Queen Elizabeth II, the U.K.’s longest-reigning monarch, died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Thursday after ruling for 70 years. She was 96.
In a statement, the Royal Family said she had died “peacefully” at her Scottish estate. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow,” it added, referring to the new monarch, Charles III, and his wife Camilla.
Earlier in the day, British media had reported that senior royals had gathered at Balmoral after the Queen’s doctors placed her under medical supervision. It said all the Queen’s children had traveled to Balmoral, with her grandson and now heir to the throne, Prince William, and his brother, Prince Harry, also reaching the estate.
Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor on April 21, 1926, Queen Elizabeth II was not considered an heir apparent until December 1936, when her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated from the throne to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Elizabeth’s father then became King George VI, making her the heir to the throne at the age of 10.
After King George VI’s death, Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952 and ruled over the U.K. during multiple eras of societal change. From Winston Churchill, the first of 15 prime ministers in her reign, to Liz Truss, who she appointed just two days earlier, she was an active monarch, holding weekly audiences with each prime minister.
Her rule saw a significant decline in British influence, with the Commonwealth in particular an abiding example of many former British colonies that had secured independence and adopted their own governments.
Prior to becoming the monarch, she spent five months with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and learned basic motor mechanic and driving skills. It was during World War II that she commenced a courtship with her third cousin, Philip, Prince of Greece, with the couple marrying at Westminster Abbey on Nov. 20, 1947, and him assuming the title of Duke of Edinburgh. He died last year, aged 99, after 74 years of marriage.
Their first son, Charles, was born in 1948, followed by Princess Anne, in 1950, Prince Andrew, in 1960, and Prince Edward, in 1964. Elizabeth II was crowned the monarch on June 2, 1953, aged 27, in a televised ceremony that was viewed by more than 20 million people.
Elizabeth was considered a “reformer,” actively engaging with the public through various events. She was also an active supporter of the Commonwealth, having visited every state at least once, including two visits to Pakistan in 1961 and 1997.
Royal Family watchers say the Queen’s worst time was 1992, when three of her children’s marriages collapsed and a fire ravaged Windsor Castle. As criticism mounted over the monarchy’s relevance in subsequent years, the Queen came down on the side of accountability, saying no institution could be free of scrutiny.
King Charles III, 73, became head of state in 14 Commonwealth realms following his mother’s death. In a statement, he said the death of his mother was a “moment of great sadness” for him and his family, adding her loss would be felt around the world. “We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished sovereign and a much-loved mother,” he said. “I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world,” he added.
The Queen will lie in state in Edinburgh and Westminster as part of 10 days of national mourning announced by the British government. British media has reported that union flags would be flown at half-mast on royal residences, government buildings, within the armed forces and on U.K. posts overseas. Members of Parliament would also pay tribute to the Queen and take an oath to King Charles.
Global leaders have started issuing their condolences, with Pakistan P.M. Shehbaz Sharif saying he was “deeply grieved” at her passing. “Pakistan joins the U.K. and other Commonwealth nations in mourning her death,” he wrote on Twitter. “My heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family, people and government of the U.K.,” he added.
Similarly, President Arif Alvi expressed his condolences, noting her departure had left an immense vacuum, which would be difficult to fill in the days to come. “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,” he added.
U.S. President Joe Biden recalled how she had stood in solidarity with the U.S. in their “darkest days” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, while French President Emmanuel Macron said she had been a “friend of France” who was a “kind-hearted Queen.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a statement, expressed his “deep condolences,” adding her death was “a great loss to the British people.” Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “pained” by the Queen’s death, stressing she had “provided inspiring leadership to her nation and people.”