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Princess Margaret dies, 71

The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Margaret had suffered two previous strokes in recent years  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Princess Margaret, the younger sister of Queen Elizabeth, has died, Buckingham Palace announced Saturday. She was 71.

She died "peacefully in her sleep" at 6:30 a.m. GMT in King Edward VII Hospital, a statement from the palace said. Her children, Lord Linley, 40, and Lady Sarah Chatto, 37, were at her side.

The palace said Princess Margaret suffered a stroke Friday afternoon, and developed cardiac problems during the night. She was taken to the hospital at 2:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. Friday ET).

"The queen, with great sadness, has asked for the following announcement to be made immediately," said a statement released by the palace Saturday morning.

"Her beloved sister, Princess Margaret, died peacefully in her sleep this morning. ... Lord Linley and Lady Sarah were with her and the queen was kept fully informed throughout the night.

"Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and other members of the royal family are being informed," the statement said.

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A Buckingham Palace spokesman said a semi-private funeral, probably at Windsor Castle, was anticipated for next week but it was still too early to have finalised arrangements and that a public memorial would take place at a later date.

The queen left Sandringham, her Norfolk estate, on Friday and travelled to Windsor where she remained in touch with developments.

The 101-year-old Queen Mother, who is recovering from a persistent cold, stayed at Sandringham, where she was said to be "deeply saddened."

"The Queen Mother has been told of the sad news of the death of Princess Margaret and she is deeply saddened," according to a statement from the Queen Mother's official residence, Clarence House.

The Prince of Wales, who was told of his aunt's death while staying with friends in Chatsworth, Derbyshire, later left for Sandringham to be with his grandmother.

Prince Charles also was said to be "deeply saddened" by the news, as were his sons Princes William and Harry.

A spokesman said: "The Prince of Wales is deeply saddened by the death of Princess Margaret. He was informed immediately."

Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "I'm deeply saddened to hear of the death of Princess Margaret. My thoughts are with the queen, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the rest of the royal family at this time."

Princess Margaret's death comes amid her sister's Golden Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of her accession to Britain's throne.

Though considered a sombre commemoration because it marks the death of the king 50 years ago, a Jubilee is often celebrated with street parties and well-wishers.

As part of the Jubilee, the queen had planned to begin a trip to Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia on February 18. The palace said it was too early to say whether she would cancel the trip.

The flag at Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-mast. A notice which announced the princess' death was attached to a board in the courtyard and drew a steady stream of tourists, whose mood was sombre.

A minute's silence was being observed at sporting events including Great Britain's Davis Cup tie with Sweden in Birmingham

Princess Margaret's body was expected to be moved later Saturday to Kensington Palace in London, where it would lie privately for family and friends to pay their respects, a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.

The palace said the body would probably be moved early next week to the Queen's Chapel behind St. James Palace, again to lie privately for friends and family.

Formal arrangements were still being made, the palace said.

Palace sources said they thought the funeral would be held Thursday or Friday, more likely on Friday. An announcement on public condolence books was expected to be made later Saturday.

Margaret suffered at least two strokes in recent years. Confined to a wheelchair and often donning heavy dark glasses, she was last seen in public before Christmas at the 100th birthday party for Princess Alice.

The younger daughter of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, the princess was born at Glamis, the Scottish home of her grandparents, the Earl and Countess of Strathmore, August 21, 1930, and was christened Margaret Rose.

She was educated at home with her sister. In 1937, she joined the Brownies, and when she was old enough she became a member of the Girl Guides.

She always maintained close links with the program and later served as president and chairman of the Council of the Girl Guides Association.

When she was 5, the princess attended the Jubilee of her grandparents, King George V and Queen Mary. Less than two years later came her parents' coronation in Westminster Abbey.

In 1947 she accompanied the king and queen and Princess Elizabeth on their South African tour.

Margaret had a famous love affair with then-Group Captain Peter Townsend, a doomed romance that gripped the nation. With Townsend divorced, government ministers ruled the pair could not marry.

Margaret's decision to fight her bitterness and not renounce her title won the nation's sympathy.

Two decades earlier, she had been provided with a lesson when her uncle, King Edward the VIII, married divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. He not only lost his crown but the love of his country.

On May 6, 1960, the princess married society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in Westminster Abbey. In October of that year, Armstrong-Jones was created Earl of Snowdon and Viscount Linley.

The couple had two children. Their marriage was dissolved in May 1978.

On Saturday her ex-husband said: "Both Lord Linley and Lady Sarah are in close touch and informed me about the Princess's death early this morning. We are all extremely saddened."

In the '60s and '70s, Margaret became somewhat of a jet-setter, attending parties and becoming a heavy smoker and drinker.

Princess Margaret's life became lower profile in her later years. Although various health scares -- as well as an accident in which she severely scalded her feet -- made headlines, she largely managed to keep largely out of public view.

At her last public appearence she was confined to a wheelchair and wearing dark glasses.


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