Queen Elizabeth II dies aged 96, Buckingham Palace announces

The British monarch marked her 70th year on the throne this year

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Queen Elizabeth II dies - follow the latest news as the world mourns

Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96, Buckingham Palace has announced.

The queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The king and the queen consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow," the palace said.

The flag at Buckingham Palace was lowered to half-staff at 6.30pm UK time. People gathered outside the gates began crying and laid floral tributes.

Prince Charles, 73, is now King Charles III, having acceded to the throne when his mother died.

“The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty the queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” he said.

“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.”

United Kingdom: country in mourning as Queen Elizabeth dies - in pictures

His wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, is now queen consort and will be crowned at his side at his eventual coronation.

UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, speaking on the steps of No 10 Downing Street, said the death of the queen was a “huge shock to the nation and the world”. Ms Truss described the queen as “the rock on which modern Britain was built”.

She said it was “the passing of the second Elizabethan age” and concluded her address by saying: “God save the king.”

The queen dedicated her life to her royal duty.

Acceding to the throne in 1952, the queen was Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the world’s longest-serving head of state.

She was the first British monarch in history to reach her platinum jubilee and died only three months after the national celebrations in June celebrating her 70 years on the throne.

She was not able to attend all the jubilee events owing to her ill health, but she did make a starring appearance on the balcony at Buckingham Palace.

The queen appeared to be increasingly frail in recent months, reducing her duties and using a walking stick in public.

She had been placed under medical supervision at Balmoral after doctors became concerned about her health, the palace said earlier on Thursday.

The royal family, including the monarch’s four children and her grandson Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, made an urgent dash to be by her bedside.

On Tuesday ― because she was not well enough to travel from Scotland to Buckingham Palace ― she carried out her last official act when she met the UK's new prime minister at Balmoral to invite Ms Truss to form a new government.

Flags lowered to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II - in pictures

Mourning period

Britain will now enter a period of national mourning, as tributes flood in from around the globe, hailing the queen’s unwavering commitment to serving her country and the Commonwealth.

The long-held so-called London Bridge plans for the coming days and the queen’s state funeral will now be put in place, as will the contingency element Operation Unicorn for a death in Scotland.

The queen is expected to lie in state in a few days’ time, with her funeral held in Westminster Abbey in central London in about 10 days.

Former prime minister Sir John Major was among the first to pay tribute, saying: “For 70 years Her Majesty the queen devoted her life to the service of our nation and its well-being.

“In her public duties she was selfless and wise, with a wonderful generosity of spirit. That is how she lived — and how she led.”

Former prime minister Sir Tony Blair, who was prime minister when Diana, Princess of Wales, died, said: “We have lost not just our monarch but the matriarch of our nation, the figure who more than any other brought our country together, kept us in touch with our better nature, personified everything which makes us proud to be British.”

Boris Johnson, who saw the queen this week as he formally resigned as prime minister, said: “This is our country’s saddest day. In the hearts of every one of us there is an ache at the passing of our queen, a deep and personal sense of loss — far more intense, perhaps, than we expected.

“In these first grim moments since the news, I know that millions and millions of people have been pausing whatever they have been doing, to think about Queen Elizabeth, about the bright and shining light that has finally gone out.”

UAE leaders also paid tribute. President Sheikh Mohamed said: “I extend my sincere condolences to the family of Queen Elizabeth II and the people of the UK.”

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, who knew the queen for many years, said: “We join the world in mourning the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, a global icon who represented the finest qualities of her nation and people.

“Her incredible lifetime of service and duty to the United Kingdom is unparalleled in our modern world.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Twitter that the queen embodied the UK’s continuity and unity for more than 70 years.

“I remember her as a friend of France, a kindhearted queen who has left a lasting impression on her country and her century,” he said.

Irish President Michael Higgins called the queen “a remarkable friend of Ireland” who had “great impact on the bonds of mutual understanding between our two peoples”.

“As we offer our condolences to all our neighbours in the United Kingdom, following the loss of a remarkable friend of Ireland, we remember the role Queen Elizabeth played in celebrating the warm and enduring friendship” between both countries, he said in a statement.

