Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of the United Kingdom and head of the Commonwealth, has died at age 96, Buckingham Palace announced.

The queen died on Thursday as members of her immediate family rushed to her side, including her son and heir, Prince Charles.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II arrives for a state banquet in her honor in Berlin in 2015. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” the statement read. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”

Charles, now his Majesty the King and King Charles III, issued a statement shortly after the news broke of his mother’s death. “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,” the statement read.

“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.”

People look towards Buckingham Palace
A crowd forms near Buckingham Palace on Friday. (Toby Melville)

Prime Minister Liz Truss paid tribute to the queen following the news of her death. Speaking outside of her residence at No. 10 Downing Street, Truss said it had been a “huge shock to the nation and the world. Truss said Thursday marked the "passing of the second Elizabethan age." She concluded her address by saying: "God save the king."

Earlier Thursday, the palace announced royal doctors were concerned over her health and placed her under medical supervision at her residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. The day before, the 96-year-old queen pulled out of a virtual Privy Council meeting after her doctors advised her to rest.

Buckingham Palace's website announces the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022
Buckingham Palace's website announces the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff following the queen’s death.

On Tuesday, the queen fulfilled her final official engagement as she swore in Truss as prime minister — the 15th prime minister in her 70-year-long reign. It was the first time the handover took place at Balmoral and not the queen’s official residence of Buckingham Palace, as the queen moved to her retreat in Aberdeenshire during the summer due to ongoing mobility issues.

Upon the announcement, Prince Charles, the former Prince of Wales, has immediately become king. His title will be passed down to his son Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge. However, Charles won’t be officially named until Friday — one day after the death of the monarch.

Queen Elizabeth II with President Harry Truman in 1951
Queen Elizabeth II on her first trip to Washington, D.C., in 1951, pictured here with President Harry Truman. (NARA)

The queen’s husband, Prince Philip, died at age 99 in April 2021, two years after he retired from his royal duties. He was the oldest male member of the British royal family. He and Queen Elizabeth had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.

In her final months, the queen experienced a number of health setbacks. In February, Buckingham Palace confirmed that she had tested positive for COVID-19. The monarch was moved to “light duties” for the week that followed. In the weeks leading up to her Jubilee celebrations in early June, the 96-year-old took part in fewer public events due to mobility issues and was forced to miss a service celebrating her 70-year reign because of “some discomfort.”

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth II with President John Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with President John Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy at Buckingham Palace, June 1961. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum/NARA)

Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952 when she was just 25 years old, marking the longest reign of any monarch in British history. In 2015, she surpassed the record held by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who spent 62 years on the throne.

This year she celebrated her platinum jubilee, making her the second-longest-serving monarch in world history, following France’s King Louis XIV, who ruled for 72 years and 110 days.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 2007. (Fiona Hanson/Reuters)

In those 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II oversaw 15 prime ministers, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister. Over the seven decades she lived through several world historic events including World War II (she was the last surviving head of state to have served in the war) and the independence of over 20 nations in Africa and the Caribbean from the United Kingdom.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are welcomed by Queen Elizabeth II to Buckingham Palace in 2009. (Pete Souza/Official White House photo)

The queen also served as monarch during the terms of 14 American presidents and met 13 of them. According to the White House Historical Association, she never met Lyndon Johnson, but her sister Princess Margaret did during an official visit to the White House in 1965.

It has been reported that Prince Charles will become King Charles III — coming after King Charles I, who reigned from 1625 to 1649, and King Charles II, who reigned for 25 years from 1660 to 1685. However, the Prince of Wales can choose his own title using any other Christian name from his full name, Charles Philip Arthur George.