Queen Elizabeth II, one of the most iconic figures of both the 20th and 21st centuries, has died. She was 96.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” Buckingham Palace announced in an official statement on Thursday.
The statement continued, “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
The news of Queen Elizabeth’s death comes with another history-making moment: She is succeeded immediately by her eldest son, Prince Charles, 73, who will now be the monarch. Charles’ firstborn son, Prince William, 40, is now next in line to the world’s most famous throne, followed by his firstborn son, Prince George, 9. Her death follows her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, who died at age 99 in June 2021.
“I cannot lead you into battle,” the Queen, summing up her role in a 1957 Christmas broadcast, once told her subjects. “I do not give you laws or administer justice, but I can do something else: I can give my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.”
Upon the Queen’s passing, the United Kingdom — where she reigned for a record 70 years — was plunged into public mourning. Around the world, including in the other nations that called her the head of state or Sovereign, her death was grieved by those to whom she was an unwavering fixture amid the turmoil of ever-changing times.
But the loss was most profound for her large family, including her four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
The Queen’s death comes after a year of various health issues. In October 2021, she stepped out with a walking cane. The same month, she canceled a scheduled trip to Northern Ireland under medical advice from her doctors and spent a night in the hospital.
The Queen also decided not to appear at the Remembrance Day ceremony in November due to a sprained back and did not celebrate a traditional Christmas with the royal family at Sandringham, partially due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases around the holidays.
She tested positive for COVID-19 in February. She was being monitored for mild cold-like symptoms while continuing to carry on light duties, according to Buckingham Palace.
After the Queen appointed Liz Truss as the new prime minister of the United Kingdom at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Tuesday, September 6, Buckingham Palace announced the following day that the Queen would not preside over a scheduled Privy Council meeting so she could rest.
Although the Queen did not attend every event during her Platinum Jubilee weekend in June, celebrating her historic 70-year reign, she appeared on the Buckingham Palace balcony on two occasions.
At Trooping the Colour, the annual parade for her public birthday, the Queen stepped out in a blue ensemble surrounded by the working members of the royal family.
Later in the day, the Queen appeared at Windsor Castle to light the Platinum Jubilee beacon. Queen Elizabeth also starred in a pre-recorded sketch featuring Paddington Bear that kicked off the Platinum Party at the Palace.
The monarch also made a surprise appearance following the weekend’s finale event, the Platinum Jubilee Pageant. She was joined on the palace balcony by her immediate heirs and their families in a special moment that represented the future of the monarchy: Prince Charles and Camilla as well as Prince William, Kate Middleton and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
The national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” played as the family sang along. Red, white and blue fireworks went off as Prince George looked up at his great-granny, and she looked back at him fondly.
One of the most enduring figures in modern history, her time on the throne spanned 14 U.S. presidencies and 15 British Prime Ministers, the most recent appointed by the Queen on Tuesday, September 6. In April 2016, she celebrated her milestone 90th birthday, a landmark occasion that followed worldwide celebrations of her record-breaking reign on September 9, 2015. (The day she passed previous record-holder Queen Victoria.)
Unlike her famous forbears, however, Elizabeth was never meant to be Queen. She inherited the throne at just 25 years old in February 1952 upon the death of her father, King George V — who himself had been a surprise monarch when his brother Edward VIII abdicated amid scandal in 1936.
By then, she and Prince Philip were already the parents of two young children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Prince Andrew and Prince Edward followed in 1960 and 1964.
The dramatic story of her ascension to the throne became the focus of renewed public interest with the premiere of the hugely successful Netflix series The Crown.
In 2011, during a glittering state dinner at Buckingham Palace for then-U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, the President summed up her longevity and place in history.
“This dinner is a humble reminder of the fleeting nature of presidencies and prime ministerships,” President Obama said in his toast. “Your Majesty’s reign has spanned about a dozen of each — and counting. That makes you both a living witness to the power of our alliance and a chief source of its resilience.”