Queen Elizabeth's life and reign — in pictures

Pre-coronation

Born in 1926 to the Duke and Duchess of York, Elizabeth was never meant to be become monarch. At the age of 12, she was suddenly thrust into the line of succession after her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1938.

Her father, Albert, became King George VI but died from a coronary thrombosis in 1952 at the age of 56. Elizabeth was in Kenya with her husband Philip, whom she married in 1947, when he died.

She reportedly put his premature death down to the pressures of being monarch during a tumultuous period in history, in which Britain was drawn into the Second World War.

Known for her love of horses and dogs, the queen has been described as a “country woman at heart” by her former press secretary Dickie Arbiter.

Family

The queen had four children: Charles (born 1948), Anne (born 1950), Andrew (born 1960) and Edward (born 1964). She had eight grandchildren, including Prince William (born 1982) and Prince Harry (born 1984), and 12 great-grandchildren.

As Prince Charles’s firstborn son, Prince William, also known as the Duke of Cambridge, is second in line to the throne. Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, have three children. Their eldest son, Prince George (born 2013) is third in the line of succession.

Before George was born, the leaders of the 16 Commonwealth countries, where the queen is head of state, reversed a 300-year primogeniture law making female descendants equal in the line of succession.

The Commonwealth

As well as being the British head of state, the monarch also serves as head of the Commonwealth. The 54-member organisation is mainly former territories of the British Empire.

In her 1953 Christmas message from Auckland, New Zealand, the recently crowned queen pledged to “give my heart and soul every day of my life” to the Commonwealth. And she certainly did.

During her time as queen, she visited 116 countries, including 52 Commonwealth countries.

One of her most significant international visits was to the Republic of Ireland — not a member of the Commonwealth — in 2011. The state visit was the first by a monarch in 100 years and marked the formal end of strained diplomatic relations between the UK and Ireland after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Visits by British royal family members and in particular the queen are a projection of British soft power, royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams said.

“The queen’s visits to the Commonwealth, particularly in the 1950s, were very important. Huge amounts of the population would come out to see the monarch,” he said.

“There’s nothing like a royal visit because the British royal family has a particular profile.”

Dedication to duty

Elizabeth ruled over a period of intense change for the UK: the end of the British Empire, the decline of Christianity, the digitalisation of society and, most recently, Brexit. During her 70-year rule, she was served by 15 prime ministers, the first was Sir Winston Churchill and the last Liz Truss.

The British monarch is an apolitical figure, and unlike some members of the royal family, the queen never publicly expressed her opinion on government matters, not giving interviews.

While little is known about her personal feelings, the queen had a deep Christian faith. As monarch, she served as the supreme governor of the Church of England and she was patron of more than 600 charities and organisations.

“The queen was a deeply religious person but she was monarch in an increasingly irreligious age as far as Britain is concerned,” Mr Fitzwilliams said.

“She was above politics. She has been a symbol of national unity and dedication to duty.”

Turbulent times

While republican sentiment in the UK has never reached more than 20 per cent, the queen’s rule has not always been plain sailing. Scandals involving her uncle, the Duke of Windsor, and her sister, Princess Margaret, made headlines through the 1950s and 1960s.

She described the year 1992, when three of her children’s marriages publicly broke down, as an “annus horribilis”. She was criticised in 1998 after the death of her son's former wife Diana for strictly adhering to royal protocol.

In April 2021, she lost her lifelong partner, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who died at the age of 99.

Most recently, outrage surrounding her son Prince Andrew’s friendship with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and the fallout from Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s exit from the royal family shook the monarchy.

Succession of Prince Charles

While he will not occupy the same space in British people’s hearts as the queen has done, the accession of King Charles will be relatively smooth.

Opinion polling shows he is a popular figure and the nation has warmed significantly to his second wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Taking the throne at 73, he will reign for a much shorter period than his mother, who, for most Britons, was the only monarch they had ever known.

Updated: September 09, 2022, 6:36 AM
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