SIR Richard Branson has announced his mother Eve has died after battling coronavirus.

The entrepreneur said he wanted to "celebrate her wonderful life, her tremendous spirit, the joy she brought to so many, and the love she gave us all".

Sir Richard said Eve, 96, who was an author and philanthropist, died after fighting the illness.

The founder of the Virgin Group, who is the eldest of her three children and her only son, wrote on Twitter: "I'm sorry to share that, sadly like a lot of people's mums and dads right now in these days of Covid, my mum Eve has also passed away.

"Rather than mourn her loss, I wanted to celebrate her wonderful life and the joy she brought to so many."

Eve lived on the sprawling Cakeham Manor estate in West Wittering, near Chichester, and told the Daily Mail in 2015 that actor Kate Winslet was a neighbour.

The Argus: Titanic star Kate WinsletTitanic star Kate Winslet

Writing on his blog, her son Richard paid further tribute to his mother.

He said: "She held on for one last victory, managing to fight off the virus, but had expended all of her energy in the process.

"One of my wonderful sisters, Vanessa, and nephew Louis were with her until the end, as were the wonderful nurses who she entertained with tales from her life and much laughter over glasses of whisky.

"Rather than mourn her loss, I want to celebrate her wonderful life, her tremendous spirit, the joy she brought to so many, and the love she gave us all.

"Mum was 96 years old, but had the same enthusiasm and energy she had when I was a boy.

"As for so many of us in these days of Covid, it feels so strange that the person who has always been there for us, with such zest for life, is gone.

The Argus: Eve Branson with her eldest son and Virgin Group founder RichardEve Branson with her eldest son and Virgin Group founder Richard

"My sisters Lindy and Vanessa and I were so lucky to grow up with mum and dad as our parents, instilling values that have lasted a lifetime.

"They taught us the importance of hard work, of not taking yourself too seriously, of treating people how you wish to be treated, of entrepreneurship, and so much more.

"They showed us how family is the most important thing in the world, and surrounded us with love and encouragement."

Sir Richard described his mother as "a force of nature", who "lived many remarkable lives", adding that she took glider lessons disguised as a boy, enlisted in the Wrens during the Second World War, toured Germany as a ballet dancer after the war, acted on the West End stage and worked as an air hostess on the British South American Airways routes.

Eve made headlines in 2011 after it was reported she was saved from a fire on Sir Richard's private Caribbean island Necker by her former neighbour, Titanic star Kate Winslet.

She later told The Guardian: "It was the hurricane of hurricanes and we were on fire and we would have all been burnt alive if it wasn't for my grandsons.

The Argus: Eve BransonEve Branson

"It was four or five in the morning and they went around getting everyone out of bed.

"I remember saying: 'I'd better put my mac on' because I wanted to cover up and Jack (her grandson) saying: 'No, not right now.'

"Anyway, I'd just about got outside and the rain was pouring down and I didn't have my contact lenses in, but I was making my way out and Kate and her two children were behind me.

"Then she just sort of picked me up and took me down four steps and that was it.

"I'm sorry, I can't make a story out of it."