EMMERDALE legend Elizabeth Estensen has quit the soap after 22 years.
The actress, 72, has played matriarch Diane Sugden since joining in 1999 but has now decided to retire from acting and enjoy life out of the limelight.
She has already filmed her final scenes and her exit will air in the coming weeks.
The Sun can reveal Diane will not be killed off – but instead will leave for a new life abroad.
“For the past 22 years I have loved playing Diane Sugden,” Elizabeth said announcing the news.
“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.”
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Continuing drama boss John Whiston paid tribute to the legendary soap star, 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.”
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.
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