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HOLLYWOOD SIREN ELIZABETH TAYLOR HAS DIED AT THE AGE OF 79.

Taylor had been hospitalized for the last six weeks for symptoms of congestive heart failure. She died Wednesday morning surrounded by her children: Michael Wilding, Christopher Wilding, Liza Todd, and Maria Burton, Taylor's publicist, Sally Morrison, said in a statement.

Taylor, a longtime smoker, had announced her heart failure diagnosis in 2004. The condition causes the heart to gradually lose the ability to pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

Taylor was one of the silver screen's most striking beauties, with eyes so blue, many said they were violet. But she was almost as famous for her legendary love life. She was married eight times to seven husbands, with her last marriage, to construction worker Larry Fortensky, ending in 1996.

Taylor had five children and is survived by 10 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Taylor appeared in her first film at the age of nine, capturing the world's attention at the age of 12 while starring in 1944's "National Velvet." 

She went on to star in dozens more films, winning two Best Actress Oscars: in 1960 for "Butterfield 8" and then again in 1966 for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

She later became known as a passionate AIDS activist, becoming one of the first celebrities to focus attention on the disease when her lifelong friend, Rock Hudson, died of AIDS in 1985. Her work earned her a special Oscar in 1993: the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Taylor's son, Michael Wilding, said in a statement that his mother "was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humour, and love." 

"Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world. Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished.

"We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts."

Morrison said that a private family funeral will be held later this week.

In lieu of flowers, the family asked that contributions be made to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

CTV.ca News Staff - Date: Wednesday Mar. 23, 2011 11:31 AM ET

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