Elizabeth Taylor has died aged 79, her publicist has confirmed.

The London-born gay icon died of heart failure at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles early this morning surrounded by her family.

She had been suffering from a congestive heart problem since 2004 and had endured years of poor health.

Taylor, who was known as one of the most beautiful women in the world during her prime, was married eight times to seven husbands.

She leaves four children, ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The actress reportedly planned to be buried next one of her former husbands, Richard Burton.

She was a strong supporter of gay rights and a fan of a number of Los Angeles gay bars.

In 2008, she attended a party to celebrate the passing of California’s gay marriage legislation in her wheelchair.

In her later years, she dedicated time and money to the fight against AIDS after her friend Rock Hudson died in the early 1980s from the disease.

Taylor set up the American Foundation for AIDS Research (Amfar) which has invested almost 250 million dollars (£138 million) in HIV and AIDS research since 1985.

The actress said at the time: “I am on a crusade against AIDS and I’ll battle forever even after a cure is found.

“Making people aware of the disease, and comforting and embracing sufferers, has been my greatest role off screen.”

Taylor’s family have asked for donations to be made to Amfar in lieu of flowers.