LONDON (AP) -- Princess Margaret, the high-spirited and unconventional sister of Queen Elizabeth II, died Saturday after a life that echoed with regret and thwarted love. She was 71.
The princess died peacefully in her sleep at King Edward VII Hospital at 6:30 a.m., a statement from Buckingham Palace said.
Margaret suffered a stroke Friday afternoon and developed cardiac problems during the night. She was taken from Kensington Palace to the hospital at 2:30 a.m., the statement said.
Her children, Lord Linley, 40, and Lady Sarah Chatto, 37, were with her, the statement added.
A heavy smoker for many years, Margaret had suffered repeated respiratory illnesses and had part of a lung removed in January 1985. She had a mild stroke in February 1998 and another in March 2001.
Margaret was last seen in public before Christmas at the 100th birthday party of Princess Alice, the Dowager Duchess of Gloucester. Margaret was confined to a wheelchair and wore heavy dark glasses, her sight having been affected by a stroke.
The queen left Sandringham, her Norfolk estate, Friday and traveled to Windsor. The 101-year-old Queen Mother Elizabeth, who is recovering from a persistent cold, stayed on at Sandringham.
"I know the whole country will be deeply saddened by Princess Margaret's death. She will be remembered with a lot of affection," Prime Minister Tony Blair said as he arrived in Sierra Leone Saturday.
The princess' former husband, Lord Snowdon, said he and the children were "extremely saddened."
Buckingham Palace said the princess' coffin would rest at Kensington Palace for several days, to permit family and close friends to pay their respects.
The death will cast a shadow over this year's Golden Jubilee celebrations. Margaret died three days after the 50th anniversary of her father's death, and her sister's accession to the throne.
A full program of Jubilee celebrations is planned for later in the year. On Feb. 18, the queen is due to start a visit to Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia.
In the 1950s, Margaret's ill-starred romance with royal aide Peter Townsend made headlines around the world because he was divorced. Twenty-three years later, she became a divorcee herself -- the first in the queen's immediate family -- when her marriage to Lord Snowdon was dissolved.
Margaret had not remarried.
Despite the upheavals, the publicity and their different personalities, the princess and her dignified sister remained close.
"In our family," Margaret once said, "we don't have rifts. We have a jolly good row and then it's all over. And I've only twice ever had a row with my sister." She didn't say what they argued about.
Margaret's cheerful informality was sometimes offset by an unsettling "royal" streak.
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