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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 04:33 GMT
Margaret tributes led by 'sad' prince
Princess Margaret's coffin is taken from King Edward Hospital
The Princess's coffin is taken from King Edward Hospital
Prince Charles has paid an affectionate tribute to his "darling aunt", Princess Margaret, who died "peacefully in her sleep" in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Remembering the "vibrant" 71-year-old princess, Charles said the strokes she suffered over the past few years had put her through a "dreadful time".


I think in a way for her it must have been a merciful release

Prince Charles
Speaking from Sandringham on behalf of the Royal Family the prince said: "We shall all miss her dreadfully and, as dreadfully sad as death is at times like this, I think in a way for her it must have been a merciful release, as many people will understand, for somebody who was such a vital and free spirit."

Prince Charles thanked the "wonderful people" who have already sent tributes, flowers and condolences following Princess Margaret's death.

He said his aunt had been "beautiful" and "talented" and that her illness had been difficult for all the family to bear, reminding them of the many other people who saw relatives suffering.

Heart problems

Buckingham Palace said the Queen's younger sister suffered a stroke on Friday afternoon and, after developing heart problems, died at 0630 GMT at London's private King Edward VII Hospital.

Her children, Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, and former husband, Lord Snowdon, were at her bedside.

Prince Charles
Charles led tributes to his "darling aunt"

Princess Margaret's coffin was taken to her former home in Kensington Palace on Saturday afternoon, draped in her Royal Standard.

The coffin will be moved to the Queen's Chapel at St James's Palace before her funeral, at 1500 GMT on Friday 15 February in St George's Chapel, Windsor.

Members of the Royal Family and friends will attend the ceremony, which will not be a state occasion, and a memorial service will be held at a later date.

Duties continue

A period of Royal mourning has begun, during which members of the family and the Royal court will wear black until the funeral takes place.

The majority of Royal duties will continue as planned, including the Queen's tour of Jamaica, New Zealand and Australia that begins on 18 February.

For only the second time the Union flag was being flown at half mast over Buckingham Palace.

Margaret tributes
Mourning period for Royal Family
Palace flag at half mast
Donations to NSPCC, Guides and Royal Ballet
Book of condolences at St James's Palace
Funeral on Friday 15 February
The Queen, who was kept fully informed after her sister's stroke, has returned from her Sandringham residence in Norfolk to Windsor Castle.

Prince Charles travelled to Sandringham to support the 101-year-old Queen Mother, who has been suffering from a severe cold. The Duke of Edinburgh is also there.

Princess Anne, who was in Antarctica on a three-day trip to commemorate Captain Scott's first Antarctic expedition, has been informed of the death and is planning to fly to New Zealand.

Duchess 'saddened'

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking from Sierra Leone, led many tributes from politicians, saying she would be remembered "with a lot of affection" as she had given "a great deal of service" to the country.

He later spoke to the Queen by phone to express his sadness in person.

Margaret arrives for her mother's 101st birthday in August 2001
The princess had been suffering ill-health in recent years
The Duchess of York, speaking in the US, said: "I am deeply saddened for her immediate family.

"She was a very good friend to my mother and very kind to me when I first came into the family. I shall never forget that."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, said: "She was a much-loved member of our Royal Family and a great support to Her Majesty throughout the Queen's reign."

Several foreign leaders, including Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, have sent their condolences to the Queen, as has the Pope in a telegram and Don McKinnon, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth.

A minute's silence has been observed at many sporting fixtures.

Members of the public have left some floral tributes outside Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, Sandringham House and King Edward VII hospital.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said it was too early to decide whether the death will change any of the plans for this year's Golden Jubilee celebrations.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jennie Bond
"Prince Charles remembered his aunt's vitality"
Prince Charles
"This is a terrible day for all the family"
Former Buckingham Palace press sec Dickie Arbiter
"It's a bitter loss to the family"

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Princess Margaret 1930-2002
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