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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain's Princess Margaret Dead

LONDON -- Princess Margaret, the fun-loving, hard-playing sister of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, died Saturday after the latest in a line of strokes. She was 71.

The queen announced the death of her younger sister "with great sadness" in a statement pinned up for all to see at Buckingham Palace, where the Union Jack fluttered at half mast.

Margaret's death robbed the queen of a loyal confidante and ended a lifelong battle between protocol and passion.

Curious tourists congregated outside the palace gates in muted sadness and respect -- a far cry from the spontaneous outpouring when that other royal misfit, Princess Diana, died in 1997.

Margaret died in the week her sister celebrated 50 years on the throne. Ever more vivacious than the dutiful Elizabeth, Margaret's exotic lifestyle had in the end reduced the glamorous princess to a frail, wheelchair-bound figure.

The palace said Margaret suffered her most recent stroke Friday afternoon, developed heart problems overnight and was taken from her Kensington Palace home to the hospital.

"Her beloved sister, Princess Margaret, died peacefully in her sleep this morning at 6.30 a.m. in the King Edward VII Hospital. Her children, Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, were at her side," the queen's statement said.

Heir to the throne Prince Charles paid tribute to his "darling aunt."

"My aunt was one of those remarkable people who, apart from being incredibly vital and attractive ... had such incredible talent," he said from the royal estate at Sandringham.

Earlier he told reporters: "The last few years with her awful illness were hard for her to deal with."

A heavy smoker and drinker, Margaret will best be remembered for relinquishing true love in her youth by turning her back on a dashing air force officer when protocol dictated that a princess could not marry a divorced man.

Instead she turned her attentions to the high arts, beaux and parties in striking contrast to the outdoor sporting pursuits preferred by other royals.

"She gave a great deal of service to the country," Prime Minister Tony Blair told reporters during a trip to Africa. "The whole country will be deeply saddened. She will be remembered with a lot of affection."