Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the nation’s figurehead for seven decades, has died aged 96, Buckingham Palace said on Thursday.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” Buckingham Palace said in a statement. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
Her eldest son Charles, 73, automatically becomes king of the United Kingdom and the head of state of 14 other realms including Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Her family had rushed to be by her side at her Scottish home, Balmoral Castle, after doctors expressed concern about her health. She had been suffering from what Buckingham Palace has called “episodic mobility problems” since the end of last year, forcing her to withdraw from nearly all her public engagements.
Queen Elizabeth II, who was also the world’s oldest and longest-serving head of state, came to the throne following the death of her father King George VI on February 6, 1952.
She was crowned in June the following year. The first televised coronation was a foretaste of a new world in which the lives of the royals were to become increasingly scrutinised by the media.
Television and radio stations interrupted regular programming to broadcast the news, with long-rehearsed special schedules set in place to remember her long life and reign.
The national anthem, “God Save the Queen”, was played. Flags were lowered and church bells tolled to remember a woman once described as the “last global monarch”.
The national mourning period will culminate in a final public farewell at Westminster Abbey in central London.
Charles’ coronation, an elaborate ritual steeped in tradition and history, will take place in the same historic surroundings, as it has for centuries, on a date to be fixed.
Immediately after the news was reported, President Dr Arif Alvi expressed his sincere condolences to the Royal family, the Government and the people of Great Britain.
He said that her departure had left an immense vacuum, difficult to be filled in times to come, a statement issued by the President’s Secretariat said.
The president said that she ascended the throne at a very young age but showed maturity, character, determination, and commitment to the highest order which had made her one of the longest-reigning monarchs in the world.
“Her inspiring leadership qualities propelled her to the status of great and beneficent ruler that would be remembered in golden words in the annals of world history.”
Alvi offered his sincere and heartfelt prayers for the departed soul, adding that thoughts went out to the Royal family members and people of Great Britain at this time of sorrow.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was for most of her subjects the only monarch they have ever known — an immutable figurehead on stamps, banknotes and coins.
Diminutive in stature yet an icon of popular culture, she was instantly recognisable in her brightly coloured suits and matching hat, with pearls, gloves and a handbag.
During her reign, the royals went from stiff, remote figures to tabloid fodder and were then popularised anew in television dramas such as “The Crown,” watched by tens of millions worldwide.
Her time on the throne spanned an era of remarkable change, from the Cold War to the 9/11 attacks, from climate change to coronavirus, “snail mail” and steamships to email and space exploration.
She became seen as the living embodiment of post-war Britain and a link between the modern era and a bygone age.
The mother of one of the most famous families in the world, she retained huge public support throughout, surviving even a backlash in the wake of the death of Charles’ first wife, Diana, in 1997.
More recently, the royal family was rocked by claims from Prince Harry and his mixed-race wife Meghan of racism in the royal family.
She also endured a scandal involving her second son Prince Andrew, whose friendship with convicted sex offenders Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell saw him settle a civil claim for sexual assault in the United States.