsor was also honoured with an MBE for 50 years of entertainment.

Afterwards, Dame Shirley said: “Who would have thought a little girl from Tiger Bay would one day become a Dame?”

Miss Bassey, 63, who counts the Prince of Wales as one of her biggest fans, has celebrated over 45 years in showbusiness.

She was born the youngest of seven children in Cardiff’s dockland area and, at the age of 14, sang at local working men’s clubs before beginning to tour around Britain. She had her first hit in 1957.

With her powerful voice, lavish gowns and extravagant hand movements, she topped the charts two years later with ‘As I Love You’.

The performer said she nearly had a “heart attack” when given news of her award.

“I was asleep and my manager came to wake me up because we were going out that night,” she said.

“I didn’t feel like getting up and I said ‘go away, let me sleep.'”Just as I was going back to sleep he said, ‘You wouldn’t get up even for a Damehood?’

“I had to keep it quiet for seven weeks. I nearly had a nervous breakdown.

“I was afraid to go out in case I told someone – my social life was nil.”

Well known for singing the theme songs to three James Bond movies, Miss Bassey had 29 best-selling albums between 1961 and 1991.

In the 1990s, she teamed up with electronic band The Propellerheads to remix ‘History Repeating’ and she raised the curtain on Rugby World Cup ’99 with a performance at the Millennium Stadium.

Miss Bassey was awarded a CBE in 1993. She has spent more time in the UK charts than any other British female performer.

Miss Windsor, who plays the landlady of the Queen Vic in EastEnders, attended Buckingham Palace before taking part in the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday pageant later in the day.

“It is such an honour to receive this award and to be taking part in the parade later,” she said.

“I shall be meeting two royal queens today – how wonderful.”

Miss Windsor, 62, whose first film role was as a schoolgirl in a St Trinian’s film, made her name in the Carry Onfilms, particularly the scene in Carry on Camping when her bikini top flies off.

But when asked if she had thought of doing cracking any jokes at the Palace she said:

“What could I do? I couldn’t lose the bra, could I? I don’t think it would have been appreciated.”

Miss Windsor, accompanied with her husband Scott Mitchell, 36, and her agent Barry Burnett, said the award ceremony was a nerve-wracking experience.

“It was worse than a first night or my first day on EastEnders,” she said.

“The Queen said I had been making people laugh for a long time and I told her it was 50 years – she looked quite taken aback by that.”