The Queen sent a message of condolence to the Argentine president. It read: "I extend to you my deepest sympathy and that of my people for the tragic loss which you and the Argentine people have suffered in the premature death of your brilliant and devoted partner."
Argentina's most famous first lady, who had recently been proclaimed 'spiritual chief of the Argentine nation' by Congress, was born Maria Eva Duarte on 7 May 1919, in the village of Los Toldos. She was the youngest of five children born to Juana Ibarguren. and Juan Duarte. Her father died when she was seven and the family struggled to make ends meet.
Before she was 20 Eva had moved to Buenos Aires to pursue her theatrical aspirations. She met the then Colonel Juan Domingo Peron in 1944 when he was vice president and secretary of war and the couple were married in 1945. The following year General Peron became president. His wife devoted her time to the poor, or the descamisados (shirtless ones), of Argentina and over the next 7 years brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before. She organized mass political rallies and spent millions of pounds of public money on the poor. She got women the vote and legalised divorce.
Although hailed a social champion and adored by the working classes, Evita, as she became known, was feared and loathed by the military and upper classes. They regarded her as a threat and believed she was using her public position to further her own personal aspirations. In 1951 she was nominated for the vice-presidency but was forced to withdraw after pressure from the military.
Her last public appearance was on 4 June when she stood beside her husband in an open motor-car during the inauguration ceremonies for his second presidential term.
Following her death, her body, dressed in a white evening dress, was taken to the Ministry of Labour and Welfare, where it lay in state for two days. It was then transferred to the General Confederation of Labour.
In 1955 General Peron was overthrown in a military coup and he fled to Spain. Evita's embalmed body was removed and its whereabouts remained a mystery until 1971. It was eventually discovered that her body had lain in a secret grave for 14 years under the name of a nun in a Milan cemetery. It was returned to General Peron in Spain.
In 1973 Juan Peron returned to Argentina after years of exile to begin a third term as president. His wife's body was taken back to Argentina in November 1974, four months after General Peron's death.