Queen dies at Balmoral aged 96 after lifetime of dedicated service
Buckingham Palace has confirmed The Queen has died after 70 years of dedicated service as Monarch, with the country now in official mourning
Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96 surrounded by her family. In the year of her Platinum Jubilee after 70 years of dedicated service to the Throne, the longest serving monarch passed away at her beloved Scottish estate, Balmoral.
Her eldest son and heir Prince Charles is now King with Camilla as Queen Consort. The Monarch leaves behind four children, eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, including Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, Archie and Lilibet.
Buckingham Palace made the announcement at 6.30pm, stating: “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.”
The UK is now in a period of official mourning with her funeral due to take place within a fortnight.
The Queen and Prince Philip’s four children – Charles, the Princess Royal, the Duke of York and the Earl of Wessex – were at her bedside, joined by the Duchess of Cornwall and the Countess of Wessex. Prince Cambridge travelled to the estate from Windsor, however Kate remained at their couple’s new home to take care of their children, who had their first full day at their new school today.
Prince Harry also travelled to Scotland after cancelling plans to attend the WellChild Awards on Thursday evening on the last day of his mini European tour.
The Queen’s death comes just days after she met new Prime Minister Liz Truss, asking her to form a government during a private audience at Balmoral.
Photos from the meeting were released, which will become the final public images of the Monarch.
It marked the first time the first time the 96-year-old monarch carried out the key duty at her retreat in Aberdeenshire, rather than at Buckingham Palace, due to her mobility issues.
Now tributes to the much-loved Queen have begun flooding in from around the world, including from other countries where The Queen was also Head of State.
Arrangements for The Queen’s state funeral, codenamed London Bridge, will now be put into place, expected to take place 10 days from now in Westminster Abbey.
From five days before the funeral, her coffin will lie in state in Westminster Hall for the public and her family to pay their respects.
Born at 2.40am on 21 April 1926 in a Piccadilly townhouse, Princess Elizabeth enjoyed an idyllic childhood largely out of the spotlight alongside younger sister Margaret.
Described as “jolly” and “well-behaved”, she was known as “Lilibet” to her family – the name Meghan Markle and Prince Harry gave to their daughter in tribute to her great-grandmother.
It wasn’t until a twist of fate saw her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicate in 1936 that her father became King George VI and Elizabeth’s destiny as future Queen was sealed.
Life as the princesses knew it changed overnight when their father became King and the family moved into Buckingham Palace with its 775 rooms and army of servants.
After meeting Prince Philip at a wedding when she was just nine, the Queen met him again several years later and the pair fell in love. They married in 1947 following a five month engagement and became parents with the birth of Prince Charles in November 1948 shortly followed by Princess Anne in 1950.
The couple enjoyed a relatively quiet and carefree life in Malta after Prince Philip’s naval career took him there in 1949.
But they were suddenly forced onto the main stage when Elizabeth became Queen at just 25 following the death of her father King George VI in February 1952.
Since then she had dedicated her life to the role, reigning through 15 British Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, who she welcomed to the role on September 6.
The monarch, 96, pulled out of a virtual Privy Council on Wednesday, a day after appointing the PM at her home in the Scottish Highlands.
Due to mobility issues, the head of state met with outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Truss at Balmoral in instead, where she was spending her summer holiday.
It was the first time during the Queen’s 70-year reign that the prime minister has not been appointed at Buckingham Palace.
While on the throne, the Queen had two more children – Prince Andrew in 1960 and Prince Edward in 1964.
Despite turning 96 earlier this year and losing her beloved husband in 2021, The Queen refused to give up her gruelling schedule of official duties, only reluctantly scaling down long-haul travel in favour of trips closer to home and handing over some of her more than 600 patronages to children and grandchildren.
Once saying “I have to be seen to be believed”, she has appeared before her people hundreds of times every year come rain or shine, a reassuring presence as she waved and smiled at the crowds, standing out in her trademark bright outfits with matching hats.
She also became the most travelled Head of State in the world – making at least 270 official visits to 116 countries.
Earlier this year the country came together to celebrate the her Platinum Jubilee, with four days of official celebrations including a huge Pageant and a star-stunned concert outside Buckingham Palace.
She made three appearances on the Buckingham Palace balcony during the long weekend, including one alongside her three heirs – Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George.She also shared several cute moments with Prince Louis, chatting to the Cambridges youngest child about the Red Arrows to the delight of royal fans.
A bastion of tradition, The Queen also recognised the importance of being able to adapt and change.
In the later years of her reign, she launched a British Monarchy website, Facebook account and Twitter feed, even sending her first personal tweet from the Science Museum in 2014.
She took centre stage at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony acting alongside James Bond and pretending to be parachuted into the stadium.
When The Queen became Britain’s longest-reigning Monarch on September 9, 2015, she modestly said the title was “not one to which I have ever aspired”.
She told crowds in the Scottish Borders: “Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones – my own is no exception.”
Her dedication to her job remained to the last, but evidence of concessions to her advancing years were seen in the smaller adaptations to her official duties.
At the state Opening of Parliament in April 2016 – the 63rd time she carried out the ritual – she took the lift for the first time avoiding the 26 steps of the royal staircase to the Sovereign’s Entrance.
And in May 2014 The Queen handed over part of a service for knights of the Order of the Bath at Westminster Abbey to Prince Charles to avoid climbing a steep flight of steps in the Lady Chapel of Henry VII.
She also scaled down the number of corgis and dorgis she kept as she got older for fear of them getting under her feet.
But she was still able to keep up many of the activities she loved even in her advancing years, continuing to ride her beloved horses.
Overall, The Queen enjoyed robust health for most of her life, with the only surgery she received being two knee operations in 2003 to remove torn cartilage.
In recent months she has been seen using a walking stick at engagements, and in October was forced to cancel a trip to Northern Ireland on advice from her doctor.
The palace revealed it was not Covid-related but the Monarch spent a night in hospital for tests.
There was often speculation about whether she may abdicate in favour of Charles at some time before her death but those closest to her always rubbished the idea.
Like the rest of the world, the Queen was forced to cancel almost all plans and engagements in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
She left Buckingham Palace to spend the lockdown with Prince Philip.
But still dedicated to her work, she learnt how to use video calling so she was able to carry out engagements and other royal duties, including her weekly Wednesday phone call with Boris Johnson.
She delivered a powerful speech early in the pandemic, praising key workers and asking people to do their bit – finishing with Vera Lynn’s famous words “we will meet again”.
In April 2021 the Queen goodbye to her “strength and stay”, Prince Philip, who passed away at Windsor Castle.
Covid restrictions meant she was forced to sit alone at his funeral, a scaled-down affair attended by just his closest family, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.