Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who recently marked 70 years on the throne, has died. She was 96.
Buckingham Palace made the announcement Thursday, saying that the Queen had passed away at Balmoral Castle in Scotland that afternoon. This came after an announcement earlier in the day saying she was under medical supervision due to her doctors’ concern for her health. Her children and some of her grandchildren were reportedly in Scotland with the monarch, with the palace saying that the new King and Queen Consort would remain on hand that night and leave for London in the morning.
The Queen’s death comes after she had stepped back from many events in recent months due to mobility issues. She had also lost her husband of 73 years, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, last year.
Queen Elizabeth II was born April 21, 1926 in London to Prince Albert, Duke of York, and Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. Her father was the second son of the reigning king, George V, but when his older brother, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936, the young princess became heir to the throne.
She began her life of service to her country at a young age, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service of the British Army during World War II. Joining at 18, she worked as a mechanic. Earlier on in the war, at the age of 14, she had also shared an encouraging message that was broadcast over radio to other children who had been evacuated away from their families for safety.
She ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, King George VI. She was 25 at the time, and a mother to two young children. Her coronation was held the following June. In June 2022, her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne, was celebrated across the United Kingdom.
Throughout those 70 years, she oversaw 15 prime ministers, dating back to Winston Churchill. She appointed the latest, Liz Truss, just days before her death. She also visited every country within the Commonwealth at least once and regularly engaged with her public, racking up more than 21,000 engagements throughout her reign. Her Christmas messages were a constant, as well, with the Queen delivering a message in all but one year since she took the throne.
Her reign also set a record when she surpassed Queen Victoria’s total tenure in September 2015, making her the longest serving monarch in British history.
Apart from her official duties, she was known for being an avid horsewoman and a huge fan of corgis. When her first corgi, Susan, died in 1959, the Queen made sure a tombstone honored her furry friend. After that, she owned more than 30 additional corgis. She made sure to walk them every day, until her mobility issues got in the way.
The Queen leaves behind four children, eight grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.
Her oldest child, the newly named King Charles III, released a statement on her passing, saying, “The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family.
“We mourn profoundly the passing of a cherished Sovereign and a much-loved Mother. I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.
“During this period of mourning and change, my family and I will be comforted and sustained by our knowledge of the respect and deep affection in which The Queen was so widely held.”
So what comes next? The protocol is contained in “Operation London Bridge.”
When a monarch dies, a code has often been used to communicate the fact. In Queen Elizabeth’s case, that code was “London Bridge is down.” Once that code was relayed to the prime minister, the news was shared with the governments of the Commonwealth nations and the nations outside the UK for which the Queen serves as head of state. After that, the public learned the news.
That was accomplished in two primary ways: A footman dressed in black pinned the death announcement to Buckingham Palace’s gates, and a news alert was sent to global media simultaneously. The palace also communicated the message on its website, which reverted to a single page with a dark background.
With flags lowered to honor the Queen on the day of her death, they will be raised the next morning. At that time, Charles III will officially be named King and his wife Camilla will officially become Queen Consort. The new monarch will then embark on a tour of the UK.
Meanwhile, the Queen will lie in state at Westminster Hall ahead of her funeral, which will be held on the 10th day after her death. This occasion will be marked with a national day of mourning. She will be buried in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle in the King George VI Memorial Chapel, with her parents, sister Princess Margaret, and husband Prince Philip.