Ian Beale — everything you need to know about the legendary EastEnders character

Ian Beale in EastEnders
Ian Beale is the longest serving character in EastEnders. (Image credit: BBC)

Ian Beale has become a household name in the UK after appearing in EastEnders for more than three and a half decades. He is played by legendary actor Adam Woodyatt, who joined the soap as a teenager not long after leaving the Sylvia Young Theatre School. 

Who is Ian Beale? 

Ian Beale is the son of Pete and Kathy Beale, and the nephew of the legendary Pauline Fowler. His siblings include Ben Mitchell and David Wicks, and he is the cousin of Mark and Michelle Fowler. 

As a life-long resident of Albert Square Ian has become a local businessman, specialising in catering. Over the years he has owned businesses like Walford East, Beale's Plaice and Kathy's Cafe. 

Some of the original EastEnders cast 1986

Ian Beale pictured with the Fowlers and Beales in 1986.  (Image credit: PA)

How long has Ian Beale been in EastEnders? 

Ian Beale is the longest serving male character in EastEnders, having appeared in the soap since the very first episode aired on February 19 1985. Despite Adam Woodyatt taking a short break in 2019, as well as the one he is currently on now, the actor is the longest-serving continuous star in the show. 

How old is Ian Beale? 

Ian Beale was born on March 1 1969, making him 52 years old. 

How many wives has Ian Beale had? 

Ian and his wife Jane Beale in EastEnders

Ian has been married 6 times over the years, having married Jane twice! (Image credit: BBC)

Ian Beale is the most married character in EastEnders history, having been married six times to five different women. He has also been engaged to Mandy Salter and Denise Fox, but never managed to get them down the aisle. 

Cindy Williams — 1989 - 1997

Cindy and Ian's marriage was plagued by affairs and lies, and things ended badly when Cindy hired a hitman to kill Ian so that she could regain custody of their twins, Peter and Lucy. She eventually went to jail for his attempted murder where she died in childbirth.

Mel Healy — 1999 - 2000

Ian's marriage to second wife, Mel (better known as Mel Owen), was his shortest marriage after it was revealed that he'd lied about his daughter Lucy having lymphoma in a bid to stop Mel leaving him. Mel discovered that Lucy wasn't ill at their wedding reception and quickly called time on their fleeting marriage. 

Laura Dunn — 2001 - 2004

Laura is the mother of Bobby Beale, but her marriage to Ian didn't last and she later died in 2004 when she fell down the stairs after tripping on one of Bobby's toys. 

Jane Collins — 2007 - 2011 and 2015 - 2020

Jane and Ian's relationship was plagued by Ian's affair with Glenda Mitchell, Jane's affair with Grant Mitchell... not to mention the fact that Jane was accidentally shot by Ian's stepson Steven Beale which left her unable to have children, and the fact she covered up that Bobby was Lucy's killer. But something kept bringing Jane and Ian together and the pair ended up getting married twice. 

Sharon Watts — 2020 - 2021

Ian's life long dream came true in 2020 when Sharon agreed to marry him while he was on his deathbed after being attacked by Phil Mitchell. However, when it transpired that Ian was going to survive, Sharon found herself stuck in a loveless marriage and tried to kill Ian by poisoning his food and drinks. 

Who many kids does Ian Beale have?

Ian Beale and his children Bobby, Peter and Lucy

Ian's children Peter, Bobby and their late sister, Lucy, have also grown up in Albert Square.  (Image credit: BBC)

Ian Beale has three children of his own, two sons called Peter and Bobby and a late daughter, Lucy. Ian has also raised two of Cindy's children — Peter and Lucy's half siblings — Steve and Cindy Jr. 

When Cindy became pregnant with Steven, Ian initially thought he was his son, however it later transpired Simon Wicks was Steven's father. Cindy and Ian were later reunited and they had twins Peter and Lucy in 1993. 

Ian later married Laura Beale and the pair had son Bobby together. At first Ian was convinced that Bobby was the son of Laura's lover Gary Hobbs, however it turned out Ian was the father and he took custody of Bobby when Laura died. 

Cindy Beale Jr was born in prison, where Cindy was serving time for Ian's attempted murder. But Cindy died in childbirth, and later down the line Ian ended up taking her in and raising her alongside Lucy and Peter. 

Where does Ian Beale live? 

Ian Beale lives in 45 Albert Square, the corner house by Bridge Street Market and opposite the Queen Victoria pub. The house has traditionally been part of the Fowler and Beale family with most characters from each family having lived there at some point. 

What are Ian Beale's most memorable storylines? 

After more than three decades in EastEnders, there are plenty of amazing Ian Beale moments to choose from. Here are some of the most memorable... 

Ian gets shot

Ian was left fighting for his life in 1996 when he got shot by a hitman organised by Cindy Beale after he won custody of their children, Peter and Lucy. Luckily for EastEnders fans he survived the shooing and Cindy went to prison trying to bump off her ex husband. 

Ian ongoing feud with Phil Mitchell

Ian and Phil have never got on, but when Ian's mum Kathy married Phil in 1995, making Phil Ian's new stepdad, things really hit the fan. The pair ended up having a fight in the toilets, resulting in the now-famous scene where Phil flushed Ian's head down the toilet. There have been some fleeting moments of compassion between the pair, the more famous being when Ian broke down in Phil's arms after his daughter Lucy's death in 2014. 

Ian becomes homeless 

In 2012 Ian suffered a nervous breakdown after his engagement to Mandy Salter came to an end. He was seen wandering along the road barefoot, wearing his pyjamas and didn't tell anyone where he was going. It was only two months later that he was eventually discovered at a homeless shelter but Lauren Branning, who was working there at the time. 

Ian's mum Kathy comes back from the dead 

2015 Ian was left stunned when his mum Kathy came back from the dead, having been killed off screen in 2006. At first the pair had a trick relationship as Ian tried to work out why his mum would abandon him, however the pair have since made up and now work and live together. 

When is Ian Beale coming back to EastEnders? 

Ian Beale left EastEnders (while actor Adam Woodyatt takes a well-earned break) earlier this year after discovering his wife Sharon Watts had hatched a plan to kill him. Ian was at the centre of a Christmas 2020 storyline that saw someone try to kill Ian in the Vic, which later turned out to be Phil Mitchell. But when his plan didn't work, Sharon took it upon herself to poison her husband as revenge for his role in her son Denny's death in the Thames boat disaster in February 2020.  

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.