Britain’s Longest-Reigning Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, Dies aged 96
Prince Charles, 73, heir to the throne since the age of three, is now king, and the Duchess of Cornwall is now Queen Consort.
In a statement, Buckingham Palace said: “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.”
Flags on landmark buildings in Britain were being lowered to as a period of official mourning was announced.
As Queen of the UK and 14 other realms, and head of the 54-nation Commonwealth, Elizabeth II was easily the world’s most recognisable head of state during an extraordinarily long reign.
Coming to the throne at the age of 25, she successfully steered the monarchy through decades of turbulent change, with her personal popularity providing ballast during the institution’s more difficult times.
At her side for most of it, the Duke of Edinburgh remained her “strength and stay” during a marriage that withstood many strains imposed by her unique position.
Despite a family life lived under the often challenging glare of publicity, Elizabeth II remained a calm and steadfast figure, weathering the divorces of three of her children, and the crisis precipitated by the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in a car crash in Paris in 1997.
There were undoubted low points, but the mass outpourings of affection on her silver, golden and diamond jubilees testified to the special place she held for millions. When there was criticism of the institution, it rarely translated into a personal attack on her.
Fifteen prime ministers served her, attesting to her deep knowledge, experience of world affairs and mastery of political neutrality. They stretched back to Sir Winston Churchill, who was still prime minister when she assumed the throne, with resolve and far earlier than she had expected, on the premature death of her father, George VI, in 1952.