Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96
Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96

London CNN  — 

Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning British monarch whose rule spanned seven decades, died on Thursday at the age of 96, Buckingham Palace has announced.

The Queen’s oldest son Charles has now become King Charles III.

“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 royal family announced in a statement posted on its official Twitter account, referring to Charles as the new King for the first time.

The King said in a statement that the Queen’s death was “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,” he said in a statement.

Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952, on the death of her father, King George VI. She oversaw the last throes of the British empire, weathered global upheaval and domestic scandal, and dramatically modernized the monarchy.

She died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland after doctors said they had become concerned about her health on Thursday.

Elizabeth ruled over the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms, and became one of the most recognizable women ever to have lived.

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The Queen’s four children were at Balmoral Castle when the announcement was made.

Charles rushed to the Scottish castle earlier on Thursday together with his wife, Camilla. The Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, known as the Princess Royal, was already there.

Prince William, who is now the heir apparent to the throne, arrived at Balmoral Thursday afternoon together with the Queen’s other two sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, as well as Edward’s wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex.

Prince William and his wife Catherine have taken on the title of Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, according to their official Twitter account. Charles and Camilla were previously known by that title. Catherine has remained at Windsor, where their three children attended their first day at a new school.

Prince Harry was also on his way to Balmoral, a spokesperson said. His wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex was not traveling with him, the spokesperson added.

The Queen was last seen in public on Tuesday when she formally appointed Liz Truss as the UK’s new prime minister. A photograph from the audience showed the monarch smiling, standing in the drawing room in Balmoral, carrying a walking stick.

There have been concerns over the Queen’s health ever since a brief hospital stay last October. She has experienced episodic mobility issues, which have at times caused her to withdraw from official engagements.

But those concerns grew deeper on Wednesday when Buckingham Palace announced the Queen had postponed a virtual meeting of her Privy Council after being advised by doctors to rest.

On Thursday, the palace announced that the Queen was under medical supervision, but said she was “comfortable” at Balmoral. As her children rushed to her side during the day, it became clear the situation was serious.

Messages of condolences started pouring in from around the world immediately after the announcement was made, underscoring the global impact the Queen had made during her 70-year reign.

Speaking outside Downing Street on Thursday, Truss said the Queen’s death was “a huge shock to the nation and to the world.”

“Queen Elizabeth II was the rock on which modern Britain was built,” the new prime minister said. “Our country has grown and flourished under her reign.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described the Queen as a “good friend” of the UN, adding: “She was a reassuring presence throughout decades of sweeping change, including the decolonization of Africa and Asia and the evolution of the Commonwealth.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “with the heaviest of hearts” that Canada learned of the monarch’s passing.

President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins said the country had lost “a remarkable friend.”

“Her Majesty served the British people with exceptional dignity. Her personal commitment to her role and extraordinary sense of duty were the hallmarks of her period as Queen, which will hold a unique place in British history,” Higgins said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “our hearts and our thoughts” go to the family and the people of the United Kingdom.

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