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Richard Quest: Princess Margaret's death

Richard Quest
CNN Correspondent Richard Quest  

(CNN) -- Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth's younger sister, died in her sleep at 6:30 Saturday morning at King Edward VII Hospital in London. CNN Correspondent Richard Quest reports on the reaction to the princess' death.

RICHARD QUEST: Good evening from London, where it is now Saturday evening, and the weather very much in mood with the nation. It suddenly started to pour with rain here in the British capital.

And all day, people have been hearing and coming to terms with the death of Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth's sister, the youngest daughter of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

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The original notification was made at 6:30 this morning. Then a notice was put outside Kensington Palace, where Princess Margaret lived, saying that she had passed away peacefully during the night. Her children, Lord Linley and Lady Sarah Chatto, were both at her bedside when she died. She had been struck by a stroke on Friday night at her home and then taken to the hospital.

As the day moved on, so events about the funeral arrangements also started to become a little clearer. We also heard and ... saw her coffin was moved from the hospital where she died -- King Edward VII Hospital -- to her apartments at Kensington Palace, where she will lie and be visited by close friends and family as the final details of the funeral are put together. It is expected to be a semi-private funeral -- what that means is, no great state occasion.

Princess Margaret had been ill, very seriously ill in recent years, and I think the royal family wants to keep it as private ... as possible for a public person.

CNN: Well, Richard, if it is going to be semi-private, how might the people of England try to remember or commemorate Princess Margaret's life?

QUEST: A lady, who was both struck by grandeur and rebellion. That's the way one person put it. Princess Margaret was perhaps the original party princess. She gave glamour in the 1940s and '50s. She was seen smoking in public -- a cigarette in a long ivory cigarette holder. It was well known that she liked to smoke up to 40 cigarettes a day, and she was a heavy drinker. Of course, she also had her island home in the Caribbean on the island of Mustique, and there she even took one or two lovers.

So this contradiction between the princess who gave up one of her lovers for royal duty to a woman who in her later life was seen to enjoy life to the full.

CNN: I have heard ... [her described as] sort of the Princess Diana of her time. Given the younger generation may not be as well-versed on Princess Margaret, what, if there is a way to kind of qualify, might be the mood there now?

QUEST: I think anybody over a certain age -- let's be blunt -- anybody over 50 sort of is going to look at what happened to Princess Margaret and be very sorrowful that she is gone. They will remember the great crises of the last century that she caused, the great scandals with which she was involved with in the royal family. And the way in which she did ultimately put duty first.

For the younger generation, it's going to be just history. For them, Princess Margaret was for the last 10-15 years a sickly woman, an ill woman who was rarely seen other than ... in a wheelchair or with an arm bandage. And so to some extent, it's an older generation that will say Princess Margaret, part of British history. And they are the people who will mourn most.




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