Well this came as unexpected.

After twenty two years playing matriarch Diane Sugden actress Elizabeth Estensen has decided to retire from Emmerdale.

Her character Diane has been at the heart of Emmerdale for all these years. Diane has been married and widowed, and at the helm as landlady of the Woolpack for seventeen years. Past storylines have seen her ripped off by her conman lover Charlie, and stabbed in the dark by Chas Dingle. Throughout all this, Diane has been a supportive mother, sister, stepmother and grandmother to her fictional family.

Diane has undergone treatment for cancer twice and been trapped at gun point in a siege. She was lost in a mirror maze which ultimately killed her sister Val, and more recently helped ex lover Eric Pollard run the village B&B. After such an action packed life in the village, Diane will soon be packing her suitcases and heading off to warmer climes leaving her life in the village behind her.

On her decision to retire from the programme Elisabeth 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.”

John Whiston Managing Director of Continuing Drama and Head of ITV in the North:

“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.”

Although Liz has filmed her final scenes she will be on screen for a number of weeks.

Emmerdale continues on ITV at 7pm.