Queen Elizabeth II, the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch, died at the age of 96 at Balmoral, after reigning for 70 years.
She passed away peacefully on Thursday afternoon at her Scottish estate, where she had spent the majority of the summer.
Since her accession to the throne in 1952, the Queen has witnessed enormous social change.
Her son, King Charles III, described his mother’s death as a “moment of great sadness” for him and his family, and said her loss would be “deeply felt” around the world.
“We deeply mourn the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother,” he said.
“I know her loss will be felt deeply throughout the country, the realms, and the Commonwealth, as well as by countless people worldwide.”
During the coming period of mourning, he said he and his family would be “comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the widespread respect and deep affection for the Queen.”
Buckingham Palace announced that the King and his wife, Camilla, now Queen Consort, will return to London on Friday.
Senior royals had gathered at Balmoral after the Queen’s doctors became concerned about her health earlier in the day.
After doctors placed the Queen under medical supervision, all of the Queen’s children traveled to Balmoral, near Aberdeen.
Prince William, her grandson and now heir to the throne, and his brother, Prince Harry, were also present.
Prime Minister Liz Truss, who was appointed by the Queen on Tuesday, said the monarch was the foundation of modern Britain, providing “the stability and strength that we required.”
“We offer him our loyalty and devotion, just as his mother devoted so much, to so many, for so long,” she said of the new King.
“And, with the passing of the second Elizabethan age, we usher in a new era in the magnificent history of our great country, exactly as Her Majesty would have wished, by saying ‘God save the King.'”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, expressed “profound sadness” for the Church of England, of which the monarch is supreme governor.
“My prayers are with the King and the Royal Family,” he said.
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign as head of state spanned postwar austerity, the transition from empire to Commonwealth, the end of the Cold War, and the United Kingdom’s entry into – and exit from – the European Union.
Her reign spanned 15 prime ministers, beginning with Winston Churchill in 1874 and ending with Ms Truss in 1975, 101 years later.
Throughout her reign, she met with her prime minister on a weekly basis.
Crowds waiting for updates on the Queen’s condition at Buckingham Palace in London began crying as they learned of her death.
At 18:30 BST, the union flag atop the palace was lowered to half-mast, and an official notice announcing the death was posted outside.
Following the death of the Queen, Prince William and his wife, Catherine, were named Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Cornwall.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21, 1926, in Mayfair, London.
Few could have predicted she would become monarch, but in December 1936, her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American.
Elizabeth’s father became King George VI, and Lilibet, as she was known in the family, became heir to the throne at the age of ten.
Britain was at war with Nazi Germany within three years. After their parents rejected suggestions that they be evacuated to Canada, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret, spent much of the wartime at Windsor Castle.
Elizabeth spent five months with the Auxiliary Territorial Service after turning 18 and learned basic motor mechanics and driving skills. “I began to understand the esprit de corps that thrives in the face of adversity,” she later recalled.
During the war, she corresponded with her third cousin, Philip, Prince of Greece, who served in the Royal Navy. Their romance blossomed, and the couple married on November 20, 1947, at Westminster Abbey, with the prince assuming the title of Duke of Edinburgh.
She would later refer to him as “my strength and stay” throughout their 74-year marriage, until his death in 2021, at the age of 99.
Charles, their first son, was born in 1948, Princess Anne in 1950, Prince Andrew in 1960, and Prince Edward in 1964. They gave their parents eight grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.
In 1952, Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya representing the ailing King when Philip informed her that her father had died. She returned to London as the new Queen right away.
“It was all very sudden taking on and doing the best job you could,” she later reflected.
Elizabeth was crowned at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, at the age of 27, in front of a then-record television audience of more than 20 million people.
Elizabeth reformed the monarchy for a less deferential age by engaging the public through walkabouts, royal visits, and attendance at public events.
In 1992, the Queen’s “annus horribilis” fire destroyed Windsor Castle, which served as both a private residence and a working palace, and three of her children’s marriages failed.
Following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car accident in Paris in 1997, the Queen was chastised for failing to respond publicly.
There were some who questioned the monarchy’s relevance in modern society.
“No institution… should expect to be immune to the scrutiny of those who give it their loyalty and support, let alone those who do not,” she admitted.
Elizabeth, a 21-year-old princess, had vowed to devote her life to service.
During her Silver Jubilee in 1977, she declared, “Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgment, I do not regret or retract one word of it.”
That same commitment to service was made 45 years later in a thank you letter to the nation during her Platinum Jubilee weekend in June.
The occasion was marked by a variety of state ceremonies, a colorful festival of all things British, and lively street parties.
Despite the fact that the Queen’s health prevented her from attending some events, she stated, “My heart has been with you all.”
She was joined by three generations of her family on the Buckingham Palace balcony for the finale of a pageant, to the delight of huge crowds on the Mall.
King Charles, 73, ascends to the throne of 14 Commonwealth realms.
His wife, Camilla, and his siblings, Princess Anne, Princes Andrew and Edward, are all present at Balmoral.
They are joined by Prince Edward’s wife, Sophie, and Princes William and Harry.
Catherine, William’s wife, stayed at Windsor with their three children, George, Charlotte, and Louis, as it was their first full day at a new school.
The Royal Family is now in a state of mourning.
Much of national life will be put on hold in the coming days. On Friday, the King is expected to address the nation.
Official engagements will be canceled, and union flags will be flown at half-mast on royal residences, government buildings, the Armed Forces, and UK posts around the world.
Members of Parliament will pay homage to the Queen and swear allegiance to King Charles.
Church bells will ring and gun salutes will be fired as local and national organizations and charities plan commemorative events and books of condolence.
The Queen’s state funeral is scheduled within the next two weeks.
Foreign leaders have paid tribute to the Queen, with US President Joe Biden recalling how she stood with the US in its “darkest days” following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
She was a “kind-hearted Queen” and “friend of France” to France’s president, Emmanuel Macron.
For Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, the Queen was a constant in Canadians’ lives and one of his “favourite people in the world.”